John Roeder, "Pulse Streams and Problems of Grouping and Metrical Dissonance in Bartók's 'With Drums and Pipes,'" Music Theory Online 7.1 (2001) << Sect. 8b Section 9 TOC >>
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[9] Summary and Conclusion

[9.1] This paper began by considering what a rhythmic analysis of this passage would entail. Although the music segments readily into blocks, we discovered difficulties in characterizing those blocks and the rhythmic continuity using theories of grouping, meter, and metrical dissonance. The problems arose partly because the music is a polyphony in which the voices are not coordinated in a consistent meter, and partly because of the changing rhythms within each voice itself. Some blocks could be described as exhibiting various types of metrical dissonance, but such labels did not seem to account for the specific alignment of groups or accents within each block, nor explain the rhythmic continuity across block boundaries.

[9.2] Pulse-stream theory offers a basis for resolving these difficulties, and thereby leads to a more detailed understanding of the rhythmic aspects of this passage. Accents from the distinct, concurrent voices in the polyphony are heard to create concurrent streams of pulse, moving at various tempi. This analysis helps characterize blocks very specifically, as each block features a distinctive ensemble of pulse streams. It explains the particular alignment of groups within metrically dissonant blocks as contributing to the pulse-stream ensemble. It accounts for the musical continuity in situations where a pulse stream continues across block boundaries, and also reveals special modes of block boundary articulation, such as the dissipation of a pulse stream that is characteristic of a block just before the block ends.

[9.3] Most importantly, the theory helps deepen our appreciation of Bartók's control of rhythm in a composition where he seems to have imposed restrictions on materials and medium deliberately, in order to focus his and our attention on this most immediate of musical perceptions.



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