Saturday afternoon, November 7, 2–2:50 CST

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Analysis of Music for Dancing

Chris Stover (Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University), Chair

The Hidden Influencers of Jazz: An Analysis of Eddie Brown’s BS Chorus

Brenna J. Langille (Montreal, QC)

BMus (Honours Music Theory, Composition), MA (Music Theory), MISt (Library and Archives), McGill University

Originally a jazz saxophonist, Brenna studied classical music both in undergraduate and graduate school at McGill University with interests in early music analysis, late nineteenth century chromaticism, and temperament and tuning systems. Her master’s thesis is on form independent of text in Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals. Brenna started learning swing dances, including tap, at Cat’s Corner Dance Studio in Montreal following the completion of her first master’s degree. Due to this new-found interest, Brenna’s recent research has been on investigating rhythm and form in tap dance with a particular focus on the influences of African American vernacular dances on jazz as an artform and the rhythms of Eddie Brown. Her recent work in the field of information studies has been largely focused on critical information literacy and new ways in which to provide information services for both the public and academic communities. One of Brenna’s more recent projects includes an open-access subject guide to aid in the research of the history and culture of African American vernacular dances originating from the swing era, which will be published at the beginning of November by the Tap Legacy Foundation.


The relationship between jazz music and dance stems all the way back to the origins of jazz itself (Harker 2008; Stearns 1994). In fact, in the swing era the two would be more easily understood as one combined artform (Harker 2008; Dodge 1995). Indeed, the oral histories of many of the jazz greats credit their own experiences and collaboration with dance as vital to their development as musicians as well as jazz music as a whole (Cole 1980; Harris 2019; Hentoff 1995; Stearns 1994). That said, vernacular jazz dance has lacked attention from jazz studies both in the pursuit of history and analysis (Harker 2008).

In this paper I shall approach this issue through providing an analysis of a tap routine, Eddie Brown’s BS Chorus, and its relationship to two different jazz standards. Through analyzing a routine that is intended to be performed to a variety of jazz pieces, we can observe how a percussion piece with its own form and set of musical expectations can interact with music that may run with, or counter, to these formal divisions, thus influencing the interpretation of the piece itself. As existing scholarship has pointed out, our reliance on harmonic and melodic relationships have often been favored over rhythmic and metric interpretations of the music (Hasty 1997). By analyzing tap, we can not only have a more historically-informed understanding of jazz as an artform, but also provide new approaches to understanding the rhythmic and metric structure of music.

Loving out Loud: Romantic Coupling in Early Sound Films (1928–1933)

Eric McKee (Penn State University)


Audiences of early Hollywood sound films found one scene particularly problematic: the love scene. The novelty of hearing two lovers confess their feelings, leading to a dramatic clinch and five-second kiss, made audiences squirm in their seats. The typical reaction, as reported in newspapers and entertainment publications, was uncontrollable laughter. Studios responded by developing and experimenting with a range of techniques aimed at suspending viewers’ sense of disbelief and drawing them into the emotional undertones of the scene. By 1933 studios had developed a well-defined set of conventions for love scenes and audiences no longer complained. This paper seeks to better understand this transitional period in cinema history by answering the questions: why were early love scenes so devastatingly unsuccessful and how did Hollywood fix the problem?

A Corpus Study of Metric Dissonance in Salsa

Rebecca Simpson-Litke (University of Manitoba)

Rebecca Simpson-Litke is an Assistant Professor of Music Theory in the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. She holds a Ph.D. in music theory from the University of British Columbia, having completed her dissertation on pitch organization in the music of Olivier Messiaen. In addition to 20th-century French music, her research activities explore rhythmic interactions between music and dance, focusing on the Latin social dances she has taught and performed in her spare time for the past 19 years. Her salsa research is published in Music Theory Spectrum and in an upcoming special issue devoted to dance research in Journal of Music Theory.


In my 2014 SMT paper, “Flipped and Broken Clave: Dancing Through Metric Ambiguities in Salsa Music,” I provided an examination of some of the complex interactions that occur between salsa music and dance by focusing on the physical interpretation of specific types of metric ambiguities and disruptions. In particular, I explored both grouping and displacement dissonances (resulting from flipping, breaking, or pausing the clave) and showed how the nature of the dancers’ responses to these metric disruptions depends heavily on the specific features of each unique musical context. I begin this paper by reviewing these ideas through live demonstrations, audience participation, and dance video illustrations. I then build on my previous case-based research by providing a broader corpus analysis of salsa music in order to show how prevalent these types of metric disruptions are in the genre as a whole, noting how displacement dissonances are relatively prevalent while grouping dissonances are considerably rarer. I also show where instances of metric ambiguity tend to be placed in relation to the formal structure of a typical salsa song, and how these disruptions play an important role in defining the characteristics of particular time periods, specific artists’ output, and the geographically-based styles of salsa music and dance.

Pulse Dissonance in Colombian Currulao

Lina Sofia Tabak (The Graduate Center, CUNY)


As a percussion-heavy practice featuring polymeter and a multitude of complex rhythmic ostinati and improvisations, Afro-Colombian currulao lends itself well to music-theoretical study. This talk will explore some of those rhythmic patterns that feature extreme metrical dissonances beyond those considered in Fantasy Pieces (Krebs 1999). Not only does currulao feature both displacement and grouping dissonances simultaneously in its fundamental groove, but the polymeter involved between two of the metrical layers requires the introduction of a pulse dissonance model in order to account for the prevalence of contrasting pulses.

The case study piece, “Adiós Guapi,” performed by Grupo Naidy in their album Arriba Suena Marimba! (2006), contains rhythmic and metrical elements representative of currulao. This presentation will use existing metrical dissonance models and extensions to explain some of the piece’s rhythmic intricacies. I will demonstrate how the interlocking rhythmic elements are taught by some native musicians—a pedagogical perspective which encourages a polymetric interpretation of the practice. This paper will also consider how the contrasting pulses might be perceived by the musicians, listeners, and dancers.

My hope for this contribution is not only to introduce underrepresented music to the scholarship, but also to suggest that the resulting newly expanded model might find applications across a much wider repertoire.