syncopation (sĭngˌkəpāˈshən, sĭnˌ–) [key] [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 jazz).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on syncopation from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Theory, Forms, and Instruments