The 30 Years Rule of Academic Bastardization

I recent read a really interesting and insightful article published in a music theory journal that managed to still be interesting and insightful after being published in a music theory journal. Check it out.

On the Metrical Techniques of Flow In Rap Music

Adams breaks down all the complex rhythmic details of contemporary hip hop “flow” in a way palatable and understood by the musical theory elites who spend the majority of their time debating finer details of set theory and swirling fine brandy in snifters. Particularly interesting to me was the idea that the rhyming itself added a new layer of rhythm that could be analyzed on top of the rhythm itself, as well as the idea that delivery didn’t have to neatly fit into metronomic conventions to still sound rhythmic. Great stuff to excite the tweed coat-wearer in me.

What was more interesting to note, however, is that academia is starting to codify and analyze hip hop music in a way beyond pure novelty. It’s doing so in a slightly haphazard manner, but anybody can read the writing on the wall quite clearly. In the next generation, hip hop styles are going to become fully integrated and assimilated in the academic model, just as rock and jazz were before it in what I call….(drumroll please)…

The 30 Years Rule of Academic Bastardization.

It’s quite simple, really. From the time a brand new genre of popular music reaches the high of its popularity, it takes the academic music world 30 years to stop looking at it in horror and abomination. Jazz and swing first reached their heyday in the late 20’s and throughout the 30’s. It wasn’t until the mid-late 50’s when George Russel developed the Lydian Chromatic Concept, the first serious attempt to codify and teach what jazz musician were doing at the time. “Dance band” programs in schools were cropping up all around the country, and it wasn’t long before jazz had entrenched itself into music education. Rock music first burst onto the scene in the 1950’s, and it wasn’t until the late 1970’s, 1980’s when electric guitar programs first were developed with an emphasis on “popular styles” (IE, fusion and rock). Hip hop came on the scene in the 1980’s, and it’s now the beginning of the 2010’s, and we’re now seeing the same thing start to emerge, bit by bit.

I think the reason why it’s 30 years is pretty obvious. New researchers in theory and new professors of music first grow up with the popular music that they’re going to be later studying. By the time they’ve reached adulthood, they’re likely to jump at the chance to study, analyze and teach what they grew up with – something that the older generation likely will have no interest in doing.

Of course, it takes FAR longer than 30 years for a popular style to be fully embraced by academia. Juliard didn’t get it’s first jazz program until 2000, and rock music/popular styles are a long, long way from being universally accepted/discussed. Still, it’s pretty obvious that the next wave of academic interest/exploitation is going to come with hip hop. Berklee already has a turntablism class that came complete with a masterclass with Grandmaster Flash (that was certainly an experience.) Pretty soon, curriculums will be designed around creating the whole package in a hip hop artist – producer, lyricist, performer, and you will have the same sort of academic system that jazz musicians train in today.

Look out, rappers. A whole new generation of conservatory trained automatons is coming to spit formulaic, but academically viable rhymes. Now you’ll know what jazz musicians feel like.


1 Response to “The 30 Years Rule of Academic Bastardization”

  1. 1 Emma June 5, 2010 at 4:33 am

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