Algorithms in Funk Music | National Humanities Center

Humanities Moments

Algorithms in Funk Music

July 17, 2020

Gaskins, Nettrice (Artist, Researcher, Educator)

Algorithms; Funk Music; African American Art; African American Music;

Late scholar James A. Snead wrote that repetition in Black American creative expression is most prevalent in performance such as rhythm in music, dance and language. He used James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” to demonstrate this, revealing the algorithmic design of the song.

This helped me connect the cultural arts to technology, specifically through computation and machine learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence. It also influenced my work as a scholar and as an artist. I noticed that software generated patterns from “Cold Sweat” look like African and African American textiles, linking funk and even hip-hop to Kuba cloth and quilts.


Music / Technology / Algorithms / Funk Music / African American Art / African American Music /

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