Fractal Music

Pulse Trains

Rhythm is an integral part of modern popular music in genres ranging from Baroque to Bossa Nova. This is not surprising; it is widely believed that music first arose in the form of percussive patterns beaten out with the aid of sticks, logs, and gourds.

Rhythm is often described in terms of beats, meter, accents, and syncopation. Generally the words "beat" and "pulse" are used interchangeably. However, for our purposes we will reserve the word "pulse" to mean the underlying and non-notated (not written in the score) flow of rhythm that can be perceived at different levels of periodicity in the same passage of music.

The simultaneous and subjective nature of rhythmic pulse is easily witnessed at a popular music performance when the audience claps in time to the music. Some people clap at a frequency corresponding to every quarter note, while others, a bit more deliberate perhaps, clap at half that frequency; they feel a longer pulse and mark each passing half note.

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© 2004 Harlan Brothers