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Psychon Bull Rev. 2017 Apr;24(2):474-480. doi: 10.3758/s13423-016-1093-7.

Rhythm histograms and musical meter: A corpus study of Malian percussion music.

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Carleton College, Music, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN, 55057, USA.
Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, Unter Krahnenbäumen 87, 50668, Cologne, Germany.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA.


Studies of musical corpora have given empirical grounding to the various features that characterize particular musical styles and genres. Palmer & Krumhansl (1990) found that in Western classical music the likeliest places for a note to occur are the most strongly accented beats in a measure, and this was also found in subsequent studies using both Western classical and folk music corpora (Huron & Ommen, 2006; Temperley, 2010). We present a rhythmic analysis of a corpus of 15 performances of percussion music from Bamako, Mali. In our corpus, the relative frequency of note onsets in a given metrical position does not correspond to patterns of metrical accent, though there is a stable relationship between onset frequency and metrical position. The implications of this non-congruence between simple statistical likelihood and metrical structure for the ways in which meter and metrical accent may be learned and understood are discussed, along with importance of cross-cultural studies for psychological research.


Cross-cultural study; Musical rhythm; Situated cognition

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