The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

Africa in America: Old Ways, New Means

The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

Andrew Killick [+-]
University of Sheffield
Andrew Killick has been teaching and writing about the world’s music professionally since 1998. His passion for all forms of music has led him literally around the world, including studies at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Washington, periods of fieldwork in India and Korea, and teaching at Illinois State University and Florida State University before taking up his current position at the University of Sheffield in 2003. Originally trained as a classical pianist, he also plays the Korean gayageum zither and an English bagpipe, the Northumbrian smallpipes. His academic publications include two books on Korean music topics, about twenty refereed journal articles and book chapters, and substantial contributions to the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. In his spare time he likes to compose “rounds” in a wide variety of musical styles.


We now build on our knowledge of West African musical practices by examining how they were maintained and developed in America, initially by African Americans but increasingly by Americans in general. We see how the “polyrhythms” of West African drumming, in their interaction with a European rhythmic framework, produced not just the backbeat but the pervasive “syncopation” that has been so prevalent in most American and American-influenced popular music of the last hundred years. We also see how other features of “participatory” African music (the slaves’ “old ways” of making music), including open-ended cyclical forms, call-and-response interactions, dense textures, and rough-edged timbres, have remained an aesthetic preference in the African American tradition and an influence on other styles (“new means”). Meanwhile, the griot tradition of solo singing accompanied by a stringed instrument is considered as a possible source of blues music and its many offshoots. With successive styles being pioneered by African Americans and then adopted by European Americans, the history of American popular music can be seen as a progressive “Africanization,” while even in the folk and classical realms, American music can be differentiated from European music primarily by its African American elements.

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Killick, Andrew. Africa in America: Old Ways, New Means. The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Sep 2024. ISBN 9781781793411. Date accessed: 22 Sep 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27321. Sep 2024

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