Criteria for Analysis

William E. Caplin

in The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Music Theories

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195321333
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Criteria for Analysis


This article focuses on Riemann's theories of rhythm and meter. It specifically aims to clarify the criteria that Riemann uses in justifying his metrical analyses by examining his theories from two general perspectives. The first perspective assumes that musical events are understood to receive their metrical interpretation—that is, which events are deemed metrically accented and which are metrically unaccented—according to the mechanics of notation associated with that theory, such as time signatures and bar lines. This perspective is termed notated meter. The second perspective assumes on the contrary that the musical events themselves can express their own metrical interpretation independent of the notation. That is, the interaction of certain musical parameters (such as duration, motivic contour, duration) can engender a sense of meter in a listener who is unaware of how the music may be actually notated. This perspective is termed expressed meter. While Riemann failed to realize the full potential of his own skepticism on the status of notation, his attempt to account for the origin of accent on the basis of musical content alone remains a significant achievement in the history of metrical theory.

Keywords: theories of rhythm; meter; notated meter; expressed meter; notation; metrical theory

Article.  8132 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Theory and Analysis

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