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Hearing in TimePsychological Aspects of Musical Meter$
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Justin London

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195160819

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195160819.001.0001

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Meter-Rhythm Interactions I: Ground Rules

Meter-Rhythm Interactions I: Ground Rules

(p.48) 3 Meter-Rhythm Interactions I: Ground Rules
Hearing in Time

Justin London

Oxford University Press

There is an important distinction between meter (the listener's pattern of entrainment) and rhythm (the pattern of durations that one listens to). Meter functions as a perceptual ground for rhythmic figures. Based on this figure-ground distinction, various interactions between rhythm and meter are discussed. While there can be concurrent rhythmic patterns which may or may not fit comfortably within the same meter (i.e., polyrhythms), we cannot hear two meters at once. When a piece begins, the listener's task is to relate the unfolding pattern of durations to the best possible metric template; these templates arise through our previous experiences with musical rhythms and other rhythmic behaviors. Once metric entrainment is established, one often has to maintain the ongoing meter in spite of local variations and omissions (e.g., “loud rests” created by the absence of an expected note).

Keywords:   rhythm, meter, polyrhythm, metric template, loud rests

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