Definitions

rhythm

rhythm

[rith-uhm]
rhythm, the basic temporal element of music, concerned with duration and with stresses or accents whether irregular or organized into regular patternings. The formulation in the late 12th cent. of the rhythmic modes—basic recurrent patterns that were adhered to in composition—began the development of the Western system of meter and its notation. Most rhythms are metrical, i.e., the values are multiples of a temporal unit, or beat, usually associated with some particular note value. Free rhythm, such as occurs in much Asian music, has no meter (i.e., its temporal values are not derived from a basic unit). The degree of rhythmic complexity and the types of rhythms used are major considerations in analysis of the style of a composer or a period. The rhythmic tension of music is of value in eliciting emotional response from the hearer. African music and some 20th-century composers employ polyrhythm, the simultaneous use of several rhythmic patterns whose accents do not coincide. See syncopation and metronome.

See P. Kiparsky and G. Youmans, ed., Rhythm and Meter (1989).

rhythm, biological, cyclic pattern of physiological changes or changes in activity in living organisms, most often synchronized with daily, monthly, or annual cyclical changes in the environment. The exact nature of the internal mechanism, or "biological clock," that controls such rhythms is not understood. Rhythms that vary according to the time of day, called circadian rhythms, include such phenomena as the opening and closing of flowers and, in humans, changes in body temperature, blood pressure, and urine production. In diurnal animals, activity increases in daylight; in nocturnal animals nighttime activity predominates. Activity of many marine organisms varies according to the tide. Monthly rhythms include weight changes in men and the menstrual period in women. Annual cycles, or circannual rhythms, include bird migrations, reproductive activity, and mammalian hibernation. Daily cycles, or circadian rhythms, are in part a response to daylight or dark, and annual cycles in part responses to changes in the relative length of periods of daylight. However, environmentally determined cyclical changes, such as changes in daylight, temperature, and availability of food, serve primarily to refine and adjust physiologically determined circadian or circannual rhythms: in the absence of external cues, the internal rhythms gradually drift out of phase with the environment. Physiological rhythms are also present in the activity of individual organs, e.g., the beating of heart muscle and the activity of electrical waves of the brain.

See G. G. Luce, Biological Rhythms in Human and Animal Physiology (1971); J. Brady, ed., Biological Timekeeping (1982); L. Glass and M. C. Mackey, From Clocks to Chaos: The Rhythms of Life (1988).

Poetic rhythm designed to approximate the natural rhythm of speech. It is characterized by the frequent juxtaposition of single accented syllables and by the occurrence of feet with varying numbers of syllables whose sequence is interrupted by unstressed syllables that are not counted in the scansion. Because stressed syllables often occur sequentially, the rhythm is said to be “sprung.” This system of prosody was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who saw it as the basis of such early English poems as William Langland's Piers Plowman.

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Periodic biological fluctuation in an organism corresponding to and in response to periodic environmental change, such as day and night or high and low tide. The internal mechanism that maintains this rhythm even without the apparent environmental stimulus is a “biological clock.” When the rhythm is interrupted, the clock's adjustment is delayed, accounting for such phenomena as jet lag when traveling across time zones. Rhythms may have 24-hour (circadian rhythm), monthly, or annual cycles. Seealso photoperiodism.

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Any of several closely related musical styles developed by African American artists. The various styles were based on a mingling of European influences with jazz rhythms and tonal inflections, particularly syncopation and the flatted blues chords. They grew out of the blues of the rural South, which blended work chants with songs of deep emotion, and were greatly influenced by gospel music. Three major forms were distinguishable. The earliest, called race, was the style of the “jump” band, which emphasized strong rhythm, solo work (especially by saxophones), and vocals in a shout-blues manner. A second form, often called Chicago blues, was exemplified by performers such as Muddy Waters and was typically played by a small group with amplified instruments. The third major form was primarily vocal, featuring close, gospel-influenced harmonies often backed by an orchestra. In the mid-1950s the term rhythm and blues was adopted by the music industry for music intended for the African American audience; with the gradual disappearance of racial barriers, the Chicago blues style began to seem less a vital form than a folk tradition, while the gospel style was transformed into the soul music of vast appeal. Rhythm and blues was the chief antecedent of rock music.

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Inherent cycle of approximately 24 hours in length that appears to control or initiate various biological processes, including sleep, wakefulness, and digestive and hormonal activity. The natural signal for the circadian pattern is the change from darkness to light. The controlling mechanism for these cyclic processes within the body is thought to be the hypothalamus. Any change in the circadian cycle (such as jet lag and other conditions associated with travel) requires a certain period for readjustment.

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Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμός - rhythmos, "any measured flow or movement, symmetry") is the variation of the length and accentuation of a series of sounds or other events.

Rhythm in linguistics

The study of rhythm, stress, and pitch in speech is called prosody; it is a topic in linguistics. Narmour (1980, p.147-53) describes three categories of prosodic rules which create rhythmic successions which are additive (same duration repeated), cumulative (short-long), or countercumulative (long-short). Cumulation is associated with closure or relaxation, countercumulation with openness or tension, while additive rhythms are open-ended and repetitive. Richard Middleton points out this method cannot account for syncopation and suggests the concept of transformation.

A rhythmic unit is a durational pattern which occupies a period of time equivalent to a pulse or pulses on an underlying metric level, as opposed to a rhythmic gesture which does not (DeLone et al. (Eds.), 1975,

Origins of human appreciation of rhythm

In his series How Music Works, Howard Goodall presents theories that rhythm recalls how we walk and the heartbeat we heard in the womb. However neither would seem to have any survival value in Man's evolution. More likely is that a simple pulse or di-dah beat recalls the footsteps of another person. Our sympathetic urge to dance is designed to boost our energy levels in order to cope with someone, or some animal chasing us -- a fight or flight response. It is possibly also rooted in courtship ritual.

Rhythm notation and the oral tradition

Worldwide there are many different approaches to passing on rhythmic phrases and patterns, as they exist in traditional music, from generation to generation.

African music

In the Griot tradition of Africa everything related to music has been passed on orally. Babatunde Olatunji(1927-2003), a Nigerian drummer who lived and worked in the USA developed a simple series of spoken sounds for teaching the rhythms of the hand drum. He used six vocal sounds: Goon Doon Go Do Pa Ta. There are three basic sounds on the drum but each can be played with left or right hand. This simple system is now used worldwide particularly by Djembe players.

Indian music

Again an oral tradition. Tabla players would learn to speak complex rhythm patterns and phrases before attempting to play them. Sheila Chandra an English pop singer of Indian descent made performances based around her singing these patterns. In Indian Classical music, the Tala of a composition is pretty much the rhythmic pattern over which the whole piece is structured.

Western music

Standard music notation contains all rhythmic information and is adapted specifically for drums and percussion instruments. The drums are generally used to keep other instruments in 'time'. They do this by supplying beats/strikes in time at a certain pace, e.g.: 70 beats per minute (bpm). A drum beat is used to keep a bass/guitar line in time.

Types

In Western music, rhythms are usually arranged with respect to a time signature, partially signifying a meter. The speed of the underlying pulse, called the beat, is the tempo. The tempo is usually measured in 'beats per minute' (bpm); 60 bpm means a speed of one beat per second. The length of the meter, or metric unit (usually corresponding with measure length), is usually grouped into either two or three beats, being called duple meter and triple meter, respectively. If each beat is grouped in two, it is simple meter, if in three compound meter. According to Pierre Boulez, beat structures beyond four are "simply not natural".

Syncopated rhythms are rhythms that accent parts of the beat not already stressed by counting. Playing simultaneous rhythms in more than one time signature is called polymeter. See also polyrhythm. In recent years, rhythm and meter have become an important area of research among music scholars. Recent work in these areas includes books by Maury Yeston, Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, Jonathan Kramer, Christopher Hasty, William Rothstein, and Joel Lester.

Some genres of music make different use of rhythm than others. Most Western music is based on divisive rhythm, while non-Western music uses more additive rhythm. African music makes heavy use of polyrhythms, and Indian music uses complex cycles such as 7 and 13, while Balinese music often uses complex interlocking rhythms. By comparison, a lot of Western classical music is fairly rhythmically simple; it stays in a simple meter such as 4/4 or 3/4 and makes little use of syncopation.
Clave is a common underlying rhythm in African, Cuban music, and Brazilian music.

In the 20th century, composers like Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich wrote more rhythmically complex music using odd meters, and techniques such as phasing and additive rhythm. At the same time, modernists such as Olivier Messiaen and his pupils used increased complexity to disrupt the sense of a regular beat, leading eventually to the widespread use of irrational rhythms in New Complexity. This use may be explained by a comment of John Cage's where he notes that regular rhythms cause sounds to be heard as a group rather than individually; the irregular rhythms highlight the rapidly changing pitch relationships that would otherwise be subsumed into irrelevant rhythmic groupings (Sandow 2004, p.257). LaMonte Young also wrote music in which the sense of a regular beat is absent because the music consists only of long sustained tones (drones). In the 1930s, Henry Cowell wrote music involving multiple simultaneous periodic rhythms and collaborated with Léon Theremin to invent the Rhythmicon, the first electronic rhythm machine, in order to perform them. Similarly, Conlon Nancarrow wrote for player piano.

See also

Notes

Sources

  • Hasty, Christopher (1997). Meter as Rhythm. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510066-2.
  • London, Justin (2004). Hearing in Time: Psychological Aspects of Musical Meter. ISBN 0-19-516081-9.
  • Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-15275-9.
  • Narmour (1980). Cited in DeLone et al. (Eds.) (1975). Aspects of Twentieth-Century Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-049346-5.
  • Sandow, Greg (2004). "A Fine Madness", The Pleasure of Modernist Music. ISBN 1-58046-143-3.
  • Yeston, Maury (1976). "The Stratification of Musical Rhythm".

Further reading

  • McGaughey, William (2001). "Rhythm and Self-Consciousness: New Ideals for an Electronic Civilization". Minneapolis: Thistlerose Publications. ISBN 0-9605630-4-0.
  • Honing, H. (2002). "Structure and interpretation of rhythm and timing." Tijdschrift voor Muziektheorie [Dutch Journal of Music Theory] 7(3): 227-232.
  • Lewis, Andrew (2005). Rhythm—What it is and How to Improve Your Sense of It. San Francisco: RhythmSource Press. ISBN-13: 978-0-9754667-0-4.

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