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Research seminar by David Temperley on Anticipatory Syncopation in Popular Music

Research seminar by David Temperley on Anticipatory Syncopation in Popular Music

Wednesday, July 13th at 12pm in room 55.410 (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)



Anticipatory Syncopation in Popular Music by David Temperley, Professor of Music Theory at Eastman School of Music.


It is well-known that popular music in the 20th century (and the 21st) features a much higher degree of syncopation (conflict between accents and meter) than music of previous eras. It is less well-known that syncopation in popular music is subject to strong constraints. In the vast majority of cases, syncopations are _anticipatory_: They are understood as belonging on the following strong beat. This is most evident in vocal music: treating weak-beat stressed syllables as anticipatory allows the usual alignment of meter and stress to be preserved. In this talk I will present a theoretical framework for the study of anticipatory syncopation, examine some of the specific forms it takes, and trace its evolution over the 20th century. While my main focus is on English-language popular music, I will also consider the role of anticipatory syncopation in Spanish-language music. I will then consider the relevance of anticipatory syncopation to two problems of music information retrieval: genre classification and query-by-humming.


David Temperley is a music theorist, cognitive scientist, and composer. He received his PhD in music theory from Columbia University, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Ohio State University. Since 2000, he has been professor of music theory at Eastman. Temperley’s primary research area is computational modeling of music cognition; he has explored issues such as meter perception, key perception, harmonic analysis, and melodic expectation. His first book, The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures (MIT, 2001) won the Society for Music Theory’s Emerging Scholar Award; his second book, Music and Probability (MIT, 2007) explores computational music cognition from a probabilistic perspective; his third book, The Musical Language of Rock (Oxford, 2018), is a theoretical-analytical study of rock music, focusing on dimensions such as key/scale, harmony, rhythm, melody, timbre/instrumentation, and form. Temperley also has a strong secondary interest in language research: parsing, sentence production/comprehension, and corpus research.






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