Beyonce and the Halo riff

As most of you know, I have been wanting to know how fast Beyonce can riff since we first read Chapter 2 in London’s book, Hearing in Time. Well, I have finally done the analysis using Sonic Visualizer, and the results are in…Beyonce really is superhuman. She breaks the 100 ms “barrier” in her riff on the song Halo, which can be found here:

Below is the link to the graph of the inter-onset intervals in her riff at 1:40 (wordpress said I exceeded my upload limit…).

Recall that 100ms is the fastest IOI at which we are able to hear a rhythm as a subdivision of the beat. Granted, London admits that though many studies confirm this temporal limit, there could be cases of faster subdivisions in context, and this serves as an excellent example. We can perceive grace notes at faster than 100ms IOI, but this riff is still “in time” and fits into the metrical structure at a very high level of subdivision. I’d be interested to see other examples of super-human ability! Some J-Hudd?

2 thoughts on “Beyonce and the Halo riff

  1. But how can we know whether Beyonce (or someone listening to the riffs) is perceiving these attacks as countable units (which is what London’s cognitive limit is about)?

  2. We don’t know whether she’s hearing them as beat subdivisions, but when we slow down the beat (as in “breaking down the riffs,” a youtube series about how to riff) it is in time with the meter, so it seems like she probably would be perceiving them as subdivisions (though I’m not sure how subdivisions and countable units differ).

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