maximum tatum (one tatum, two tata) (Bruno Repp )

Subject: maximum tatum (one tatum, two tata)
From:    Bruno Repp  <repp(at)ALVIN.HASKINS.YALE.EDU>
Date:    Wed, 10 Apr 2002 12:52:19 -0700

A variety of phenomena have been mentioned in connection with the "tatum", but has anyone given a clear definition of the tatum? Who coined that term in the first place? I have encountered it only once previously, in Vijay Iyer's dissertation. Is he the inventor of the term? Brian Whitman, in the original message leading to this discussion, referred to "the maximum amount of discrete musical events a person can identify in a second". One needs to ask: What kinds of musical events? Identify in what way? I would like to argue that the minimal tatum be defined as the inter-onset interval between successive identical sounds in an isochronous sequence at which it becomes impossible to reliably synchronize an action (such as a finger tap) with any single event or with periodically recurring events in the sequence (e.g., every fourth event). This is the limit that was investigated by Bartlett & Bartlett (1959) and more recently by me, and which seems to be around 100 ms for musically trained (but not highly expert) participants. This limit may be different in realistic musical sequences, where higher-order periodicities, auditory streaming, pitch contours, and other factors may play a role. Also, experts such as professional percussionists perhaps could go a tiny bit faster. If there are other, better definitions of the tatum, I'd be interested to learn about them. -- Bruno H. Repp Senior Research Scientist Haskins Laboratories 270 Crown Street New Haven, CT 06511-6695 Tel. (203) 865-6163, ext. 236 FAX (203) 865-8963 e-mail: repp(at)

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