By Robert Cantwell
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Extra resources for If Beale Street Could Talk: Music, Community, Culture
Without these factors, baseball or any other sport would be a pretty arid affair; nor does the game, in its actual playing, merely “symbolize” these factors. Rather it embodies, materializes, animates, and drives them—the game is a cultural engine, as much of its history as about it, at once determining and determined by it. It is a beginning to understanding baseball to understand the difference between Babe Ruth, a home-run hitter at the close of a period of entrepreneurial industrial expansion and consolidation, and Ted Williams, home-run hitter in a period of bureaucratization and ever more exact and extensive social engineering; between Ebbetts Field, as Peter Rutkoff has argued,3 as a theater for the affirmation of diverse emergent working-class ethnic identities, and Giants Stadium, as a theater for the flexion of corporate, monetary, and political muscle.
Indd 19 8/20/08 3:13:30 PM on drums”—or the melodic terrain of a particular rhythmic utterance. West African music is a dialogue among counter-rhythms interacting at a site defined by a master beat; the coordination of independent rhythms is secured by the basic principle of threes and twos: typically accentual groupings of three, or triplet divisions of the beat, in duple meter, or, more infrequently, the other way around—duple time set over against triple meters, which we hear abundantly in reggae.
At the same time, though, boogie-woogie in a sense eviscerates or decapitates the blues, by assimilating all of its patterns into an environment of rhythmic quantities as regularized and rationalized as a large-scale industrial plant, impersonally setting us in motion across a landscape of transient and distant features that are out of reach before we can so much as identify, much less contemplate, them. West African traditional music, again, in its elaborate layering of drum rhythms and its characteristically leader-andchorus patterns of song, is pervasively and fundamentally social.