Kodwo Eshun on Rhythm (in modern music)
from: Swarm 3 "Abducted by Audio (Live)"
Thank you Mr. Eshun. I've been grasping at the Rhythm question a lot in the last few years and I was so elated to have happened upon some real insight.
"Part of the assumption that still exists in music is that futuristic music will somehow be beatless, somehow there won't be many rhythms, somehow it'll be weightless. It has a long heritage, going back from Holst's Planet Suite through to Kraftwerk, this idea that music will be transcendental and weightless, that somehow the beats will just slough off and we'll just kind of float through space astrally. But we know better now. After drum 'n' bass has retroactively switched us back on to the presence of rhythm, we know that the future will not only be just rhythmic, it'll be hyper-rhythmic. So in this sense when cyber-people keep talking about, "What's the fate of the body?", when they keep on moaning, "the body's going to wither away, the mind-body problem, it's so depressing," as far as I'm concerned rhythmic psychedelia is the opposite. The body's being triggered, the body's being switched on. Sensory perception is being triggered at a furious rate and, as far as I'm concerned, it's much more interesting to look at the idea of rhythm. Look at any piece of music writing and you'll notice an incredible absence about rhythm. So many people are unable to talk about rhythm. Music writers will talk about anything except what the beats are doing. It's actually very difficult. Rhythm is this terra incognita, it's this continent we've yet to land on. So you've got this strange dichotomy, what we call a gulf crisis: on the one hand, music is getting hyper-rhythmic, more rhythmic and psychedelic; on the other hand, the writing and the way we discuss it is more impoverished than ever. It's the most incredible thing."
"That's where I see music going: it's getting much more rhythmic, much more rhythmically psychedelic. We really have to start thinking about what rhythm does, how do we explain it, what is it, how does it work? The first thing to do is to acknowledge that rhythm isn't really about notes or beats, it's about intensities, it's about crossing a series of thresholds across your body. Sound doesn't need any discourse of representation, it doesn't need the idea of discourse or the signifier: you can use sound as an immediate material intensity that grabs you. When you hear a beat, a beat lands on your joints, it docks on the junction between your joints and articulates itself onto your joints, it seizes a muscle, it gives you this tension, it seizes you up, and suddenly you find your leg lifting despite your head. Sound moves faster than your head, sound moves faster than your body. What sound is doing is triggering impulses across your muscles."
"That's why drum 'n' bass talks a lot about the stepper, because sound is literally articulating you as a kind of exo-skeleton It's almost like your feet are gaining an intelligence at the expense of your head, or your arse, or your back, or your shoulders are gaining intelligence at the expense of your head. Anywhere you have a sense of tension, that's the beginning, that's the signs of a bodily intelligence switching itself on. And that's what rhythm is doing. You can foresee a point where the body is mutated by rhythm to the point where the head becomes completely superfluous, becomes this flabby muscle bouncing around, aimlessly lolling around, while your muscles go twenty to the dozen. In fact, of course, this already exists; its jungle. That's the whole point of it."