Dissertation Index



Author: Martens, Peter A.

Title: Beat-Finding, Listener Strategies, and Musical Meter

Institution: University of Chicago

Begun: September 2001

Completed: June 2005

Abstract:

In this dissertation I investigate the common but complex process of finding a beat in music. My approach combines familiar models of meter from music theory with experimental psychology. I accept the view of meter as a multi-layered hierarchy of beats in which the individual layers (beats) are related by simple integer ratios (1:2 or 1:3). My initial aim was to test an established tenet of meter perception, that an individual's tempo preferences will dictate which beat layer in a meter will be felt as primary, or as the tactus of a piece. I conducted two empirical studies that gathered average listeners' beat-finding responses to excerpts of real music through an accepted tapping paradigm.

The results of these experiments showed that tempo is only part of the story. To better account for participants' beat-finding strategies, I develop a tripartite view of "the listener" based on the initial beat-finding behaviors observed in the experiments, behaviors that are definable in terms of the music's metric structure itself. I propose an explicit, but pluralistic, model of this initial stage of experiencing meter, a model that distributes the responsibility for this experience to the three parties involved: listeners, performers, and composers.Having established a baseline of variability in listener responses, I next explore the degree of control that composers and performers can exercise over those responses. I outline several combinations of metric structure and tempo that can increase or decrease the uniformity of listener responses, and also demonstrate the "priming: effect that a previous metrical context can have on beat-finding behavior.

Keywords: Meter, beat, rhythm, tactus, pulse, perception, cognition, tapping

TOC:

1. MODELING METER PERCEPTION
2. REFERENT LEVELS IN REAL MUSIC
3. A MODEL FOR REFERENT LEVEL CHOICE
4. REFERENT LEVEL IN A CHANGING MUSICAL METER
5. PERFORMERS AND COMPOSERS

Contact:

Peter Martens
3203 21st St.
Lubbock, TX 79410
peter.martens@ttu.edu
voice and fax: 806-788-1220

Date Listed: 05/22/2006


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