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Tiger C. Roholt

Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance

Published by Bloomsbury

Jan 30, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Tiger C. Roholt is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Montclair State University, and Groove is his scholarly examination of how and why we respond to the musical groove. It’s a slim volume but an academic one, a punctiliously annotated and referenced study that requires and rewards careful reading. In fact, Groove is adapted from what was Roholt’s Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia. So if you expect anecdotes or quotes from musicians, look elsewhere. Instead, Roholt situates his theory within and extrapolates from various works of philosophers, psychologists, music theorists, ethnomusicologists, etc. Essential to Roholt’s treatise is that the groove is largely due to musical nuances in rhythm (e.g., drumming slightly behind or in front of the beat) and the body’s natural response in movement to said grooves. Roholt cites Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science at one point, quoting: “Suppose one judged the value of a piece of music according to how much of it could be counted, calculated, and expressed in formulas-how absurd such a ‘scientific’ evaluation of music would be!” One is tempted to wonder how much, at its essence, Groove is attempting to do exactly this. Of course Roholt agrees with Nietzsche’s in that the quantification of “groove” is ultimately a silly endeavor; however, the fact of the book being, on its face, a studied philosophical exploration belies this conclusion to some ironic degree. Still, Groove remains an interesting, pithy examination of how (and why) we ultimately respond to music. ( (

Author rating: 7/10

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