Ray Charles really did have that swing

December 04, 2006

Ray Charles was really good at snapping, said musical acoustician Kenneth Lindsay of Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Charles's snaps that open "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" are timed so well that he is never more than 5 milliseconds off the tight beat.

Lindsay studies the physics of the sound of swing music such as Ray Charles' hits, and in a talk last week at the Acoustical Society of America's joint meeting in Honolulu with the Acoustical Society of Japan, he explained how he created a visual analysis of the bouncy, energetic, even lopsided musical style of swing.

"If you're tapping your feet, that's swing," he said. To study swing, he looked at the popular dance music in all cultures -- a loose rhythmic style that's different from syncopation, in which a note is played when a pause is expected or an expected note isn't played. Swing, he said, relies on drama and emotion, and a micro-timing of pulses and meter that aren't found in other styles. Swing uses a lot of triplets, irregular notes that are 2/3 the length of a regular note. Swing is found in American jazz, Caribbean beats, Brazilian swingee, reggae, samba and many other musical styles around the world.

To really see what this universal but mysterious music looked like, Lindsay broke down famous swing songs like "Fever" and "Graceland" in various ways. He measured the song's notes and pulses very finely, to within 3-10 milliseconds per musical event, sometimes even fine-tuning the differences between the sounds to a half a millisecond. This way he could separate out instruments, voices and drums by their pitch and note. He created graphs that separated out the instruments. That's how he noticed Ray Charles' incredibly tight snapping.
-end-
On the Web:

ASA/ASJ Conference Paper:
http://www.tlafx.com/jasa06_1g.pdf

American Institute of Physics

Related Acoustical Society Articles from Brightsurf:

Microbubbles controlled by acoustical tweezers for highly localized drug release
Microbubbles are used every day as contrast agents in medical sonography, and are the subject of intense research for the delivery of therapeutic agents.

Envy divides society
Can class differences come about endogenously, i.e. independent of birth and education?

Complex society discovered in birds
The first existence of a multilevel society in a non-mammalian animal shows that large brains are not a requirement for complex societies

The Physiological Society urges Government step change to meet its own Ageing Society target
The UK Government is at risk of missing its target to increase healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035, according to a new report, Growing Older, Better, published by The Physiological Society on Tuesday Oct.

Human enhancement: Is it good for society?
Human enhancement technologies are opening up tremendous new possibilities. But they're also raising important questions about what it means to be human.

Easter Island's society might not have collapsed
A new study of the tools used to create Easter Island's giant statues hints at a society in which people collaborated and shared information.

Solidarity between good and justice keeps a society together
Soka University researcher Isamu Okada and his collaborators Tatsuya Sasaki (University of Vienna) and Yutaka Nakai (Shibaura Institute of Technology) have found that the solidarity of philanthropism and reciprocity is necessary to maintain cooperative societies.

Altruism changing Western society
Altruism based on individual values is changing Western society. People in Western countries have seen a rise in individualism for quite some time, and this in turn helps to create generations of people with altruistic mindsets.

Science and society
The history of science and technology and their social impact ought to be part of the education of both scientists and non-scientists.

'The Nobel Prize in Economics' and society
In 1968, the scientific status of economics was strengthened by the creation of the 'Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.' After financial crises, low economic growth and increasing social tension, many are questioning this scientific status.

Read More: Acoustical Society News and Acoustical Society Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.