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Pulse and Entrainment to Non-Isochronous Auditory Stimuli: The case of North Indian Alap

Will, Udo; Clayton, Martin; Wertheim, Ira; Leante, Laura; Berg, Eric

Pulse and Entrainment to Non-Isochronous Auditory Stimuli: The case of North Indian Alap Thumbnail


Udo Will

Ira Wertheim

Eric Berg


Pulse is often understood as a feature of a (quasi-) isochronous event sequence that is picked up by an entrained subject. However, entrainment does not only occur between quasi-periodic rhythms. This paper demonstrates the expression of pulse by subjects listening to non-periodic musical stimuli and investigates the processes behind this behaviour. The stimuli are extracts from the introductory sections of North Indian (Hindustani) classical music performances (alap, jor and jhala). The first of three experiments demonstrates regular motor responses to both irregular alap and more regular jor sections: responses to alap appear related to individual spontaneous tempi, while for jor they relate to the stimulus event rate. A second experiment investigated whether subjects respond to average periodicities of the alap section, and whether their responses show phase alignment to the musical events. In the third experiment we investigated responses to a broader sample of performances, testing their relationship to spontaneous tempo, and the effect of prior experience with this music. Our results suggest an entrainment model in which pulse is understood as the experience of one’s internal periodicity: it is not necessarily linked to temporally regular, structured sensory input streams; it can arise spontaneously through the performance of repetitive motor actions, or on exposure to event sequences with rather irregular temporal structures. Greater regularity in the external event sequence leads to entrainment between motor responses and stimulus sequence, modifying subjects’ internal periodicities in such a way that they are either identical or harmonically related to each other. This can be considered as the basis for shared (rhythmic) experience and may be an important process supporting ‘social’ effects of temporally regular music.


Will, U., Clayton, M., Wertheim, I., Leante, L., & Berg, E. (2015). Pulse and Entrainment to Non-Isochronous Auditory Stimuli: The case of North Indian Alap. PLoS ONE, 10(4), Article e0123247.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 28, 2015
Online Publication Date Apr 7, 2015
Publication Date 2015-04
Deposit Date Oct 7, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 10, 2015
Journal PLoS ONE
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 4
Article Number e0123247


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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2015 Will et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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