Cross-cultural study of rhythm perception and production

Makiko Sadakata & Peter Desain

Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands

In the present study, we compared musicians from different countries to provide empirical evidence of the effect of cultural exposure on processing three-interval rhythmic patterns. Eighteen Dutch and 18 Japanese pianists participated in 4 experiments regarding rhythm perception and production. First, we conducted a rhythm perception experiment. Participants were forced to choose a response from a given restricted set of common musical notations (scores) for the presented sound stimuli. In the following experiment, the consistency of the response obtained in the perception experiment was examined by repeatedly testing part of the stimuli. In the next (production) experimentparticipants were asked to perform the same musical scores as used in the perceptual experiments. Finally, the participantsí judgment of familiarity with the musical scores was collected. The data were analyzed by means of a syncopation measure based on the hierarchical organization of the patterns (in the Longuet-Higgins sense) as well as a durational variability measure (nPVI) based on the serial succession of the durations in the patterns. The response agreed well among the participants regardless of the cultural group when the less syncopated patterns were chosen as the target (to be perceived, to be produced, to be judged). In other words, the more syncopated, the more differences between participants. Furthermore, a systematic cultural difference was found in the production of rhythmic pattern having two syncopated notes, as Japanese performing a longer third interval than Dutch pianists. In contrast, preliminary analysis indicated no systematic cultural difference on the perception experiment. The measure of durational variability did not account for the data as much as the syncopation measure did, indicating that the rhythmic patterns used in this study are processed hierarchically rather than serially. Overall, we found that characteristic of the process of perception and production of simple temporal patterns seem to be shared, while cultural difference seem to affect more complex patterns.