Tempo variations in recordings

Hey all,

Ran across an interesting article today on tempo variation in recordings, which can be found here: http://musicmachinery.com/2009/03/02/in-search-of-the-click-track/. The author sought to find out which bands tend to use click tracks (metronome clicks fed through headphones into the drummer’s ears) to maintain a steady tempo throughout a recording and which prefer not to. He created a computer script that first computed the average beats per minute throughout the song and then tracked the deviations from that average over time. It’s pretty clear which groups use click tracks and which don’t. I think this does a great job of highlighting just how much natural variation in tempo performers create on their own, and also brings up a bit of confusion for me. Assuming that the non-click-track groups intended to keep a steady beat, why is it that we have such difficulty maintaining a steady beat on our own? If entrainment is a reflection of internal neural oscillations, why is it that we have so much trouble maintaining regularity in the frequency of these oscillations? (Perhaps London discusses this, and I missed it?)

(Side note: the author also includes a link to an app he created where you can input your own favorite songs and see if they use a click track. Pretty neat!)

Music and the Mind Lab at Vanderbilt University

Led by Dr. Elisabeth Dykens, the Music and the Mind laboratory at Vanderbilt has a wide variety of interests, but primarily conducts research regarding music processing in people with developmental disabilities and ERP studies on the relationship between music, musical expectancy, and language processing. Other areas of interest include the relationship between studying music and heightened creativity and therapeutic qualities of music (for neonatal infants or for people with dementia). This laboratory is one of the only labs in the world that studies the connection between music and Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that leads to an interesting blend of cognitive impairment, strong social skills, and an immense affinity for music. Its studies are conducted on young adults with Williams Syndrome during a one-week music camp at the university.


“Speed” – an article by Oliver Sacks

I read this article last semester for a class, and thought it was completely fascinating – especially the descriptions of the patients with Parkinson’s and Tourette’s syndromes who have a completely different experience of time than other people. I thought this article brought up an interesting concept: that even “absolute” clock time can mean different things to different people. For many of us, an hour could be filled with a good workout, a nice meal, or reading a good book. For one of the patients described in this article, though,  an hour (or more) could simply be consumed with wiping his nose. Hope you all enjoy the read; I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here’s the link: http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2004-08-23#folio=060