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Re: Rhythm perception

On 15 Nov 2005, at 16:56, Leon van Noorden wrote:

I would say that finding the downbeat comes after beat induction.

The insight of Longuet-Higgins (sorry to keep promoting him) was that determining the “downbeat,” and consequently the perception of a beat, is essentially an incremental process. The first note you hear is, of course, by definition the downbeat. When hearing a second one you can choose, after n notes there are innumerable possibilities: “in principle infinitely ambiguous, but this ambiguity is seldom apparent to the listener.” So, which one comes first is a relative notion.

Next to this I am convinced that the notion of “downbeat” (i.e. phase, not period) is indeed a cultural phenomenon – the “Maracatu” example (mentioned by Dan) being a good example.


P.S. It might be interesting to note is that the ability pick up a regular beat from a sound signal, even while it is not explicitly in the rhythm, is a typical (almost uniquely) human cognitive skill, that allow us to synchronize, clap, dance and make music together.


Henkjan Honing
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Music Cognition Group
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