Global Survey of Rhythm Representation

Over the past few years, cross-cultural comparative work has made various claims about the universality of aspects of music, aesthetic preferences, and emotion (Fritz 2009, Brown & Jordania 2013, Savage et al. 2015). However, recent work suggests that features that were previously regarded as universal —such as consonance / dissonance, or rhythm perception— may in fact be at least partially determined by culture (McDermott et al. 2016, Jacoby & McDermott 2017, Polak et al. 2018). We have accordingly initiated the Global Survey of Rhythm Representation, a multicultural collaborative project that aims to understand the interaction of the roles of biology and culture in the study of simple rhythms. The survey is based on a novel paradigm we developed that is nearly entirely independent of verbal description, and can therefore be applied irrespective of the participant’s musical or cultural background. The cultures we investigated span a wide range of geographical and demographic conditions as well as linguistic and musical structures. This ongoing project, which involves nearly 30 collaborators, has already collected data from over 700 participants hailing from Botswana, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, India, Japan, Mali, Turkey, Uruguay, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Jacoby, Nori1, Rainer Polak1, Jessica A. Grahn2, Daniel J. Cameron3, Kyung Myun Lee4, Eduardo A. Undurraga5, Ricardo Godoy6, Tomas Huanca7, Timon Thalwitzer8, Daniel Goldberg9, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis10, Patrick C.M. Wong11, Martín Rocamora12, Luis Jure12, Shinya Fujii13, Patrick E. Savage13, Jun Ajimi14, Rei Konno13, Sho Oishi13, Kelly Jakubowski15, Martin Clayton15, Andre Holzapfel16, Esra Mungan17, Ece Kaya17, Bronwyn Tarr18, and Josh H. McDermott19


1Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, 2University University of Western Ontario, 3McMaster University, 4Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, 5Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 6Brandeis University, 7Centro Boliviano de Investigacion y Desarrollo Socio Integral, 8University of Vienna, 9University of Connecticut, 10Princeton University, 11Chinese University of Hong Kong, 12Universidad de la República, 13Keio University, 14Tokyo University of the Arts, 15Durham University, 16KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 17Bogazici University, 18University of Oxford, 19Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Featured publications

Jacoby, Nori, and Josh McDermott. "Integer ratio priors on musical rhythm revealed cross-culturally by iterated reproduction." Current Biology 27.3 (2017): 359–370.