Avant-Gardes, Afrofuturism, and Philosophical Readings of Rhythm

In Reynaldo Anderson & Clinton R. Fluker (eds.), The Black Speculative Arts Movement: Black Futurity, Art+Design. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. pp. 27-49 (2019)
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Here I will put forward a claim about rhythm – that rhythm is relation. To develop this I will explore the entanglement of and antagonism between two notions of the musical avant-garde and its theorization. The first of these is derived from the European classical tradition, the second concerns Afrodiasporic musical practices. This essay comes in two parts. The first will consider some music-theoretical and philosophical ideas about rhythm in the post-classical avant-garde. Here I will explore how these ideas have been used to, on one hand, stage a critique of Afrodiasporic musics, and specifically jazz, and, on the other hand, diminish and obscure the relation between the post-classical and Afrodiasporic avant-gardes. In the second part I will develop another lineage of rhythm, orthogonal to that of the post-classical avant-garde. Drawing from philosophy and Afrocentric, Afromodernist and, finally, Afrofuturist theory, I will map a theoretical move from rhythm understood, in its post-classical guise, as an exclusive and strictly musical category, to rhythm understood as an inclusive and plural category. This likewise charts a passage from an aesthetically autonomous understanding of objects of art to social and collective forms of artistic practice.
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