The Many Meters Hypothesis

Justin London

in Hearing in Time

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780195160819
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199786763 | DOI:
The Many Meters Hypothesis

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It has long been known that music played by human performers involve subtle expressive variations in timing and dynamics. It is based on experience with such expressively-performed music that we develop our habits of metric entrainment. These habits are acquired relatively early in life, highly practiced, and subject to continuing refinement. Meter may thus be regarded as a highly skilled behavior. Metric skills allow us to hear these subtle variations in timing as characteristic of meters in various styles, genres, and even particular performers. Thus, our knowledge of meter (a kind of procedural knowledge) involves not a few basic patterns, but a large number of context-specific, expressively-nuanced tempo-metrical types. This is the many meters hypothesis. The number and degree of individuation among them increases with age, training, and musical enculturation.

Keywords: rhythmic performance; expressive variation; skill; musical style

Chapter.  7118 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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