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OlenkaArts Group

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Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμός, rhythmos, "any regular recurring motion, symmetry"[1]) generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions".[2] This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds (as with the riff in a rock music song); to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.


Rhythm may be defined as the way in which one or more unaccented beats are grouped in relation to an accented one. ... A rhythmic group can be apprehended only when its elements are distinguished from one another, rhythm...always involves an interrelationship between a single, accented (strong) beat and either one or two unaccented (weak) beats.[3]

In the performance arts, rhythm is the timing of events on a human scale; of musical sounds and silences that occur over time, of the steps of a dance, or the meter of spoken language and poetry. In some performing arts, such as hip hop music, the rhythmic delivery of the lyrics is one of the most important elements of the style. Rhythm may also refer to visual presentation, as "timed movement through space"[4] and a common language of pattern unites rhythm with geometry. For example, architects often speak of the rhythm of a building, referring to patterns in the spacing of windows, columns, and other elements of the façade.[citation needed] In recent years, rhythm and meter have become an important area of research among music scholars. Recent work in these areas includes books by Maury Yeston,[5] Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff,[6] Jonathan Kramer, Christopher Hasty,[7] Godfried Toussaint,[8] William Rothstein,[9] Joel Lester,[10] and Guerino Mazzola.

In his television series How Music Works, Howard Goodall presents theories that human rhythm recalls the regularity with which we walk and the heartbeat.[11] Other research suggests that it does not relate to the heartbeat directly, but rather the speed of emotional affect, which also influences heartbeat. Yet other researchers suggest that since certain features of human music are widespread, it is "reasonable to suspect that beat-based rhythmic processing has ancient evolutionary roots".[12] Justin London writes that musical metre "involves our initial perception as well as subsequent anticipation of a series of beats that we abstract from the rhythm surface of the music as it unfolds in time".[13] The "perception" and "abstraction" of rhythmic measure is the foundation of human instinctive musical participation, as when we divide a series of identical clock-ticks into "tick-tock-tick-tock".[14][15]

Joseph Jordania recently suggested that the sense of rhythm was developed in the early stages of hominid evolution by the forces of natural selection.[16] Plenty of animals walk rhythmically and hear the sounds of the heartbeat in the womb, but only humans have the ability to be engaged (entrained) in rhythmically coordinated vocalizations and other activities. According to Jordania, development of the sense of rhythm was central for the achievement of the specific neurological state of the battle trance, crucial for the development of the effective defense system of early hominids. Rhythmic war cry, rhythmic drumming by shamans, rhythmic drilling of the soldiers and contemporary professional combat forces listening to the heavy rhythmic rock music[17] all use the ability of rhythm to unite human individuals into a shared collective identity where group members put the interests of the group above their individual interests and safety.

Some types of parrots can know rhythm.[18] Neurologist Oliver Sacks states that chimpanzees and other animals show no similar appreciation of rhythm yet posits that human affinity for rhythm is fundamental, so that a person's sense of rhythm cannot be lost (e.g. by stroke). "There is not a single report of an animal being trained to tap, peck, or move in synchrony with an auditory beat",[19] Sacks write, "No doubt many pet lovers will dispute this notion, and indeed many animals, from the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to performing circus animals appear to 'dance' to music. It is not clear whether they are doing so or are responding to subtle visual or tactile cues from the humans around them."[20] Human rhythmic arts are possibly to some extent rooted in courtship ritual.[21]

The establishment of a basic beat requires the perception of a regular sequence of distinct short-duration pulses and, as a subjective perception of loudness is relative to background noise levels, a pulse must decay to silence before the next occurs if it is to be really distinct. For this reason, the fast-transient sounds of percussion instruments lend themselves to the definition of rhythm. Musical cultures that rely upon such instruments may develop multi-layered polyrhythm and simultaneous rhythms in more than one time signature, called polymeter. Such are the cross-rhythms of Sub-Saharan Africa and the interlocking kotekan rhythms of the gamelan.

As a piece of music unfolds, its rhythmic structure is perceived not as a series of discrete independent units strung together in a mechanical, additive, way like beads [or "pulses"], but as an organic process in which smaller rhythmic motives, whole possessing a shape and structure of their own, also function as integral parts of a larger ["architectonic"] rhythmic organization.[22]

Most music, dance and oral poetry establishes and maintains an underlying "metric level", a basic unit of time that may be audible or implied, the pulse or tactus of the mensural level,[23][6][24] or beat level, sometimes simply called the beat. This consists of a (repeating) series of identical yet distinct periodic short-duration stimuli perceived as points in time.[25] The "beat" pulse is not necessarily the fastest or the slowest component of the rhythm but the one that is perceived as fundamental: it has a tempo to which listeners entrain as they tap their foot or dance to a piece of music.[26] It is currently most often designated as a crotchet or quarter note in western notation (see time signature). Faster levels are division levels, and slower levels are multiple levels.[25] Maury Yeston clarified "Rhythms of recurrence" arise from the interaction of two levels of motion, the faster providing the pulse and the slower organizing the beats into repetitive groups.[27] "Once a metric hierarchy has been established, we, as listeners, will maintain that organization as long as minimal evidence is present".[28]

A rhythmic gesture is any durational pattern that, in contrast to the rhythmic unit, does not occupy a period of time equivalent to a pulse or pulses on an underlying metric level. It may be described according to its beginning and ending or by the rhythmic units it contains. Rhythms that begin on a strong pulse are thetic, those beginning on a weak pulse are anacrustic and those beginning after a rest or tied-over note are called initial rest. Endings on a strong pulse are strong, on a weak pulse, weak and those that end on a strong or weak upbeat are upbeat.[29]

Rhythm is marked by the regulated succession of opposite elements: the dynamics of the strong and weak beat, the played beat and the inaudible but implied rest beat, or the long and short note. As well as perceiving rhythm humans must be able to anticipate it. This depends on repetition of a pattern that is short enough to memorize.

The alternation of the strong and weak beat is fundamental to the ancient language of poetry, dance and music. The common poetic term "foot" refers, as in dance, to the lifting and tapping of the foot in time. In a similar way musicians speak of an upbeat and a downbeat and of the "on" and "off" beat. These contrasts naturally facilitate a dual hierarchy of rhythm and depend on repeating patterns of duration, accent and rest forming a "pulse-group" that corresponds to the poetic foot. Normally such pulse-groups are defined by taking the most accented beat as the first and counting the pulses until the next accent.[30]Scholes 1977b A rhythm that accents another beat and de-emphasises the downbeat as established or assumed from the melody or from a preceding rhythm is called syncopated rhythm.

The tempo of the piece is the speed or frequency of the tactus, a measure of how quickly the beat flows. This is often measured in 'beats per minute' (bpm): 60 bpm means a speed of one beat per second, a frequency of 1 Hz. A rhythmic unit is a durational pattern that has a period equivalent to a pulse or several pulses.[32] The duration of any such unit is inversely related to its tempo.

This context-dependent perception of rhythm is explained by the principle of correlative perception, according to which data are perceived in the simplest way. From the viewpoint of Kolmogorov's complexity theory, this means such a representation of the data that minimizes the amount of memory.

Thus, the loop of interdependence of rhythm and tempo is overcome due to the simplicity criterion, which "optimally" distributes the complexity of perception between rhythm and tempo. In the above example, the repetition is recognized because of additional repetition of the melodic contour, which results in a certain redundancy of the musical structure, making the recognition of the rhythmic pattern "robust" under tempo deviations. Generally speaking, the more redundant the "musical support" of a rhythmic pattern, the better its recognizability under augmentations and diminutions, that is, its distortions are perceived as tempo variations rather than rhythmic changes:

By taking into account melodic context, homogeneity of accompaniment, harmonic pulsation, and other cues, the range of admissible tempo deviations can be extended further, yet still not preventing musically normal perception. For example, Skrjabin's own performance of his Poem op. 32 no. 1 transcribed from a piano-roll recording contains tempo deviations within . = 19/119, a span of 5.5 times.[42] Such tempo deviations are strictly prohibited, for example, in Bulgarian or Turkish music based on so-called additive rhythms with complex duration ratios, which can also be explained by the principle of correlativity of perception. If a rhythm is not structurally redundant, then even minor tempo deviations are not perceived as accelerando or ritardando but rather given an impression of a change in rhythm, which implies an inadequate perception of musical meaning.[43] 041b061a72


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