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?

Music Cognition Group, Universiteit Van Amsterdam

The Music Cognition group at the University of Amsterdam (Universiteit Van Amsterdam) focuses on melody and rhythm research. The 4 main questions they seek to explore are:

“1. What is shared (and what unique) in music versus language processing?

2. What are the music structural and cognitive components that contribute to the memory, recall and transmission of melodies?

3. What are the cognitive and biological building blocks of musicality?

4. What are the cognitive mechanisms and neurological correlates of rhythm perception?”


What interests me the most, from having seen some research about rhythm so far this semester and continuing as we read more and more, is the last question. One abstract I read that was particularly intriguing concerned a study by Henkjan Honing in which he discovered that Rhesus monkeys do not have the same rhythmic entrainment as humans (and a few species of birds) do. This supports the vocal learning hypothesis, that entrainment is a byproduct of learning to produce music vocally.

Here’s the article!

(“Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Detect Rhythmic Groups in Music, but Not the Beat” by Henkjan Honing et al.).

Vijay Iyer, Jazz Pianist

Vijay Iyer is a jazz pianist (he studied math and physics at Yale!!) and music cognition/perception PhD, but grew up playing classical violin. His music is really interesting rhythmically, including polyrhythms and complicated patterns. About rhythm, he says ”The way we perceive rhythm is by imagining ourselves moving, or another body moving in the same way…There is really a primal connection between music and the body. We tend to think of music as something we come to — I think the real insight that this concept brings to us is that music is us.”

Here’s the NPR story!