Polyrhythms consisting of two or three dissonant pulse trains have been used to investigate rhythmic interpretation. The dissonant rhythmic lines allow for the study of the emergent nature of rhythmic organization. The empirical outcomes demonstrated that the rhythm perceived was contextual, depending on the timing between elements, pulse train frequency, polyrhythm configuration, element accentuation, and individual preferences. The effect of any factor depended on the values of each other factor. Although polyrhythms can illustrate the interactive nature of rhythm, polyrhythms do not shed light on the traditional views of rhythm concerning grouping and temporal extrapolation. Therefore, polyrhythms provide a good context for studying rhythm as a foreground melody at the expense of providing a poor context for studying rhythm as a background-organizing factor for tonal melody.

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