It has long been assumed that rhythm cognition builds on perceptual categories tied to prototypes defined by small-integer ratios, such as 1:1 and 2:1. This study aims to evaluate the relative contributions of both generic constraints and selected cultural particularities in shaping rhythmic prototypes. We experimentally tested musicians’ synchronization (finger tapping) with simple periodic rhythms at two different tempi with participants in Mali, Bulgaria, and Germany. We found support both for the classic assumption that 1:1 and 2:1 prototypes are widespread across cultures and for culture-dependent prototypes characterized by more complex ratios such as 3:2 and 4:3. Our findings suggest that music-cultural environments specify links between music performance patterns and perceptual prototypes.
Rhythmic Prototypes Across Cultures: A Comparative Study of Tapping Synchronization
Authors Polak and Jacoby contributed equally to the research. Polak led the study and Jacoby analyzed the data. Experiments were conducted by Polak, Goldberg, Fischinger, and Holzapfel. Polak and Jacoby drafted the paper, which was edited by London, Goldberg, Fischinger, and Holzapfel.
We would like to thank Noumouké Doumbia, Dr. Salabary Doumbia, and Madu Jakite (Bamako), Dr. Ozan Baysal (Istanbul), Elena Felker (Frankfurt), and Dr. Lyuben Dossev (Plovdiv) for their assistance in conducting experiments.
The German Research Foundation (DFG, research grant PO-627/6-3, grant-holder Polak) and the Cologne University for Music and Dance (HfMT Köln) generously funded the coordination of the study and data acquisition in Mali, Turkey and Bulgaria; data acquisition in Germany and writing the paper was funded by the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA). Author Polak changed from HfMT Köln to MPIEA during the research.
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Rainer Polak, Nori Jacoby, Timo Fischinger, Daniel Goldberg, Andre Holzapfel, Justin London; Rhythmic Prototypes Across Cultures: A Comparative Study of Tapping Synchronization. Music Perception 1 September 2018; 36 (1): 1–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2018.36.1.1
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