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Mathematics - Neuroscience - Physics

The Nature and Perception of Fluctuations in Human Musical Rhythms
Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Author: Holger Hennig et al.

by Holger Hennig, Ragnar Fleischmann, Anneke Fredebohm, York Hagmayer, Jan Nagler, Annette Witt, Fabian J. Theis, Theo Geisel

Although human musical performances represent one of the most valuable achievements of mankind, the best musicians perform imperfectly. Musical rhythms are not entirely accurate and thus inevitably deviate from the ideal beat pattern. Nevertheless, computer generated perfect beat patterns are frequently devalued by listeners due to a perceived lack of human touch. Professional audio editing software therefore offers a humanizing feature which artificially generates rhythmic fluctuations. However, the built-in humanizing units are essentially random number generators producing only simple uncorrelated fluctuations. Here, for the first time, we establish long-range fluctuations as an inevitable natural companion of both simple and complex human rhythmic performances. Moreover, we demonstrate that listeners strongly prefer long-range correlated fluctuations in musical rhythms. Thus, the favorable fluctuation type for humanizing interbeat intervals coincides with the one generically inherent in human musical performances.