Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.

Our problem is to determine at what point formal complication of the rhythmical unit tends naturally to arise.  How large may such a group become and still remain fundamentally simple, without reduplication of accentual or temporal differentiation?  The determination of such limits must be made on the basis of quantitative comparison of the reactions which enter into larger and smaller rhythmical series, on the one hand, and, on the other, of the types of structure which appear in subjective rhythmization and the apprehension of objective rhythms the forms of which are antecedently unknown to the hearer.  The evidence from subjective rhythms is inconclusive.  The prevailing types are of two and three beats.  Higher forms appear which are introspectively simple, but introspection is absolutely unable to solve the problem as to the possible composite nature of these extended series.  The fact that they are confined to even numbers, the multiples of two, and to such odd-numbered series as are multiples of three, without the appearance of the higher primes, indicates the existence in all these groups of secondary accentuation, and the resolution of their forms into structures which are fundamentally complications of units of two and three elements only.  The process of positive accentuation which appears in every higher rhythmical series, and underlying its secondary changes exhibits the same reduction of their elementary structure to double and triple groups, has been described elsewhere in this report.  Here it is in place to point out certain indirect evidence of the same process of resolution as manifested in the treatment of longer series of elements.

The breaking up of such series into subgroups may not be an explicitly conscious process, while yet its presence is indispensable in giving rhythmical form to the material.  One indication of such undiscriminated rhythmical modification is the need of making or avoiding pauses between adjacent rhythmical groups according as the number of their constituents varies.  Thus, in rhythms having units of five, seven, and nine beats such a pause was imperative to preserve the rhythmical form, and the attempt to eliminate it was followed by confusion in the series; while in the case of rhythms having units of six, eight, and ten beats such a pause was inadmissible.  This is the consistent report of the subjects engaged in the present investigation; it is corroborated by the results of a quantitative comparison of the intervals presented by the various series of reactions.  The values of the intervals separating adjacent groups for a series of such higher rhythms are given in Table XX. as proportions of those following the initial, accented reaction.

TABLE XX.

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