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Music and Rhythm

Fundamentals – History – Analysis

Peter Petersen

This book sets forth the first really novel theory of rhythm since Hugo Riemann: the components theory. Its approach will be of interest to musicologists and music theoreticians alike as well as to music performers, since it will enable them to describe and understand the rhythmic shape of music better and more fully than was previously possible. Instead of conceiving rhythm simply as interplay of short and long, of accents and meters, the present analysis takes its departure from secondary rhythms that are not notated but depend on specific qualities of a given sound or sound formation. Together with the basic rhythms, these components rhythms form a total rhythmic texture, whose temporal and weight structure allows a novel way of perceiving musical meter as not being primarily prescriptive but above all as the product of an overall compositional calculation of component rhythms.


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Part III: Theories of Rhythm


Preface 189 Preface The present study sets forth a novel theory of musical rhythm, »components theory«, for discussion. The core of this new approach consists in disengaging the concept of duration from its bond to the individual sound and to apply it also to partial sound phenomena as well as to sound con- figurations. The distance between sound and sound or tone and tone is principally equated to the duration between pitch and pitch, between crest and/or keel tones, between harmony and harmony, phrase and phrase, etc. Every dura- tional sequence deriving from significantly qualified sound signals (»components«) can function as a rhythm; the mu- tually coordinated rhythms (»component rhythms«) are ap- prehended as a temporal web comprising the rhythm of a musical concatenation. The components theory is contiguous to other, older and newer, accentual theories. But it modifies these inas- much as it replaces the accent as a discrete individual event by the component as a rhythm-generating phenomenon. Components are not mere additions to rhythms but neces- sarily and constantly occurring alterations in sound or tone setting that structure time and are consequently of rhythmic import. The conventional rhythm/accent relation thus evol- ves into a new rhythm/rhythm relation. Furthermore the components theory presents a new explanatory departure for the phenomena meter and time. If the weight relations in the modern graduated accent meter can be derived from the in- teraction of multiple (ab- stract) durational sequences (see fig.), the same principle can be used to determine rhythmic weights. Compo-...

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