"'Rhythm Changes' – Notes on Some Genetic Elements in Musical Culture" Free Download
Signata, Annales des Sémiotiques/Annals of Semiotics, Vol. 6 (2015) pp. 271-285

WILLIAM L. BENZON, Independent

An entity known as Rhythm Changes is analyzed as a genetic entity in musical culture. Because it functions to coordinate the activities of musicians who are playing together it can be called a coordinator. It is a complex coordinator in that it is organized on five or six levels, each of which contains coordinators that function in other musical contexts. Musicians do not acquire (that is, learn) such a coordinator through “transfer? from one brain to another. Rather, they learn to construct it from publicly available performance materials. This particular entity is derived from George Gershwin’s tune “I Got Rhythm? and is the harmonic trajectory of that tune. But it only attained independent musical status after about two decades of performances. Being a coordinator is thus not intrinsic to the entity itself, but is rather a function of how it comes to be used in the musical system. Recent argument suggests that biological genes are like this as well.


About this eJournal

Very few fields have attracted as much attention to music in recent years as the study of music and the brain. Intelligence, broadly defined and conceived, as it converges with music is one of the areas of discussion for this eJournal. All interdisciplinary areas of enquiry for this field are invited, including: music and cognition, music and neuroscience, music education and the brain, music and evolutionary biology, music and communication, music perception and cognition, and neurological processes engaged during musical activity, such as auditory memory and its encoding process. The scope of the eJournal is broad, including research ranging from the most specific cognitive processes - such as how the mind monitors the beat - to broader concepts of determining familiar and unfamiliar music. This eJournal provides a shared platform for research that draws on both the discipline of cognitive neuroscience and the music social sciences.

Editors: Janet R. Barrett, Northwestern University, Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence, Victor Coelho, Boston University, Steven Cornelius, University of Massachusetts Boston, Richard Cornell, Boston University, and Betty Anne Younker, University of Western Ontario


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Advisory Board

Music & the Mind eJournal

Professor of Music Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Artistic Director and Founder, VocalEssence, Vice President, International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM)

Professor of Music, Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Boston University

Lecturer, University of Massachusetts Boston; Visiting Scholar, Phillips Academy

Professor of Music, College of Fine Art, Director ad interim, School of Music, Boston University

Professor of Music, Music Education, Dean, Don Wright Faculty of Music - University of Western Ontario