Tapping to Carter: Mensural Determinacy in Complex Rhythmic Sequences

Author: Poudrier, Ève

Publication details: “Tapping to Carter: Mensural Determinacy in Complex Rhythmic Sequences.” Empirical Musicology Review 12, no. 3-4 (2018): 277-315.

Weblink: http://emusicology.org/

Abstract: The tapping paradigm has played an important role in formulating beat induction models. However, experimental studies that make use of actual music as source materials to investigate pulse finding mechanisms in complex rhythmic sequences are lacking. The present study proposes to use the concept of mensural determinacy, that is, the emergence of temporal expectations that may or may not be realized (Hasty, 1997), to explore the relative salience of an implied beat in two contrasting rhythmic sequences extracted from Elliott Carter’s 90+ for piano (1994), and test the influence of style-specific expertise on listeners’ spontaneous tapping performance. The results of the experiment were consistent with the hypothesis that familiarity with the style represented by the source materials contributes to a more stable tapping period. In addition, although accent was found to have a main effect on tapping behavior, it also interacted with global temporal structure and a number of musical parameters and participant characteristics, including gender. Exploratory analyses of several additional musical parameters and participants’ characteristics are also suggestive of how experimental methods could be complemented by post-hoc score analysis to investigate the contributions of specific factors to the relative influence of first- and second-order periodicity on musicians’ beat percepts.