The closest thing to crazy: the shocking scarcity of septuple time in Western music

Gustar, Andrew James (2012). The closest thing to crazy: the shocking scarcity of septuple time in Western music. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 137.(2) pp. 351–400.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02690403.2012.717472

Abstract

This article considers why septuple metres are so rare in Western music, despite being common in many other cultures. The scene is set by tracing the history of the septuple-time ‘meme’ (an idea that replicates by imitation) from ancient Greece through to Western art and popular music. The following sections consider the psychological, musical and environmental factors in more detail. The scarcity of septuple time in Western music is largely attributable to the development of the time signature, as a vertical conception of music evolved during the Renaissance. Subsequent evolution of the ‘Western music memeplex’ maintained septuple time on its periphery. Analysis of this interaction permits the construction of a meme-centred narrative of aspects of the development of Western music.

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