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Humanities LibreTexts

3: Rhythm

  • Page ID
    91135
  • In order to gain a better understanding of music it is important to know the technical differences between works. The study of the unique treatment of sounds to create a piece necessitates breaking the music down into “elements”. There are many different opinions as to what an exhaustive list of elements should include. In this text we will use The Five Elements of Music. These are rhythm, melody, harmony, texture and form. Module 3 will cover rhythm; Module 4 will cover melody, harmony and texture while Module 5 will cover form. As you learn to analyze music utilizing the five elements it is also important to recognize the four properties of a tone: duration, frequency, amplitude and timbre (Bakan 2012, 34). Duration refers to the length of the sound. Frequency refers to the physical wavelength of the tone, which manifests as the height of the tone (pitch). Amplitude is the volume of a musical tone. Timbre is the particular quality of sound that a tone has. This module will deal mainly in discussions about the duration of the tone.

    Rhythm is the element of music that deals with the arrangement of sounds and silences in relation to time. In the Western music tradition the sounds are called notes and the silences are called rests. Rhythm is also a noun that refers to specific arrangements/sequences of notes and rests within time. This use is evident when discussing a specific rhythm that is heard in a piece of music (like the clave rhythm found in West-African music and music of the diaspora). A diaspora is the reestablishment of culture outside of the homeland of the people within that culture. In this case it refers to the reestablishment and evolution of African musical traditions in the Americas.

    It is useful to analyze rhythm by listening for the three levels of musical time: background, middleground, and foreground (Valdez 2006, 10).


    Reference List

    Bakan, Michael B. 2012. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Locke, David. 2010. Yemevu in the Metric Matrix. Music Theory Online. Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec.), accessed Oct. 10 2016, http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10....6.4.locke.html.

    Stone, Ruth M. 2005. Music in West Africa: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Valdez, Stephen. 2006. A History of Rock Music. 4th ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt.

    Wade, Bonnie C. 2013. Thinking Musically: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.