Trace it back

Take a rhythm in any current song of the Americas and Europe. Trace it back until it disappears. Where was that last point found?

Take another one. Do the same. Find where the trace peters out, no longer found.

And another.

This would be work for a highly specialized research with the resources to do such a search. I wonder if you can google rhythms and find where they occur, i.e. in what songs? I doubt it. But eventually we might find such a service.

Here is the reason for this thought experiment, i.e. the concept rather than the actual research: my guess is that most of the rhythms we think of a embedded in “Western” music and believe to be found in the folk music of Europe if not in art music would be last documented in some form of Black music. It might be the son or the sarabande or the rumba, but then the work would be to find it in Africa. My guess is that a good many of the rhythms of Western music did not exist before contact with Africa (15th century). The Portuguese and the many African sailors who introduced dances and rhythms of African origin into seafaring folk who then spread it among the general population are the source of these rhythms.

Close to this is the very approach to rhythm, making rhythm, know as “the beat,” central to the music. As Marshall Stearns put it, if you give a drum and a clarinet to a European and to an African, the resultant performance of the former would be the drum accompanying the clarinet while the African would have the clarinet accompany the drum.

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