Describing the interactions between rhythmic motives and their metrical context

Anja Volk

University of Southern California, USA

A complex piece of music can be described as a web of different levels of rhythmic-metric characteristics similar to the different levels of tonality. These different levels are relatively well understood in the domain of tonal analysis, for instance, by distinguishing the tonal key assigned to an entire piece from the local changes that can involve modulations between different key sections within the same piece. In contrast to this the domain of rhythm and meter needs more investigation as to how these different levels or scopes interact with each other. In how far does a small rhythmic motive influence the metric characteristics of a larger context? In how far on the other hand does a specific context influence the metric characteristics of a small rhythmic motive embedded within this context? These questions are especially relevant concerning our perception of rhythmic-metric structures. Modeling the unfolding of metric hierarchy over time by listening to a piece should consider different levels of contexts available to the listener at each point in time.

The model of Inner Metric Analysis (Fleischer 2003; Volk 2003, 2004) allows the description of the metric structure of pieces of great complexity, such as a symphony movement, by assigning metric weights to all notes. Thereby relations between all notes of the piece are considered which allows, for instance, the comparison of how strictly a piece of a certain genre follows a metric hierarchy in comparison to another piece. The model is also capable to distinguish between sections within a piece that exhibit different metric characteristics. In this talk we want to address the question of how to distinguish between small rhythmic motives that have a significant influence on the metric characteristics of a greater context of a stable metrical state. By calculating correlations between metric weights of different contextual scopes within the piece we investigate the different forms of interaction between the global and local levels of the metrical hierarchy.