Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 474–480

Rhythm histograms and musical meter: A corpus study of Malian percussion music

Brief Report

DOI: 10.3758/s13423-016-1093-7

Cite this article as:
London, J., Polak, R. & Jacoby, N. Psychon Bull Rev (2017) 24: 474. doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1093-7


Studies of musical corpora have given empirical grounding to the various features that characterize particular musical styles and genres. Palmer & Krumhansl (1990) found that in Western classical music the likeliest places for a note to occur are the most strongly accented beats in a measure, and this was also found in subsequent studies using both Western classical and folk music corpora (Huron & Ommen, 2006; Temperley, 2010). We present a rhythmic analysis of a corpus of 15 performances of percussion music from Bamako, Mali. In our corpus, the relative frequency of note onsets in a given metrical position does not correspond to patterns of metrical accent, though there is a stable relationship between onset frequency and metrical position. The implications of this non-congruence between simple statistical likelihood and metrical structure for the ways in which meter and metrical accent may be learned and understood are discussed, along with importance of cross-cultural studies for psychological research.


Musical rhythm Cross-cultural study Situated cognition 

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carleton College, MusicNorthfieldUSA
  2. 2.Hochschule für Musik und Tanz KölnCologneGermany
  3. 3.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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