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Groove as Familiarity with Time

Oliver, Rowan




The chapter explores the instrumentalist’s relationship with musical time, arguing that the capacity for groove in solo performance depends upon the musician’s familiarity with stylistically nuanced conceptions of pulse. Much research dealing with groove characterises it as a participatory phenomenon occurring between two or more musicians (see Keil & Feld (1994) and Doffman (2008), for example) but in a solo performance groove derives from participation between the performer and time itself. According to the stylistic context, the performer’s temporal frame of reference might include absolute metronomic time, an implicitly polymetric timeline such as that found, for example, in Cuban rumba, or the unchanging drum loops which predominate in hip hop production. The more familiar the performer is with time, and especially with whichever nuanced conception of pulse is appropriate to their stylistic context, the more effectively they are able to groove. Musical examples used to illustrate the chapter focus on solo drumming extracts found in 1970s funk recordings. These are discussed both in their original state as performances, and also in their recontextualised state when used as ‘breakbeats’ in hip hop, where they inform the MC’s conception of pulse.


Oliver, R. (2013). Groove as Familiarity with Time. In E. King, & H. M. Prior (Eds.), Music and Familiarity : Listening, Musicology and Performance (239 - 252). Ashgate.

Acceptance Date May 1, 2013
Online Publication Date Apr 29, 2016
Publication Date Jun 28, 2013
Deposit Date Jun 17, 2020
Publisher Ashgate
Pages 239 - 252
Series Title SEMPRE studies in the psychology of music
Book Title Music and Familiarity : Listening, Musicology and Performance
Chapter Number 11
ISBN 9781409420750 ; 9781138274297
Public URL