Ensemble music and dance are prime examples of the human ability to precisely synchronize the actions performed by a group. This project investigates the process of ensemble synchronization in corpora of digital recordings of various forms of African-diasporic percussion music, which are particularly attractive for this area of study given their highly precise timing, the well-defined and stable musical roles of each member of the drum ensemble, and the relative technical ease with which the timing of percussive note onsets can be measured. This subproject will thus transcend the limitations of previous research based upon the performance of Euro-American art music.

The empirical basis is the millisecond-level description of the asynchronies between the notes that different ensemble members aim to play at the same time. Statistical analyses of large amounts of this data provide information about the (largely unconscious) microrhythmic adaptation processes used by the musicians which enable a stable synchronization of the group despite the continuous timing fluctuations of each individual member. This subproject looks at both the adaptation behaviour of individual ensemble members as well as its relation to particular musical roles (e.g. lead part and accompaniment).


Polak, R., Tarsitani, S., & Clayton, M. (2018). IEMP Malian Jembe. A collection of audiovisual recordings of Malian jembe ensemble performances, with detailed annotations. Open Science Framework (OSF). doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/M652X

Polak, R., Jacoby, N., & London, J. (2016). Both isochronous and non-isochronous metrical subdivision afford precise and stable ensemble entrainment: A corpus study of Malian jembe drumming. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 285. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2016.00285

Polak, R., Jacoby, N., & London, J. (2016). Kulturelle Diversität in  der empirischen Rhythmusforschung: Drei Analysen eines Audio-Korpus von Percussion-Ensemblemusik aus Mali. Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, 13 (2).