The Rhythm of English and Blues Music
Patrice Larroque

This paper hypothesises that early blues singers may have been influenced by the trochaic rhythm of English. English is stressed, timed, which means that there is a regular beat to the language, just like there is a beat in a blues song. This regular beat falls on important words in the sentence and unimportant ones do not get stressed. They get squeezed between the salient words to keep the rhythm. The apparent contradiction between the fundamentally trochaic rhythm of spoken English and the syncopated ternary rhythm of blues may be resolved as the stressed syllable of the trochee (a stressed-unstressed sequence) is naturally lengthened and assumes the role of one strongly and one weakly stressed syllables in a ternary rhythm. I then suggest investigating the rhythm of English and the rhythm of blues in order to bring out a number of similarities and differences between the two, and show how the linguistic rhythm of a culture can be reflected in the rhythm of its music.

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