Desain, P., Jansen, C., and Honing, H. (2000) How identification of rhythmic categories depends on tempo and meter. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition Keele, UK: Keele University, Department of Psychology.


This study is concerned with how the shape of the rhythmic categories depends on metric context and global tempo. Previous studies already addressed the effect of tempo and meter. However, these results were not unequivocal. Also, generalization was limited due to a relatively small set of stimuli and a predefined set of responses (arguably steering the subject to the available categories). In this study we elaborated on the paradigm used in earlier studies of systematically sampling the space of temporal patterns using open responses. To investigate the context effects of tempo and meter we conducted two experiments in which a total of seventeen conservatory-trained musicians transcribed aurally presented rhythmic patterns by means of a simple computer interface for music notation. The results of the first experiment show how the rhythmical regions change shape in the different tempi, depending on their complexity. In the second experiment, different rhythmic categories were given as response depending on the metrical context, again in accordance with the relative rhythmic complexity of the patterns in these meters. Metrical context determines what rhythmical categories occur and tempo affects the size and shape of these categories. Notwithstanding these clear results, the variance of the data between subjects reflects the complexity of decision making by musicians in quantizing rhythmical patterns.

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