Non-isochronous (NI) metres (cf. additive metres) have an importance to metrical theory that belies their relative rarity in the Western art music tradition, and need always to be considered in general theoretical discussions. This paper focuses on a particular form of NI metre, the North Indian rupak tal. Rupak tal is described as comprising 7 matras (‘beats’), divided 322. It has a distinctive drum pattern (theka) and clapping pattern, and its own distinctive ‘feel’ (however difficult it might be to characterise such a thing verbally). In classical performances, and particularly in khyal, which is the focus of this paper, rupak tal is played rather slowly: the matra extends up to about 2 secs in duration, creating a very long metrical cycle and necessitating subdivision of the nominal beat. The resulting structure therefore displays a level of complexity over and above that of 7-cycles played at faster tempi. This paper addresses some of the theoretical issues that this throws up, but also looks empirically at some recorded examples from concert performances, asking whether such an empirical investigation can shed further light on the theoretical issues.
Clayton, M. (2020). Theory and practice of long-form non-isochronous meters: The case of the North Indian rūpak tāl. Music theory online, 26(1), Article 2. https://doi.org/10.30535/mto.26.1.2