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Title: Groove : an aesthetic of measured time
Author: Abel, Mark F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2711 2774
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2011
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The emergence of 'groove' in Western popular music around the turn of the twentieth century was a distinct departure in the organisation of musical time. Though in many ways prefigured by the metrical system of the previous three centuries, groove appears to intensify meter to a qualitatively new level. Occurring at roughly the same historical moment as musical modernisms began systematically to challenge temporal regularity, groove can be regarded as a move in the opposite direction: an acceptance or even a celebration of abstractly measured time. This thesis undertakes a historical and hermeneutic investigation into the phenomenon of groove. It begins by analysing the way that it works musically in order to justify the claim that groove is an aesthetic of measured time. It then challenges the notion that groove derives from African musical traditions, transported to the Americas through slavery, arguing instead that groove's roots lie in the changed social circumstances of the industrialised world, precipitated by the emergence of monopoly capitalism. This move is central to the thesis, which proceeds on the basis that the ways in which musics organise time - that is, the temporality internal to them - reflects, or is an aesthetic response to, the experience or consciousness of time prevailing in the societies which produce them. The middle portion of the thesis is an examination of philosophical arguments about measured time and their musical implications, from Bergson's claim that authentic time is reduced to space by measurement, through Bachelard's critique of Bergson, to Schutz's application of phenomenology's theory oftime consciousness to musical time. At the heart ofthe thesis is an examination of Adorno's writing on musical temporality and his critique of the abstract time of popular music. The thesis argues that, though extremely perceptive and useful, what Adorno's position lacks is a sufficiently dialectical analysis of the ways in which the temporalities of advanced capitalism are experienced and in turn find expression in music. Such an analysis is attempted in the latter part ofthe thesis, deploying the work of Marxists who argue that capitalism is responsible for the abstraction of time and, moreover, that this abstract time is a 'real abstraction'. Because it is generated by the inner workings of the capitalist economy, it is not something that can be wished away at the level of thought or that aesthetic representation can simply refuse, as Adorno and other modernists suggest. Groove, therefore, has the virtue of dealing with time as it really is under capitalism, rather than seeking a Utopian escape from it. The thesis concludes by considering the relationship of abstract time to historical consciousness, arguing that groove is an aesthetic mode which figures time differently from previous musics: immanently rather than narratively or representationally. As a result, groove generates a heightened experience of the present or the 'Now', while simultaneously retaining the sense of the Now's location within a temporal, or historical, continuum. Using Benjamin's concept ofJeztzeit, groove music is thus revealed to be a modernism, albeit one distinguished from others by its nonUtopianism, and one capable, at least in its best incarnations, of expressing our potential to make history, rather than simply be subjected to it. Therein lies groove's political charge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available