Kofi Agawu: Finding the beat in African music
Carriage Barn Music Series | Fall 2021
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC I Finding the beat in African music: Notes, caveats, and lessons for music studies today Kofi Agawu (Graduate Center, CUNY). A central issue for (mainly non-African) analysts of African music is the question of a regulative beat: does it exist, is it made manifest or merely assumed, and is there a single beat in ensemble performance, or are there multiple beats? Proceeding from the belief that what is now needed is not another grand, overarching theory of African rhythm but detailed studies of individual performances, Awagu`s paper describes some of the factors that shape beat awareness in a handful of West and Central African repertories. He claims that beats are not intrinsic to the sonic material and so cannot be discovered by internal means; rather, beats are mental constructs of conventional origins brought to the music by acculturated listeners, drummers, and dancers. Along the way, he will point to ways in which scholarly procedures are shaped by ideology.
How to participate:
- Join the conversation on Zoom: bitly.com/DCBmusic
- Also available for streaming at www.twitch.tv/bennington_college_music. Event recording will be available on Twitch for re-streaming for 14 days.
- Note: A community screening in the Deane Carriage Barn will take place exclusively for Bennington College students, faculty & staff.
About the Artist
Kofi Agawu was born in Ghana, where he received his initial education before studying composition and analysis in the UK and musicology in the US. He is currently a Distinguished Professor at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. His books include Playing with Signs: A Semiotic Interpretation of Classic Music (1991), African Rhythm: A Northern Ewe Perspective (1996), Music as Discourse: Semiotic Adventures in Romantic Music (2008), and The African Imagination in Music (2016; French translation by Thierry Bonhomme as L’Imagination africaine en musique ). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1991), the Dent Medal (1992), the Harrison Medal (2009), and the Howard T. Behrman Award (2011). A Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is also the Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and Honorary Member of the Royal Musical Association.