The assignment of a rhythmic interpretation to a piece of metrical music calls for the postulation of an underlying meter and the parsing of the note values according to this meter. In this article we develop the implications of this view, which include the following propositions. 1. Any given sequence of note values is in principle rhythmically ambiguous, although this ambiguity is seldom apparent to the listener. 2. In choosing a rhythmic interpretation for a given note sequence the listener seems to be guided by a strong assumption: if the sequence can be interpreted as the realization of an unsyncopated passage, then that is how he will interpret it. 3. Phrasing can make an important difference to the rhythmic interpretation that the listener assigns to a given sequence. Phrasing can therefore serve a structural function as well as a purely ornamental one.

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