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Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμόςrhythmos, "any regular recurring motion, symmetry"[1]) is a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." [2] In other words, rhythm is simply the timing of the musical sounds and silences. While rhythm most commonly applies to sound, such as music and spoken language, it may also refer to visual presentation, as "timed movement through space."[3]


Rhythm in linguistics

The study of rhythm, stress, and pitch in speech is called prosody; it is a topic in linguistics. Narmour [4] describes three categories of prosodic rules which create rhythmic successions which are additive (same duration repeated), cumulative (short-long), or countercumulative (long-short). Cumulation is associated with closure or relaxation, countercumulation with openness or tension, while additive rhythms are open-ended and repetitive. Richard Middleton[5] points out this method cannot account for syncopation and suggests the concept of transformation.

A rhythmic unit is a durational pattern which occupies a period of time equivalent to a pulse or pulses on an underlying metric level, as opposed to a rhythmic gesture which does not. [6]

Origins of human appreciation of rhythm

In his series How Music Works, Howard Goodall presents theories that rhythm recalls how we walk and the heartbeat we heard in the womb. More likely is that a simple pulse or di-dah beat recalls the footsteps of another person.[citation needed] Our sympathetic urge to dance is designed to boost our energy levels in order to cope with someone, or some animal chasing us – a fight or flight response.[citation needed] From a less darwinist perspective, perceiving rhythm is the ability to master the otherwise invisible dimension, time. Rhythm is possibly also rooted in courtship ritual.[7]

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