Rowland Moseley

Hypermetric Analysis, Hypermetric Performance, and the Idea of Projection

A clear notion of how hypermetric spans accord with or depart from the linear time of music’s sounding structures is essential to the analysis of hypermeter. By the prevailing cognitive paradigm, this means distinguishing expectation from realization, meter being the schema by which listeners make sense of unfolding sound. Metric theory is thus the science of correlating patterns of ‘subjective’ metrical experience to the structure of unfolding sound (determined by ostensibly more ‘objective’ factors such as the progression of chords or the differentiation of motivic content). The paradigm provides for important distinctions, e.g. a certain hypermeter may be present (to the listener) for a time, even though no complete hypermeasure transpires in the sounded structure.

Yet to the analysis of meter as process or experience cognitive approaches arguably offer little more than a chronicle of many ‘end-state’ analyses. When musical process is broadly equated with a listener’s quest to comprehend a musical work as it unfolds, hypermetric spans essentially remain subjugated to the linear time of sounding structure.
An alternative temporalist paradigm is advanced in this paper, which extends, simplifies, and critiques Hasty’s (1997) projection theory. Following projection to its logical conclusion, I argue that hypermeter cannot be construed as a sum of multiple pulse-periodicities. Rather, the ‘hierarchical’ relation of smaller and larger durations should be fundamental to hypermeter’s ontology, in which case a number of obstacles to the theory and practice of hypermetric analysis can be resolved, including the separation of structure and experience. A crucial finding is that hypermetric process belongs, above all, to the performance of ‘weak’ beats: this inversion of traditional theory greatly clarifies how hypermetric spans relate to the linear chronology of one’s progress through a piece.

The paper’s methodological agenda will be advanced by revisiting a selection of analyses from previous scholarship on hypermeter