Formative Processes of Durational Projection in “Free Rhythm” World Music

Author: Roeder, John

Publication details: Thought and Play in Musical Rhythm, edited by Richard Wolf, Stephen Blum, and Christopher Hasty, 55-74. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.


Abstract: Recent theories of meter have been enriched by consideration of the time cycles and nonisochronous beats found in many musical cultures. However, these theories do not apply to music in which pulse is irregular. In many instances of this sort of “free rhythm” found throughout the world, durations can still be measured, but in relation to immediately preceding durations rather than to a persistent metric grid. Christopher Hasty’s theory of durational projection addresses just this situation. This chapter applies it in analyses of a Persian āvāz, a flute solo from Papua New Guinea, and an ālāp performed by sitarist Budhaditya Mukherjee. The guiding question is not whether there “is” meter or what that meter “is,” but how durational projections guide perception of process, pitch structure, and form, and so can be incorporated into coherent narrative that attributes purpose to the specific free rhythms in extended passages of music.