Gittit Pearlmutter (Bar Ilan University, Israel)


The paper is about meter disruptions in contemporary popular music and how they can be looked at from the perspective of ecological approach to perception and cognition (Gibson, 1979; Clarke, 2005). I shall discuss case studies by Radiohead (2007, 2016), Bjork (2017), and Noname (2016) – a female hip hop artist, which in terms of invariant properties of meter in a song and their affordances, present significant deviations. Conventions of meter and rhythm in songs were discussed by Moore (2012) Covach (2005) and others. The cases I shall explore challenge these conventions. My approach will be to look into these contemporary changes by a. Considering the highly technological creative practice of these artists and b. Presenting a wide scope of genres.

The history of popular music presents many cases of ‘creative abuse’ of technology (Zak, 2001, Moorefield, 2005). However, the particular way these artists operate in the studio stimulates a fresh range of disruptive behaviours, among them a disruption to meter and rhythm as mechanisms of story telling in a song. These artists’ approach may articulate the following features:

  • Presenting two meters simultaneously; each group of musical instruments articulates a different time signature
  • Hyper bar division which do not afford anticipation of musical events


  • Loops without clear distinction of metrical units.

The result, I shall argue, is a subversion of narrative mechanisms of popular music. The findings are part of wider research which explores aesthetic changes in songs’ narratives and looks into how contemporary creative practice challenges the boundaries of time and space in recorded popular songs.

An additional foundation for the analysis will be Zagorsky-Thomas’ concept of the Musicology of Record Production (2014) which synthesises music analysis of the product with knowledge about the production process that yielded it. The analysis will also include some essential music theory, and terms from Denis Smalley’s theory of Spectromorpholgy (1997) to fully account for the disruptions described.