Monday, 18 February 2008

The Imaginary Peer Review

Rapathy by Dr William Routledge
The National Journal of Musical Psychiatry, Vol. 21, pp138-179

Doctor William Routledge rose to prominence in the world of musical psychiatry with the publication of his paper on Serendipitous Intra-Subjective Rhyming Triplets. In this paper, he concentrated on the words ‘fly’, ‘high’ and ‘sky’, and the effect that their usage has on the overall mental well-being of middle-aged men in luxury cars. This effect became known as “Kravitz Satisfaction” and spawned an entirely new approach to musical mental studies. Now, several years in the making, Routledge has published the results into his study of Hip-Hop Disinterest Syndrome, or, as he calls it, ‘Rapathy’.

Dr. Routledge spent many years investigating the hip-hop scene, and found a disturbingly high amount of apathy spreading throughout the genre like a plague. As he says in the paper:

At first glance, the people I saw seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their hands
were in the air, and the people were waving them to the music. But something
wasn’t right. When I inspected this hand-waving more closely, it struck me:
These people were waving their hands like they just didn’t care.


This lack of concern on the part of the dancers prompted Routledge to study it further. He traced this disinterest back to 1979, when a little-known paper on the things that delighted rappers mentioned this worrying new trend in passing: “…Throw your hands high in the air…rockin’ to the beat without a care” (Mike, Hank & Gee: Rappers Delight, 1979). This first instance of rapathy received little coverage in the press, and even when it began to spread throughout the hip-hop world in the next twenty years, the public was not informed.

Routledge believes that rapathy could, if not adequately contained, spread throughout the music world. Pop music has already seen isolated cases (Carter, Dorough, Littrell, McLean and Richardson: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), 1997 and Stevens et al: S Club Party, 1999), and it might not be long before country, gospel and even classical music are seeing people waving their hands in the air without giving a monkey’s.

The paper is both well-written and terrifying, with Routledge backing up all of his claims with evidence, both from his own research and from the studies of others. With all of this proof, it is certainly hard to argue that Rapathy exists in the hip-hop world. But while the experimental side of Routledge’s work is sound, the conclusions regarding the apathetic hand-waving are less so.

Worrying though it may be, rapathy does not seem to have any long-lasting effects. It is yet to be proven, for example, that the condition survives beyond the dance floor. In many cases, the dispassionate hand-waving has shown signs of extinction before the end of the current song. Routledge argues that waving one’s hands in the air without caring could lead to injuries both to oneself and others, and notes cases of accidental slapping that have lead on rare occasions to disco violence (see Jackson: Blood on the Dance Floor, 1997). It should be noted, however, that these are very rare, isolated cases, and are not indicative of listless limb shaking as a whole. Furthermore, Routledge’s most extreme claim, that rapathy could theoretically lead to accidental limb removal, is pure nonsense.

Rapathy is a valid study into the startling world of passive hip-hop arm movements, but Dr. Routledge needs to concentrate more on concrete, evidenced results, rather than outlandish conjectures. Will this mirror the success of his prior papers? Possibly not. But I await the release of his forthcoming work on the certainty of possession of a loved one (entitled She’s Your Baby, But Do You Mean ‘Maybe’?). Doctor Routledge’s body of work remains strong enough to weather the inclusion of several poorly thought-out claims.