Showing posts with label Funk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Funk. Show all posts

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Ictus and the Remiss

The word ictus is derived from the Latin icere, to hit with a stroke, the stress placed upon an accentuated syllable. Etymologically speaking, therefore, ictus means accent or emphasis, and in the language of music, ictus means an accented or marked tone. In the study of prosody, dum, for instance, is a metrically strong syllable—the ictus. In contrast, de is a metrically weak syllable—the remiss. The ictus and the remiss together constitute the foot (dum-de), and hence the foot and the ictus make up the rhythmic elements of music. For music theorists, the moment prior to the initiation of the ictus represents the downbeat: the critical moment when the conductor lowers his baton. To understand fully the function of the ictus is to understand funk, with its accentuation of the downbeat (as opposed to R&B’s emphasis on the backbeat), meaning the One, the first (and occasionally third) beat of every measure (foot). George Clinton, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, and James Brown all contributed to the invention of the funk “groove”—that is, they all understood the function of the ictus.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Funky Grooves (Guaranteed To Tear The Roof Off):

David Bowie, “Fame” Young Americans
The Brothers Johnson, “Get the Funk Out Ma Face”
Look Out For #1
James Brown, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”
20 All-Time Greatest Hits
Chic, “Le Freak”
Dance, Dance, Dance: The Best of Chic
Curtis Mayfield, “Superfly”
Funkadelic, “(Not Just) Knee Deep (Part I)”
The Best of Funkadelic, 1976—1981
The Meters, “Africa”
Funkify Your Life: The Meters Anthology
The Ohio Players, “Fire”
Funk on Fire: The Mercury Anthology
Parliament, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)”
Parliament’s Greatest Hits
Sly and the Family Stone, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)”
Greatest Hits
Steely Dan, “Black Cow”
War, “Low Rider”
Anthology, 1970-1994
Stevie Wonder, “You Haven’t Done Nothin’”
Fulfillingness First Finale

Thursday, September 4, 2008


The word raunch is to raunchy as the word sleaze is to sleazy—or the word grunge is to grungy: by the process known as back-formation, a new noun is created by omitting the -y from an adjective. Raunchy, of course, is a word used by those who disapprove of bawdiness, smuttiness, licentiousness, and various other manifestations of blatant sexual arousal. Rock music in its Dionysian mode—Elvis 1954-58—has frequently been called raunchy, no surprise since the collocation “rock and roll” is, as almost everyone knows, a euphemism for sexual intercourse in Black English Vernacular (BEV). How did the word raunchy get its start? According to William Safire:

There may be a connection to the Latin rancidus, “rank, stinking,” and its English offshoot, with a more general sense of “odious, nasty.” The O.E.D. has a 1903 citation of ranchy, about a “flea-ranchy” old monkey. An early sexual connotation was in a 1959 British book that described a wedding at which the bridegroom spoke of his intent to worship his bride’s body. “There was an embarrassed pause at this; and then one of the bridesmaids remarked, ‘A bit ranchy, that.’”
Along the way, users of the adjective clipped the last letter, turning it into a noun. “Presley made his pelvis central to his act,” wrote Time in 1964, “and the screams of his admirers were straight from the raunch.”

Hence the pelvis is to raunch what sweat is to Funk, and smell, in the sense of body odor, is common to both. Raunchy is etymologically linked to the Latin rancidus (“stinking”), and “bad body odor” is also, according to Michael Jarrett, one of the meanings of Funk as derived from “the African concept of lu-fuki” (33). Raunchy and funky are therefore roughly synonymous, both invoking the body in all its rank, pungent fecundity. But neither raunch nor funk is synonymous with sleazy.

Sleazy songs are a subject for a future blog.

A Few Raunchy Tunes:

James Brown – Cold Sweat
Tim Buckley – Get On Top
The Commodores – Brick House
Confederate Railroad – Trashy Women
Elvis (Presley) – Hound Dog
Exile – Kiss You All Over
Johnny Horton – Sugar Coated Baby
The Isley Brothers – Between the Sheets
Bill Justis – Raunchy
Led Zeppelin – The Lemon Song
Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire
Montrose – Rock Candy
Little Richard – Tutti Frutti
The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women
Joe Tex – Aint’ Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)
Johnny Winter And – Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo