RHYTHM: ITS USE AND ABUSE
The role of musical rhythm qualitatively is not generally understood. Briefly, we understand rhythm as a strong, regularly repeated beat or pattern of sound, or movement. Clearly it is not in itself music but a temporal system for carrying or conveying the primary essence of music, which at this point we can think of it as musical aesthetics or the intrinsic aesthetics of musical essence.
In effect, musical rhythm acts as a space-time framework to hold the musical meaning and to, in fact, assist the listener in grasping the musical context. How does it do this?
Anyone may have observed that a sound, repeated regularly in time, creates anticipation of that sound. In fact everyone is familiar with this in noisy or unpleasant sounds. The particular anticipation increases the irritation.
The regularly repeated sound also tends to create a hypnotic effect. The repeated sound tends to have a certain hold over the mind. What exactly is this?
Let us firstly turn to the scientific interpretation of musical appreciation. A description from experimental psychology tells us that in listening to music we remember the past sounds, combine these with the present ones being heard now, and anticipate future sounds based on the past and present. However, when science says 'combine' in this sense, it just means 'association'---two things 'stuck' together. This type of system is a product of intellectual analysis. In the same way, the intellect will look at a work of art and see it only as made up of parts (say, brush strokes) side by side, with no understanding or perception of the whole, as one whole. The intellect alone (left-brain emphasis) does not understand art, or music.
The only science which can handle this is quantum physics. In musical appreciation if we imagine a good orchestra playing a beautiful piece of music, there is no music in this, that is, out there, coming from the orchestra.
We hear a sound now and then another sound now. It may be a pleasant chord, but there is no music in a sound now. It is only what the mind does with it. As we have explained, science recognises this but only as an intellectual analysis, that is, past, present and the anticipated future must be 'associated'.
In the same way that science fails to recognise all true wholes, such as in art, or even the whole underlying quantum state of an atom, planet, star, etc., it doesn't recognise that in the process of musical understanding, the past, present and selected future are merged into or by a whole (4D) quantum state. This is a small interval of time, but extending into a few notes, which is spanned simultaneously. This interval (a quantum 4D state) will have no time in it; it is like a larger unit for time---compared with objective time (like a clock ticking out small units of time).
It is necessary to realise that while appreciation of a musical sequence is taking place, that is, attention spread over the interval spanned, the listener may instantly change this focus of consciousness to, say, an intellectual, analytical focus. If one takes an interest in, for instance, the sound of a particular instrument, the quantum state of appreciation (which is a wave pattern/function) will 'collapse' (a quantum physics term) and the mind will then be giving attention to the parts, such as the single instrument, or how well it is being played. The state of appreciation may be flickering on and off as one pays attention to other things. There is a flickering from the whole to the part (the whole collapses to the part---quantum reduction---and is then quantum regenerated back to the whole*). This is fine and normal.
We may note then that there will be variations in ability to span time in this way and therefore variations in degree of appreciation of music. A simple pop tune may be easier to appreciate than a more complex classical musical composition. We can see now that the hypnotic effect of the anticipated beat of the rhythm assists a person in spanning sufficient time to provide the basis for recognition of the musical aesthetics---the tune, melody. Sufficient attention span is required for appreciation; that is, understanding, to take place for a particular piece.
We may observe that animals have low attention span (stimulus-response learning time is generally considered within a second). Thus we would not expect much appreciation even for simple tunes. Nevertheless tests have shown that monkeys have a small degree of simple-tune recognition.
Now a good musical composition, or just a simple tune, is a whole quantum state in higher dimensions, that is, there is no time in the basic aesthetics of the music at that level. In our 3D, music might be described as art, one bit at a time. However, when we listen to the music with understanding, that span of attention---a single quantum state of energy---constantly references the whole in the higher dimensions in a holographic manner. That is, the part or interval spanned, links to the whole, and the part moves through our clock time but reflects the essence of the whole---which occurs beyond normal 3D awareness (note: education does not teach higher dimensions).
Thus listeners think they are just hearing changing sounds and this is music. However, their attention is spread over a short time interval and this subjective interval moves through (clock/objective) time within a deeper dimension of consciousness. But it is constantly referencing the whole music holographically in the higher dimensions of consciousness' higher aspects.
Thus we see that rhythm provides a regular repetition, enabling a degree of persistence in time to hold together a sufficient number of sounds and to experience those sounds with a musical and aesthetic meaning. This is rhythm used optimally to assist appreciation of music. But can it be misused?
Inevitably as society drifts into more popular forms of music with greater freedom of expression, the listener will eventually become cognisant that a strong beat with its hypnotic effect assists appreciation where it is lacking. That is, a person may have low attention span for music (which is probably synonymous with lack of musical ability) but by strengthening the beat they are able to grasp the musical essence more easily.
The beat thus becomes used as a prop system to hold together the music. The next step is that one experiments with still more percussive rhythms and over a significant period of time, owing to low inherent musical appreciation, one becomes so used to the beat and its advantages that the beat begins to dominate. The eventual outcome of this is that the beat begins to take over the musical essence---the mind is becoming programmed by a past of many recordings of strong beat effects associated, stimulus-response wise, with musical pleasure.
This is now an inversion of the purpose of rhythm, and it gradually removes any musical effects altogether. One may see that gradient of deterioration over the years. We now have programmes on television, even documentaries on science and engineering, accompanied by background 'music' that has been reduced to a nonsensical variety of percussive beats---with loss of perception of the original purpose of music in films. (Note that this has nothing to do with, and is no slight on, most jazz group rhythms, or a drummer who performs a solo, demonstrating skill and a variety of rhythms.)
* Reference: Book, The Emerging New Science.