Rolf Inge Godøy

Sound and Body Motion Timescales in Musical Experience

Musical experience, be that in performance or listening, obviously unfolds in time; however, this may be forgotten when we focus on musical features such as style and historical context. When considering musical schemata, it could be useful to clarify the timescales. Granted that we in music have timescales extending from the very short of audible vibrations to the very long of whole works, we also have different schemata at different timescales. This has become particularly evident in our research on music and body motion, which leads us to suggest three main timescales at work in musical experience: 1) the micro timescale of continuous sound and body motion with features such as pitch, stationary dynamics and timbre, as well as fast fluctuations of these features; 2) the meso timescale, approximately at the 0.5 to 5 seconds timescale, of what we call chunks or sonic objects. This is the timescale of many salient musical sound features such as rhythm, texture, melodic fragments, modality, expressivity, as well as most salient body motion features; 3) the macro timescale is that of several meso timescale chunks in succession, such as in sections and whole works of music; this is the scale on which narrative or dramaturgical musical elements are found. Although historically informed listening may variably involve all these timescales, there can be little doubt that the most important is the meso timescale, and this is also the timescale where music-related body motion elements are most clearly manifest. Clearer notions of timescales along these lines could be useful for discussions of schemata in musical experience, and should encourage us to be more critical of various inherited notions of form in Western musical thought.