Meter as a Kind of Attentional Behavior

Justin London

in Hearing in Time

Second edition

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199744374
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949632 | DOI:
Meter as a Kind of Attentional Behavior

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Meter is defined as musically-specific form of entrainment, the synchronization of attention and/or other behaviors (especially motor behaviors) with periodic rhythms in the environment. This synchronization leads us to expect events at certain times, and thus shapes the perception of those events. Metric events, such as beats and downbeats, involve periodic peaks of attention. These periodicities are organized into metric hierarchies that coordinate attention to events on various time-scales. Metric hierarchies can be distinguished both in terms of their basic organization (i.e., number of beats per measure) as well as their depth (i.e., number of layers both above and below the beat level). These hierarchies, in turn, affect the way we group a series of notes into a rhythmic figure, as well as how we hear certain notes as accented or unaccented.

Keywords: meter; invariants; entrainment; attention; expectation; grouping; accent; metric hierarchy

Chapter.  6658 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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