The Aesthetics Work Group, The Avery Research Center, and African American Studies are proud to sponsor a talk by Paul C. Taylor, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Head of African American Studies at Penn State University. Professor Taylor will deliver, "Make it Funky: Or, Music's Cognitive Travels and the Despotism of Rhythm" at 3:15 on Thursday, November 20 in 235 Robert Scott Small. A flyer for the talk is attached. Please share it with your colleagues and students. An abstract appears below the excellent James Brown album cover.
Abstract: This talk asks three questions. The first question interrogates the common thought that there is such a thing as black music, and asks what this music is, and what constitutes its blackness. The second question asks what this blackness is supposed to mean for music, by interrogating the familiar thought that Leopold Senghor announces in “What the Black Man Contributes,” “This ordering force that constitutes Negro style is rhythm.” It appears from this quotation that blackness is somehow, perhaps essentially, bound up with rhythm. Senghor goes on, in a way that I’ll distance myself from (while accepting that he means something more by this than a white supremacist would): “rhythm acts, despotically, on what is least intellectual in us, to make us enter into the spirituality of the object….” I want to consider what this juxtaposition of rhythm and intellect has typically meant, and what we should say about it. The third question has to do with the way music’s rhythms move us. I mean this in a more literal sense of “move” than philosophers usually have in mind, but I will in addition want to know what it means to listen to rhythmic music when literal movement is not on the agenda. I’ll want to ask what the despotism of rhythm amounts to, and what anchors its rule over us, especially when, as in tunes like “Make It Funky,” very little of musical interest seems to be happening