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D Ni Musicological Research Paper

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Digital music technology has brought about unforeseen possibilities for manipulating sound, and, as a consequence, entirely new forms of musical expression have emerged. Among them are new rhythmic feels produced by either inserting glitches into the post-production of a played groove or by warping samples. Such rhythmic feels have been a striking aspect of African-American popular music styles such as, hip-hip, neo-soul, and contemporary R&B from the turn of the millennium onward. In this paper I present an analysis of the song ‘1000 Deaths’ from the album Black Messiah (2014) by D’Angelo. The analysis draws on previous work on D’Angelo’s microrhythms by Danielsen (2010). I will, first, map the micro-rhythmic relationship of the groove, and, secondly, relate its microrhythmic design to examples of similar past and present practices. The aim is to explore the wide array of musical and cultural meanings that such microrhythmic practices have taken on, from an experimental attitude (D’Errico) or political activism to black badness (West) or overtly sexual activities. The paper aims at bridging the gap between analysis of ‘the music itself’ and interpretations of its cultural and contextual meanings, demonstrating the ways in which they can be brought in touch with each other and mutually enhancing.

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