Non-Isochronous Meters

Justin London

in Hearing in Time

Second edition

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199744374
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949632 | DOI:
Non-Isochronous Meters

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What makes a rhythm “regular enough” so that it can give rise to metric entrainment? Many non-western musics involve non-isochronous (NI) meters (also known as complex or additive meters), based on cycles of a prime number of rapid articulations (e.g., 7, 11) or uneven divisions of non-prime cycles (e.g., 9 divided 2+2+2+3); other musical styles, both western and non-western, involve uneven beat subdivisions. To account for these kinds of rhythms, an additional set of well-formedness constraints, based upon maximal evenness, is given. It is argued that maximal evenness gives rise to optimal entrainment/sensorimotor behaviors. The prevalence for most NI meters to use beats in a 2:3 durational ratio is explained in terms of more general constraints on beat formation (i.e., the speed limits for beat subdivisions and for beats to have similar temporal magnitude). As one may permute or rotate a series of uneven beats, there is an additional “ordering constraint” on NI-metrical types. Accent in the context of NI meters is also considered.

Keywords: complex meter; additive rhythm; categorical perception; maximal evenness; 2:3 ratio; metric rotations

Chapter.  8935 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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