This paper focuses on basic rhythmic patterns in terms of their contribution to the characterization of various styles that reflect different aesthetic ideals, and thereby to link the fields of cognition and musicology. The aesthetic ideal is realized in various ways; the one examined here concerns the degree of definability (in comparative rather than precise quantitative terms) of the rhythmic organization, which may be manifested on various levels of musical organization. To this end, we examined three issues. (1) We compared some of the principles that govern the rhythmic raw material of classical Western and Arab music and poetry. (2) We conducted an experiment on perception and identification of three types of basic rhythmic patterns in Western tonal music. The experimental patterns were based on the bare minimum required for the perception of rhythm (the ratio between only two durations), but took into account the other parameters (intensity and pitch) that may be involved in the degree of definability of identification of the patterns. The findings of the experiment revealed hierarchies between the patterns and between the parameters, as well as the conditions for their degree of definability and their contributions to the characterization of style. (3) In light of all this, we examined a number of musical examples from diverse Western styles that illustrate the various appearances of the rhythmic patterns examined. For purposes of comparison, we also present examples from Arab musical literature.
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