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Without it no music: beat induction as a fundamental musical trait


  • Henkjan Honing

    1. Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, and the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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Henkjan Honing, Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC), and the Cognitive Science Center Amsterdam (CSCA), Universiteit van Amsterdam, P.O. Box 19268, NL1000 GG Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Beat induction (BI) is the cognitive skill that allows us to hear a regular pulse in music to which we can then synchronize. Perceiving this regularity in music allows us to dance and make music together. As such, it can be considered a fundamental musical trait that, arguably, played a decisive role in the origins of music. Furthermore, BI might be considered a spontaneously developing, domain-specific, and species-specific skill. Although both learning and perception/action coupling were shown to be relevant in its development, at least one study showed that the auditory system of a newborn is able to detect the periodicities induced by a varying rhythm. A related study with adults suggested that hierarchical representations for rhythms (meter induction) are formed automatically in the human auditory system. We will reconsider these empirical findings in the light of the question whether beat and meter induction are fundamental cognitive mechanisms.