rhythm

rhythm, the basic temporal element of music, concerned with duration and with stresses or accents whether irregular or organized into regular patternings. The formulation in the late 12th cent. of the rhythmic modes—basic recurrent patterns that were adhered to in composition—began the development of the Western system of meter and its notation. Most rhythms are metrical, i.e., the values are multiples of a temporal unit, or beat, usually associated with some particular note value. Free rhythm, such as occurs in much Asian music, has no meter (i.e., its temporal values are not derived from a basic unit). The degree of rhythmic complexity and the types of rhythms used are major considerations in analysis of the style of a composer or a period. The rhythmic tension of music is of value in eliciting emotional response from the hearer. African music and some 20th-century composers employ polyrhythm, the simultaneous use of several rhythmic patterns whose accents do not coincide. See syncopation and metronome.

See P. Kiparsky and G. Youmans, ed., Rhythm and Meter (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on rhythm from Fact Monster:

  • biological rhythm - rhythm, biological rhythm, biological, cyclic pattern of physiological changes or changes in ...
  • biorhythm - biorhythm biorhythm or biological rhythm,cyclic pattern of changes in physiology or in activity of ...
  • circadian rhythm - circadian rhythm: circadian rhythm: see rhythm, biological.
  • Popular Music Glossary - Popular Music Glossary acid rock Rock music with a repetitive beat and lyrics that suggest ...
  • biological clock - biological clock: biological clock: see rhythm, biological.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Theory, Forms, and Instruments