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"Fascinating Rhythm's" Fascinating Rhythm:: Celebrating the Gershwins' Self-referential Song

Abstract : Introduced in the 1924 musical comedy Lady Be Good, "Fascinating Rhythm" is a classic example of George Gershwin composing a "jagged musical space", into which precise "verbal shards" had to be fit, much like in the art of creating mosaics, a favorite Ira Gershwin metaphor to describe the craft of the lyricist (Furia 1996: 5). This paper pursues an earlier investigation of the Gershwin songbook, which has had such a powerful influence on the development of popular song and music (Arleo 2002). I first relate the circumstances under which "Fascinating Rhythm" was written. After presenting the overall structure of the song, I then use metrical grids (Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983) to analyze the interplay between the musical and linguistic rhythm, focusing on how Ira designed self-referential verbal shards to match George's tricky asymmetrical phrases. Finally, the relationship between the melody of "Fascinating Rhythm" and the prosody of spoken English is examined. References Arleo, A. 2002. A tribute to Ira Gershwin : a lyricist and his craft. Anglophonia 11.: 73-83. Actes du colloque " La musique et les littératures anglophones : intertextualités ", Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 22 au 24 mars 2001. Furia, P. 1996. Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist. New York: Oxford University Press. Lerdahl, F. and R. Jackendoff. 1983. A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press.
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Andy Arleo. "Fascinating Rhythm's" Fascinating Rhythm:: Celebrating the Gershwins' Self-referential Song. Imaginaires, Presses universitaires de Reims, 2005, pp.201-220. ⟨halshs-00630404⟩

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