7. ON THE PERSISTENCE OF METRICAL PERCEPTS

Edward W. Large, Center for Complex Systems, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, P.O. Box 3091, Boca Raton, FL 33431-0991, USA

Background. A fundamental concept underlying the theory of meter perception is that of stability. A metrical accent structure, once perceived, may persist despite significant rhythmic complexity. Rubato, syncopation, and even silence may be accomodated without disrupting an ongoing structural interpretation. However, certain types of rhythmic changes force a reorganization of the perceived accent structure. In brief, metrical percepts are stable, yet flexible, accomodating certain kinds of changes and not others.

Aims. The aim of this ongoing work is to articulate a mathematical model of meter perception that captures both the stability and the flexibility of meter perception. Building upon earlier theoretical formulations of beat perception using entrained oscillation, I model meter perception using pattern forming dynamics defined over a network of neural oscillators.

Main Contribution. This current work makes two main contributions. First, it represents a move from discrete, single-oscillator models of beat perception to a continuous-time, multi-tiered model of meter perception. Second, the model is analyzable, so it makes clear predictions about several significant features of meter perception. For example, it predicts how fast a beat will be induced and what pattern(s) of metrical accentuation will be extrapolated from a given sequence. It predicts how much deviation will be accomodated within a given metrical scheme and how much is sufficient to force structural reinterpretation.

Implications. This talk will focus on the implications for testing this model of meter perception. I describe how the model may explain existing data in the literature, and I make some suggestions for future tests.

Keywords: Metrical structure, nonlinear dynamics, pattern formation, oscillation