Time & Rhythm: Pulse & Meter

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The concept and experience of a steady, repeating Pulse… akin to your heartbeat, might be considered the most basic dimension of musical time. The next dimension, Meter, is the concept and experience of organizing pulses in a hierarchical manner so that each pulse is different from the other.  

First, listen to a steady drumbeat of undifferentiated pulses (Let’s call this ONE-ness)…

Now let’s differentiate the pulses from each other by emphasizing one over the others in various groupings…






and notice how the difference in emphasis organizes our listening and expectations.

By the way, we can continue with SEVEN-ness and EIGHT-ness and NINE-ness and so on.

We could also combine these “nesses” by nesting them inside each other. For example, we could play a THREE-ness inside a TWO-ness to make a more complex SIX-ness.  Listen to a recognizable example (Tarantella):

We can also combine these “nesses” by linking them together. For example, we could link a THREE-ness with a TWO-ness to make a more complex FIVE-ness. As in this famous example:

The Big Lesson here is this: Meter is the concept and experience of sequences of pulses that are organized in a way that creates a more complex framework upon which sounds can be placed in time. That said, it is appropriate to think of each kind of meter as a kind of dance.



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