In time with the music: the concept of entrainment and its significance for ethnomusicology

Clayton, Martin; Sager, Rebecca and Will, Udo (2005). In time with the music: the concept of entrainment and its significance for ethnomusicology. European Meetings in Ethnomusicology, 11, pp. 3–142.


Entrainment, broadly defined, is a phenomenon in which two or more independent rhythmic processes synchronize with each other. To illuminate the significance of entrainment for various directions of music research and promote a nuanced understanding of the concept among ethnomusicologists, this publication opens with an exposition of entrainment research in various disciplines, from physics to linguistics and psychology, while systematically introducing basic concepts that are directly relevant to musical entrainment. Topics covered include consideration of self-synchrony and interpersonal synchrony in musical performance, humans’ innate propensities to entrain, the influence of cultural and personal factors on entrainment, the numerous functions of musical entrainment in individual health, socialization, and cultural identification, and a presentation of methodologies and analytical techniques. Finally, some case studies illustrating one methodological strand, that of chronometric analysis, exemplify how the application of the entrainment concept might lead to an understanding of music making and music perception as an integrated, embodied and interactive process.

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