Listening PreludeListen to Chopin's Waltz in C-sharp minor, and consider the following questions:●Does this music have a pulse?●Is the pulse strong or weak?●Does the pulse remain the same, or does it change as the piece progresses?●What is the tempoof this piece?●Does the tempo remain the same, or does it change as the piece progresses?●What is the meter of this piece?●What, if any, are the characteristic rhythmic patterns used in this piece?IntroductionRhythmis the organization of sound in time. Earlier, we learned that every tone has duration. It begins, exists for some period of time, and then ends.When sounds are placed one after another, the combined durations create what is known as rhythm.Rhythm may be very complex, but some fundamental aspects of rhythm may be easily describedand understood.A basic component of rhythm is pulse (or beat). A great deal of the world’s music has a pulse. Pulseis what enables us to march, dance, or just tap a finger to music. Try tapping to the pulse in thisexcerpt.The pulse in music may move at different rates, creating what we describe in music as tempo.Compare the speed of the pulse in these examples:Rhythm and the BodyBecause most people's nervous and muscular systems are stimulated by sound, reaction to the beatof music is often spontaneous and automatic. If the beat is strong enough to be heard or felt, mostpeople will have a natural tendency to clap their hands, tap their feet, or move their heads with themusic. Even babies respond naturally to beat and meter and will move on or to the beat. Reacting tothe beat is more a matter of feeling it in the body than analyzing it, hearing it, or reading it from amusic score.There is a basic relationship between rhythm and the human body, essential to the understanding ofrhythm. Our heartbeats, breathing, and walking may be used as metaphors for the organization oftime into regular, ordered units.
Rhythm is strongly connected to movementthrough tensionand relaxation. The alternation oftension and relaxationis experienced in motion and registered in the mind. The body's nervous andmuscular systems respond to the rhythmic quality of music, creating a subjective feeling and moodin the listener. The subsequent visible and invisible responses to music are based on our perceptionof how music moves in time from one point of emphasis to another. These points of rhythmicemphasis or stress are called the beatin musical terms, and they are even visibly evident in dance.Rhythm and MusicTraditionally, the fundamental elements of music include melody, harmony, and rhythm. Althoughrhythm is the most easily perceived of these elements, the three are inseparably linked and worktogether as a whole. This holistic view of music is essential to understanding the function of rhythm.