[Smt-talk] Pieces with improvisatory openings

Arnie Cox acox at oberlin.edu
Wed Oct 26 08:24:47 PDT 2011

On Oct 26, 2011, at 12:07 AM, JAY RAHN wrote:

> Can there be metrical perception without motor activity?

Perhaps in the way that one can smell pumpkin pie without eating it (arguably something crucial would be missing).

It might help to distinguish motor imagery from motor activity, even if there might be a continuum between the two.  While metric perception without overt activity may be common for some people, the notion of perception without at least motor *imagery* is inconsistent with findings such as those in Chen, Penhune, and Zatorre (2008; below). 

From another direction, if I may conflate meter and rhythm for a moment, consider Christopher Hasty's remarks on rhythmic experience:  "Something...attracts and holds our attention.  We follow the event or observe the object with interest.  Rhythm in this sense implies participation and sympathy" (Meter As Rhythm, p. 12).  I take this participation and sympathy to be at least partly motor-related, and I take the perceptual act of *entrainment* (Justin London, Hearing in Time) to be consistent with this.  Perception of rhythm and meter then involve either imagined or overt actions that are congruent with the pattern of sounds.  On this view, "improvisatory" passages are distinguished not merely as patterns of sounds but as patterns of either imagined or performed actions.  One might want to say *of course* this is the case, but I'm not sure to what extent this is reflected in the vocabulary and rhetoric of our discipline.

Arnie Cox
Assoc. Prof. of Music Theory
Oberlin Conservatory

Chen, J.L., Penhune, V.B., and Zatorre, R.J. 2008. Listening to Musical Rhythms Recruits Motor Regions of the Brain. Cerebral Cortex 18, 2844-2854.

On Oct 26, 2011, at 12:07 AM, JAY RAHN wrote:

> Mitch Ohriner and Eliot Handelman refer to motor activity (tapping and conducting) with regard to metre. Can there be metrical perception without motor activity? E.g., can one hear (or even imagine) pairs of onsets as time-intervallically the same without an intervening motor response?
> Jay Rahn, York University    

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