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Music Professor London Quoted Widely Following Jazz Legend's Passing

December 14, 2012

Following jazz pianist Dave Brubek's passing on Dec. 5, Carleton music professor Justin London was quoted in two prominent articles. The Atlantic's Ashley Fetters penned a piece the day after Brubek's death, quoting London's website entry, "How to Talk About Musical Metre." In that piece, London writes "Western music theory, from the 19th century through Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) has presumed meter to be inherently isochronous." Brubek's most famous piece, "Take Five," though, at times has uneven (as opposed isochronous or even) meter, giving it its distinctive rhythmic character. In a Dec. 13 article by Scientific American's Evelyn Lamb that was posted on Salon.com, London is quoted widely in talking about Brubek's influence on his research and how Brubeck's uneven time signatures impacted listeners, as the brain can't process them as fast as more familiar duple and triple meters.  Brubeck's complex meters also affect the "swing" feel that most jazz music gives its listeners, as they require a strict sense of duplets and triples. “When you’re swinging, you’re very close to blurring the lines between duplets and triplets,” London said. "Brubeck was criticized for not swinging, but you can’t swing the music in those meters the same way you can if you’re just in a straight four.”