Proceedings of the 25th Anniversary Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. 2017, 67-74
The perception of musical meter is fundamental for rhythm production and perception in much music. Underlying structures such as pulse, meter, and metrical subdivisions are often described as successive points in time. This paper investigates whether experienced musical meter may not only include such points in time, but also trajectories between the points–that is, metrical shapes. Previous studies have pointed out that there seems to be a relationship between musical meter and periodic body motion like foot tapping, head nodding and dancing. This paper investigates musical meter in music styles with an intimate relationship with dance, and whether metrical points and trajectories can be understood by investigating performers’ periodic body motion. Two motion capture studies form the empirical basis of this paper; first, a percussionist and a dancer performing Brazilian samba; second, a fiddler and two dancers performing Norwegian telespringar. The analysis showed that it seemed to be a relationship between the periodic fluctuation in audio amplitude and the performers’ periodic foot motion on sixteenth note level in samba. Furthermore, motion analysis revealed similar periodic shapes in both percussionist and dancer foot motion. In telespringar there seemed to be a relationship between the metrical beat level and the fiddler’s foot stamping. In addition, the beat duration pattern, as indicated by the fiddler’s periodic foot stamping, seemed to correspond to the shape of the dancers’ vertical body motion. The results support the view that there is a close relationship between musical meter and performers’ periodic body motion. This suggest that the underlying meter may not only include metrical points in time, but that each metrical beat/subdivision duration has a corresponding metrical trajectory with a certain shape. If this is the case, then perceivers’ and performers’ implicit knowledge of the underlying reference structure in samba and telespringar might incorporate knowledge about the underlying metrical shape.