Cross-Disciplinary and Multicultural Perspective on Musical Rhythm

Rhythm is an intrinsic characteristic of music that is present in virtually all musical styles and cultures. The connection between musical rhythm perception and production to the physical characteristics of the human body confers on musical rhythm a universal character. Studying this innately human musical characteristic from a broad perspective will certainly shed light over the aspects of musical rhythm that have a universal character over those that are culture specific.

The Rhythm Project at New York University Abu Dhabi will help to better understand the similarities and differences between rhythms of different cultures and ultimately provide a deeper insight into the musical behavior of humans as a species.

With this project, we propose three major tasks to be undertaken during a period of two years:

  1. compiling a music corpus, and using it for modeling, analyzing and listening;

  2. measuring rhythm similarity and complexity in a cross-cultural context through listening tests; and

  3. applying the resulting knowledge in developing novel computational applications that will train and educate its users in specific rhythmic styles.

Besides contributing to musicology, music making and the study of non-western culture, we fully expect the development of our analysis framework and applications to result in important contributions to scholarship in disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, engineering and psychology. This project, therefore, leverages and contributes cutting-edge research to both the arts and the science.


Robert Rowe
Chair of Department of Music and Professor of Performing Arts, NYU
Phone: +1 212-998-5435