Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 757 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.


The objective conditions necessary to the arousal of an impression of rhythm are three in number:  (a) Recurrence; (b) Accentuation; (c) Rate.

(a) Recurrence.—­The element of repetition is essential; the impression of rhythm never arises from the presentation of a single rhythmical unit, however proportioned or perfect.  It does appear adequately and at once with the first recurrence of that unit.  If the rhythm be a complex one, involving the cooerdination of primary groups in larger unities, the full apprehension of its form will, of course, arise only when the largest synthetic group which it contains has been completed; but an impression of rhythm, though not of the form finally involved, will have appeared with the first repetition of the simplest rhythmical unit which enters into the composition.  It is conceivable that the presentation of a single, unrepeated rhythmical unit, especially if well-defined and familiar, should originate a rhythmical impression; but in such a case the sensory material which supports the impression of rhythm is not contained in the objective series but only suggested by it.  The familiar group of sounds initiates a rhythmic process which depends for its existence on the continued repetition, in the form of some subjective accentuation, of the unit originally presented.

The rhythmical form, in all such cases, is adequately and perfectly apprehended through a single expression of the sequence.[3] It lacks nothing for its completion; repetition can add no more to it, and is, indeed, in strict terms, inconceivable; for by its very recurrence it is differentiated from the initial presentation, and combines organically with the latter to produce a more highly synthetic form.  And however often this process be repeated, each repetition of the original sequence will have become an element functionally unique and locally unalterable in the last and highest synthesis which the whole series presents.

[3] When the formal key-note is distinctly given, the rhythmical movement arises at once; when it is obscure, the emergence of the movement is gradual.  This is a salient difference, as Bolton, Ettlinger and others have pointed out, between subjective rhythms and those objectively supported.

Rhythmical forms are not in themselves rhythms; they must initiate the factor of movement in order that the impression of rhythm shall arise.  Rhythmical forms are constantly occurring in our perceptional experience.  Wherever a group of homogeneous elements, so related as to exhibit intensive subordination, is presented under certain temporal conditions, potential rhythm forms appear.  It is a mere accident whether they are or are not apprehended as actual rhythm forms.  If the sequence be repeated—­though but

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Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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