ISSN 2158-5296
AAWM JOURNAL VOL. 1 NO. 1 (2011)
The Metric Matrix: Simultaneous Multidimensionality in Afric

David Locke

Although music typically is regarded as being temporally ephemeral, this model insufficiently theorizes African polyphonic music for dance in which performers set up dynamic steady states that present to the mind's musical ear multiple simultaneous views that are constantly in a condition of non- resolving metamorphosis. This paper argues that when musicians compose and improvise, they intentionally design their musical choices to enable and maintain an open-ended quality. Musical syntax purposely serves the aesthetic goal of keeping the music in a constant state of becoming. Using the concepts of metric matrix and simultaneous multidimensionality, the paper will explore the nature of musical polysemy in Africa.

The internal structure of an "ensemble thematic cycle" (Nzewi) is a metric matrix. Beats, which contain sets of time-points, are the factors most present to consciousness. Since many beat streams co- exist in the matrix, a sounded phrase is subject to cognitive re-orientation depending on the flow of beats on which perception is grounded. Three-inthe-time-of-two (3:2) pervades music with beats of ternary structure. Ternary beats imply their binary/quaternary counterparts; 3:2 is an inseparable twinning of two complementary feelings of musical time. Each moment within the metric matrix has an inherent rhythmic valence that varies along a continuum from stability to motility. Simultaneous multidimensionality names a condition in which music is coherent from
perspectives at the same time. Devices of simultaneous multidimensionality include: (1) dualism of tempo, (2) polyphonic perception, (3) equivocal phrase shape, (4) musical recycling, (5) meter as a matrix, and (6) polysemous phrases. Repetition is a crucial enabling condition by which the recurring multipart texture achieves a sculptural persistence.

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