Cross-Rhythms, Across Cultures: Travel Narratives and Music

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Cross-rhythms — or the simultaneous combination of contrasting rhythms in a musical composition — are characteristic of many non-Western forms, and present, too, in those such as jazz which have been progressively 'de-othered' in the course of the 20th century: from being perceived as 'primitive' and 'un-European', jazz has been gradually assimilated into the European cultural landscape. As Matthew F. Jordan has argued in Le Jazz, this evolution has, though, entailed an at times vexed renegotiation of aspects of French cultural identity. The motif of the cross-rhythm — with its suggestions of cultural forms 'rubbing against' one another in ways that may be perceived as conflict or harmony depending on the listener's own cultural positioning — may thus be suggestively linked to questions of cross-cultural encounter and representation, borrowing and reinvention. Swiss traveller-writer Nicolas Bouvier (1929–1998) will provide a particular focus. My analysis posits a multisensory engagement with 'otherness' as an ethical imperative which displaces the ocularcentrism commonly associated with cross-cultural representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalIrish Journal of French Studies
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2015


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