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syncopation(sĭng'kəpā`shən, sĭn'–) [New Gr.,=cut off ], in music, the accentuation of a beat that normally would be weak according to the rhythmic division of the measure. Although the normally strong beat is not usually effaced by the process, there are occasions (e.g., the second theme in the final movement of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor) when the natural rhythmic structure is entirely altered, the syncopation being so elaborate and persistent that the actual metrical structure is obliterated aurally. Occasional syncopation is present in music of all types and in all periods. It predominates, however, in African music and therefore in African-American music through which it became the principal element in ragtime (see jazzjazz,
the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music. Origins of Jazz
Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent.
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in music, the shifting of a rhythmic accent from a strong or relatively strong part of a measure to a weak part. Syncopation occurs if the note falling on the weak part of the measure continues over into the following strong part, if there is a pause in the strong part of the measure, if the note beginning in the weak part of the measure is prolonged more than the note in the previous strong part, or if the weak part of the measure is specially set apart (in musical notation, by an accent mark). In the last case, the rhythmic accent is often shifted from a strong part of the measure to the same weak part over several measures.