Tuesday, January 13, 2009

At first you're thinking there's been some massive, mass malfunction of the calendar system in The Guardian office and they thought it was April 1st and time for one of their famous fool-the-readers spoofs. I'm talking of course about the piece yesterday about a scientist who's researching the connections between the chartpop's rhythms and the biorhythms of the economy. But no it's for real, there's this Professor Maymin at NYU who's done this study that suggests that "low beat variance" (songs with a steady beat) correlates with turbulence in the markets. Whereas when the market is steady, we can all handle more disruptive beats, supposedly.

Derek Walmsley expertly directs a jet of cold reason on this thesis over at The Mire.

Barmy as the theory appears to be, however, it oddly chimes with something I mused up last year... While confessing how I'd stopped believing in beats (meaning, the idea of rhythmic innovation as some kind of cause, teleology, intrinsically disruptive force... of course I still prefer pop records to have drums in them, on the whole, by and large), I alluded to having had this "quasi-mystical faith in beats as somehow figurative; a belief that the tremors that each breakthrough by auteur-producer or scenius alike sent through the state of pop somehow correlated with or could be equated to tremors through society..."

Which is praps as mad-as-Maymin on first encounter.... EXCEPT that if think of the history of rock... it starts with beats that do send tremors through society, absolute palpitations of panic and revulsion: the "jungle rhythms" of rock'n'roll... It wasn't that they "represented" or homologically "paralleled" social forces, these new beats were actual agents of historical change in and of themselves

or think of the significance of Martha and the Vandellas's "Dancing in the Street" in the Sixties

or rap's block-rocking beats in terms of the politics of urban space

or rave and "repetitive beats" as a scary zombie-fying cult, a rhythm-religion