Philosophy of Rhythm: Aesthetics, Music, Poetics [Book Review]

British Journal of Aesthetics 61 (2):262-269 (2021)
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Abstract

Rhythm is an underexplored topic in contemporary Anglophone philosophy of music.1 This collection is an attempt to change this trend. It contains twenty-four essays, dealing with issues that range from the ontology of rhythm to questions regarding its existence and relative importance in art forms other than music.I cannot here discuss all of the contributions and my selection should not be taken as indicative of differences in quality among the various chapters.The book’s introduction is worthy of mention, as it is more than a chapter-by-chapter overview. The editors trace a brief history of the philosophical debate on rhythm from antiquity to the present day, stressing the relative lack of interest for this topic.This collection moves therefore in largely uncharted territory, although various essays are firmly grounded in debates that are familiar to contemporary philosophers of art. Ted Gracyk’s essay ‘Rhythm, Resemblance, and Musical Expressiveness’ is an example of this, as it is an attempt to expand on resemblance theories of musical expressiveness by showing that rhythm is crucial to establishing the relevant resemblance between music and expressive behaviour. Gracyk persuasively argues that taking rhythm into account allows resemblance theories to tackle some recurring objections and difficulties. For instance, the centrality of pace and gait to our lives may explain why we automatically focus on music’s resemblance to human movement, as opposed to any of the countless other things it resembles. Moreover, rhythmic entrainment (synchronization to music's rhythm) may be the reason why music sometimes arouses the emotions which it expresses, a claim famously defended by Stephen Davies (2011). Just as it is partly by entraining to other people’s movements that we may come to experience the emotions they experience, we are infected by the music’s mood by entraining to its rhythm.

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Matteo Ravasio
Peking University

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Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance.Tiger C. Roholt - 2014 - New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

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