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Simultaneous meters

Can we imply different simultaneous meters in a single-line rhythm, or do we need multiple rhythmic streams?

What’s the time signature?

The second bar in the following example can be experienced as 3/16 or as 4/4 with accents every three sixteenth notes. Since the first bar strongly establishes 4/4, most people hear the second bar as accents in 4/4 unless they make the decision to shift their perception to 3/16 before hearing it.

Simultaneous meters

Hearing both 4/4 and 3/16 simultaneously would most likely not occur unless the passage were written differently. In two parts, for example:

To hear both meters simultaneously, each part would need to be as independent as possible. This can be done by defining different timbre, register, dynamics, etc. for each part. The less that you define these things, the more you get this:

A single composite rhythm, which generates no ambiguity, and a lot less tension than the communication of separate, simultaneous meters described above.

Tension quality

But if we do imply different meters in a single line, how does this affect tension when we add more lines? Clearly, more tension is generated simply by adding more notes. But I’m interested in quality of tension, not quantity.

This question of “how” interests me more than “how much”. How can the same level of tension in different situations have different qualities?  Are those qualities determined solely by the relationship between meter and rhythm? Or are they determined by factors beyond meter and rhythm, like timbre, register, etc?

There’s a lot to explore here.

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