Finally, our inquiry here is concerned with differences among ORIENTATIONS of EXPERIENCE for rhythmic phenomena. There are a number of ways we could think of our "orientation" toward the experience of rhythm as a fluctuating, ambivalent kind of attention. We experience events at varying degrees of attention, sometimes appraising and judging them consciously, and other times perceiving one event while remembering another. Consider also that we normally patch together the events and spans that form a rhythm in an inattentive way, usually appraising them only as objects of memory once the rhythm has already been performed.

The two orientations that will matter most to us here are the experience of rhythm "as meter" and the experience of rhythm "as motive.". Close consideration will reveal that these two orientations are radically different from one another, and precipitate different kinds of structure. I'll only describe the differences briefly here:


Metric: In which an additive ratio structures time through the conceptual repetition of its members’ lowest common denominator; we are consequently sensitized to its capacity to produce, or resist, a line of pulses.
  • Note that metric organizations of rhythm can affect the organization of melodic and formal ideas, without conforming to a hierarchy of traditional beats and bars (Hasty, 1997).

Motivic: In which we appraise rhythmic features in the moment of an (isolated) rhythm’s completion.
  • We are sensitized to qualitative distinctions in proportion, and to the distinctiveness of a pattern.
  • It has been suggested also that in this orientation, we may be less sensitized to complexity or pulsedness (Desain 1992, Keller & Burnham 2005).