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By recognizing the multiple layers of interwoven percussiondriven rhythms and tonalities in multiple genres of Antillean music, Berrian approaches percussion music as a complex spectrum of interacting sonorities complete with melodic potential, rather than as a linear series of rhythms. Using conventional musical notation, the former would be transcribed both horizontally and vertically, visually representing the richness and depth of polyphonic rhythmic music, whereas the latter would be transcribed horizontally but not vertically, visually suggesting the absence of melodic components.

Rather than limiting drummed music to simple horizontal transcriptions, some Antillean musicians have tried to resolve this problem by including scripted onomatopoeia to accompany their rhythmic musical notations. The first part of this chapter deals with notions related to rhythm and music in the novel, approaching questions concerning the definition of rhythm, the function of rhythm, and the ways in which writers text rhythm and music.

Focusing attention on the familiar sounds of footsteps, heartbeats, and drumbeats, and those of the quotidian sonorities produced through working, dancing, and other forms of music making, multiple aesthetic, linguistic, political, and sociocultural aspects of transpoetic transcultural phenomena in critical and literary texts are analyzed and interpreted. Further attention is directed toward examining the significance of drums and drumming, particularly in view of how texted sounding drumbeats function as allegorical devices and transpoetic mechanisms.

In this capacity, the ubiquity of drums and drumming not only transforms the structure of the novel, filling it with a sense of rhythmic sensibility and vibrant musicality, but also bursts hegemonic hierarchies operating outside of the texts, changing the ways in which writers and then readers negotiate, configure, and interpret autonomous identity constructs performed both inside and outside the frame of the text.

After considering rhythmic transpoetics in light of reader reception theories that address questions of individual subjectivities and cultural specificities, the notions of transculture and transcultural space are addressed in the second part of chapter 1. In examining what constitutes transculture or what occupies transcultural space, it is important to respect the equivocal nature of the terms, to appreciate the pure and possible in-between-ness, above-ness and across-ness that the prefix trans designates.

Nonetheless, in discussing these concepts, we must insist on devising precise definitions that resist the tempting traps of ambiguity, yet still accurately reflect the complexities of the terms. What roles can rhythm and music play in this process? How does the work of transcription influence the formation and transformation of texted rhythmic and musical elements? And, how do linguistic, political, sociocultural, and aesthetic criteria figure into this rhythmic and musically centered identificatory model?

Although each writer, much like a composer or a musician, creates a distinct texted soundscape in each of his or her respective works, points of correspondence and commonality connect the texts in spite of spatial and temporal contextual differences. The organization of chapters in this book is intended to maximize such points of congruity, specifically in light of prominent themes presented in each novel.

Although the rhythmic and musical motifs provide the principal focus of this study, particularly in the discussion of texted transpoetic transcultural spaces since they provide a fil rouge a guiding thread; literally, a red thread in all of the novels, it becomes important to provide a basis for distinction among the works. As a means of highlighting such stylistic and operative particularities, the works are considered in relation to central themes—advocacy and social activism, journeys through space and time, and death and mourning— which respectively serve as the themes for chapters 2, 3, and 4.

Moreover, the possible connections among the scripted sonorities of songs, dances, and other everyday cadences are explored, specifically in regard to the lexical localization strategies and stylistic musicalization techniques that both writers employ as an effective means of conveying local sociocultural and aesthetic conventions. In chapter 2, I also define and discuss the notion of instrumentaliture, Much like oraliture, a process through which oral genres are translated and transcribed in written literature, instrumentaliture designates the space of the text as a transpoetic space, in which written, oral, and musical styles intermingle.

Nonetheless distinct from oraliture, instrumentaliture is significant in that it creates a space for communication and exchange that lies beyond the confines of oral and written languages. Breaking free from the binary tendencies that attempt to distinguish categories such as oral and written, Occidental and Oriental, and traditional and modern by placing them in opposition to one another, instrumentaliture occupies an in-between classificatory zone, allowing for increased negotiation, communication, and exchange across geographical spaces and historical epochs.

The implications of such identificatory possibilities become especially interesting when staged in the frame of a transpoetic transcultural literary text. In spite of the disparate geographical and temporal settings, in both novels, the protagonists embark on important identificatory journeys, traversing real and imaginary spaces, and subsequently confronting questions of collective and individual identification at home and abroad.

As characters in Solibo Magnificent and Crossing the Mangrove assemble fragments of collective and individual memories in mourning and investigating the mysterious deaths, they are simultaneously compelled to confront questions of identity in twentieth-century Antillean cultural contexts.

Significant in function and in form, such rhythmic and musical manifestations, operating in the transpoetic transcultural space of the text, engage characters and readers in an ongoing process of communication and exchange through which collective and individual identities are questioned, negotiated, and re configured by autonomous subjects in a relational context. In discussing the selected ensemble of works, considerations of texted representations of percussive performance traditions and innovations comprise a meaningful part of the rhythmic and thematic analysis. Furthermore, despite the presence of multiple metaphors and common functions, the drum resists classification as a universal signifier.

Fluid rather than fixed, the drum is an emblem of possibility, manifest in its capacities for communication and interaction. Through the exploration of representations of the rhythm, music, and otherwise noisy phenomena in the novels selected for this study, we will establish transpoetic, transcultural, and transmusical links that connect the texts in ways that transcend the limits of historical, sociocultural, linguistic, aesthetic, and geographical contexts and criteria.

Serving as points of transaction, communication, and exchange, these links provide a basis of commonality, but in no way connote or support the limits of homogeneity.

Simultaneously functioning as aesthetic and linguistic devices, texted rhythmic, musical, and otherwise noisy phenomena can reinforce or provide alternatives to lexical localization strategies, aiding writers in positioning themselves among the diverse and divergent voices of the global Francophone community. Opening a zone where transcultural exchange and communication take place and in which autonomous identities are affirmed, these writers create vividly sonorous texted worlds filled with vibrant rhythms, musics, songs, and dances.

More importantly, however, we explore how and why these sounding techniques play such a significant role in each of the novels, addressing, in particular, the question of what happens when the freedom and possibility of rhythm and music resonate from within the textual interface of the novel.

Sounding off: rhythm, music, and identity in West African and Caribbean Francophone novels

The main objective of this study is to establish a framework for the designation of transpoetic and transcultural phenomena in a selection of Francophone novels from West Africa and the Caribbean. In shaping the argumentation, critical components from a variety of academic disciplines including anthropology, musicology, philosophy, and literary criticism are considered.

Texted representations of rhythmic and musical phenomena are further examined as presented in each of the selected novels. That is to say, they infuse their works with intricate layers of sounding phenomena as produced by human voices and human bodies as they interact with the sounds of nature, instruments, and machines. Although typically associated with the voice, sounding off also manifests itself in other sonic ways as conveyed through the sounds of instrumental music and body movements, among other things.

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They do this not only through the messages conveyed by the transcribed or transposed voices of themselves or their characters, but also through texted incorporations of the rhythms and sonorities of local languages, songs, dances, and noisy quotidian phenomena. Beyond aesthetic and thematic considerations, sounding off has important political and critical implications as well.

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As writers translate, transcribe, and transpose resonant sounding phenomena into the frames of their texts, they succeed in creating alternative spaces for identity configuration and negotiation, ones that lie beyond the limits of Western critical paradigms. In doing so, they activate a necessary critical shift that effectively decentralizes the discussion of identity in postcolonial and contemporary global frameworks, displacing the purported authority of the Western critical tradition and opening the conversation to multiple possibilities and perspectives among local and global networks.

Resonating from inside of us and all around us, rhythms shape the experiences of our day-to-day lives, both conscious and unconscious. In our bodies, physiological rhythms regulate our heartbeat and respiration.

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When we are in good health, they keep our organs functioning at an appropriate pace. Planetary rhythms regulate and contextualize our experience of time, of the seasons, of days and nights. While geographical and sociocultural factors influence our perception of time and our performance therein, the rhythms of our languages frame our subjectivities.

And then there are the rhythms of music and dance, the rhythms of stories and poems, the rhythms of work, the rhythms of travel, the rhythms of noisy randomness. Whether we like it or not, we each fall into our own set of rhythms.


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Influenced by physiological, biological, linguistic, and sociocultural factors among others , rhythmic contexts condition our behaviors and experiences. These rhythms fluctuate as we move through time and across distances, but also as we gain knowledge of new languages and cultures. This is why traveling to a faraway foreign destination can be particularly disorienting to travelers. For starters, the geographic displacement involved in traveling positions us in an unfamiliar location with different natural rhythms.

From what I observed, New Yorkers appeared to be enjoying the warming springtime temperatures and the longer hours of daylight.

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When I arrived in Accra, it was near the start of the rainy season, with average daytime temperatures of around 88 degrees Fahrenheit 31 degrees Celsius. The sun rose at around a. With the rainy season off to a slow start, the Ghanaians seemed to be looking forward to some relief from the intense equatorial sun and to the cooler temperatures of the rainy season. Such seasonal and climatic differences were apparent from the moment I stepped off the plane. At around p. It was already dark outside. At the time, I remember making a mental note to try to get up early the following morning to maximize my available daylight.

That, of course, was only the start of the adjustments I began to make as I slowly acclimated myself to the natural, linguistic, sociocultural, and other everyday rhythms in Ghana.

New York City dwellers and in particular, Manhattanites operate at a more frenzied pace than Accra residents do. They tend to hurry through the streets as they go about their business. Their lives are ruled by appointments, schedules, watches, and clocks. As a nonnative, I was struck by the sense of urgency that seems to dominate everyday transactions in New York City. At lunchtime, for example, working people are often limited to a one-hour break during which they are expected to complete the round-trip from their workplace to their lunch spot and also find time to eat somewhere in between.

Perhaps this is why some of my tensest moments in New York occurred at lunch counters between noon and p. I distinctly remember one episode at a lunch counter in the West Village on a day when I decided to pay in cash—with bills and change. As I fished around in the bottom of my handbag for the correct change, I could feel people in the line behind me beginning to tense up.