The distribution of listeners’ perceived tempi across large collections of music has been modeled previously by a resonance function with a peak near the “preferred tempo” of 120 beats per minute (BPM) [Van Noorden and Moelants, J. New Music Res., 28, 43–66]. Here, through a series of experiments in which listeners were asked to tap to the most salient pulse of musical excerpts,we examined distributions of tapped tempi from single musical excerpts to see if the global resonance of preferred tempo is dependent on musical content. Results show that for some musical excerpts, the distribution of perceived tempi conforms to the global resonant form in that metrical levels with tempi near 120 BPM were perceived as most salient, while for other excerpts the most saliently perceived tempo sat well above or below 120 BPM. We then used a model, which quantifies relative strengths of periodicities in the audio signal, to demonstrate that deviations from the “preferred tempo” can be partially explained by dynamic rhythmic accents drawing listeners to tempi away from the resonance.

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