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Martin Carthy’s rhythms

Issue: Vol 2 No. 3 (2007) PMH 2.3

Journal: Popular Music History

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v2i3.285


A relatively large number of popular songs in the late sixties are metrically irregular, probably because of the popularity of pre-War blues and UK folk song at this time. Most young people encountered the latter through the recordings of Martin Carthy. This essay concerns the many irregularly metered songs that he recorded between 1963 and 1970. I use five terms to characterize the relative irregularity of these songs: Regular, Less than Regular, Irregular, Highly Irregular and Variably Pulsed. I analyse seven songs in rhythmic detail, and include an appendix summarizing the rhythmic properties of about 100 songs from this time as well as from two later albums. The essay concludes that Martin Carthy, if unwittingly, both contributed to and absorbed the general trend towards rhythmic irregularity in late sixties popular music.

Author: Charles Ford

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