Robert Rice’s patent application argues that humans have natural tendencies to certain kinds of tempos, and these are often opposed from the artificial tempos imposed during music instruction.

As can be seen from the data shown in FIG. 1, the subjects did not produce a random distribution of tempos. Instead, subjects had a preference for particular tempos, noted by the various peaks. The experiments indicate that individuals have a natural tendency to produce these particular tempos, as opposed to “artificial” tempos that are typically used in music instruction. Several of these tempos correspond to the tempos described and claimed in this application. As a result, it is believed that calibrating a metronome, guitar trainer, drum machine, or other music training device to produce these tempos will make it easier for a musician to follow with the desired tempo.

This conclusion is further bolstered by the fact that in attempting to reproduce the various artificial tempos, subjects generally alternated between two “natural” tempos in order to attempt to duplicate the artificial tempo, resulting in the subject continually being slightly ahead or slightly behind the beat. If the tempo sought to be reproduced is a natural human tempo, it should be much easier for individuals to track and follow, as it would not be necessary to make the minute modifications to the individual’s “internal” tempo to attempt to reproduce the “artificial” tempo.

Rice, R. 2011. ‘Natural Human Timing Interface.’ In Justia Patents: US Patent for Natural Human Timing Interface Patent (Patent # 8,017,853). September 13, 2001.


Raymond Monelle observes the belief that there are simultaneously plural cultural temporalities, which musical temporalities exemplify. This is distinguished from the impression of natural time, as a flow that is uniform and singular.

One could hardly exaggerate the importance of temporality – cultural time – in musical decisions, because music is predominantly an art of time. Although we live in the “monochronic” west, where time is imagined to be uniform and linear, we nevertheless possess a musical culture that reflects several forms of temporality.

It is important to distinguish time from temporality. These two aspects, the first natural and the second cultural, have quite different functions in music as well as in perception. Natural or “objective” time is a condition of life, a “transcendent form” in the expression of Kant. It is continuous and irreversible, the present always poised between a past and a future…Apparently, natural time flows at a uniform pace in one direction and penetrates all that occupies it…It is the time in which events can be placed, the tabula rosa on which the temporal forms of life are written.

It is argued nowadays that natural time is itself a cultural convention…A musical writer confesses that natural time is “little more than a social convention agreed to for practical reasons” (Kramer 1988, p.5)…Nevertheless, for ordinary purposes we base our serialities on a conception of linear and uniform time. But it is impossible to live in natural time; in order to perform any of the ordinary functions of daily life, we must somehow grasp time imaginatively, either in the present or in the longer scope…

The unifying imagination which enables us to grasp time is furnished by culture. As was realized by Henri Bergson, our freedom and our power to act are founded in imagined or experienced time, not in natural time. But different cultures furnish different times, and culture normally offers several simultaneous times. Every anthropologist stresses this, but nevertheless one sometimes hears of “monochronicity.” Modern western culture is apparently governed by one time alone, the time of the clock…

If we adopt “temporality” as the term for cultural time, then we are obliged to make a further distinction. Sign systems may proceed in time; however, it is not necessarily the case that the levels of content and expression acknowledge the same temporality, or that pertinent juncture occurs correspondingly on the two levels. In other words, the levels of content and expression may be temporally nonconformal…Language and music are temporal signs, of course, but the time within which they are structured is not necessarily connected to the time they may mean.

For example, most linguistic and musical syntagms in traditional styles end with closure, the grammatical completion of the phrase…Of course, closure is not the only temporal feature permeating linguistic syntax and semantics. Yet the condition of music is even more complicated. As in language, there is a temporality of syntactic structure. But theorists have studied this sort of time, in its typical forms of meter, rhythm, and phrasing, with such profound attention that we forget that music can also signify time. There is a temporality of the signified, as well as a temporality of the signifier.

Unlike language, music usually signifies indexically, and every temporal feature of its syntax is available to signify some temporal meaning. We are apt to find often in music…that syntactic features acquire semantic load, by indexicality. But musical syntax does not necessarily carry semantic weight; the failure to distinguish syntactic and semantic temporality has led to much confusion in the temporal theory of music.

Monelle, Raymond. 2000. The sense of music: Semiotic essays. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.


Barbara Barry observes that there are different interpretations of musical time, based around measurement and experience. The clocked measurement of time is here distinguished from the natural time of sun and moon movement, and biological experience.

Alternative interpretations are different kinds of measurement or quantification of time, taken from the standpoint either of experiential consciousness – through awareness of changes in external events or internal changes of state – which is dynamic model (empirical), or by reference to an objective standard, such as clock time, which is a static one (formal schemes of measurement). Almost any temporal event can be explained by one kind of direction in terms of the other; that is, an event as experience can be checked against clock time, or the other way around, a given duration can be used as the limits within which certain events take place. Any abstract (non-interpreted) duration can be matched against any of the four types of explanation, according to content, frame of reference and initial standpoint. For example, two hours as a typical sub-span in an individual’s life can constitute part of biological time (formal/analytic): as time marked by natural time-keepers (movement of the sun and moon) it is cosmological time (formal/synthetic): and as time as creative thought or enjoying works of art it is aesthetic time (empirical/synthetic)…

For music the term “experiential” seems preferable to “synthetic” because it clarifies the two basic standpoints of musical time, as either objective investigation or continuous experience. In analytic musical time the work is regarded as object, in order to demonstrate its components and relationships by means of an analytic method or procedure which interprets the work’s organization usually from one point (or possibly two points) of view – for example, motivic construction, serial organization, rhythmic structure, pitch classes and set theory aggregates. The converse of this, experiential musical time, considers a work as musical/temporal experience; it is concerned with how inherent and individual factors are inter-related, what factors contribute to affective response, and how musical time passes (Barry 1990, 84-86).

Barry, Barbara. 1990. Musical time: The sense of order. Stuyvesant: Pendragon Press.


Noel Gallagher describes time as that which falls from the sky, and then slips beyond our control no matter what intentions we might have in interpersonal/social contexts. In noting that time has a source which transcends the human realm over which he and other humans have greater control, Gallagher duly asks what time will hold for him.

I took a walk with my fame,
Down memory lane,
I never did find my way back.

You know that I gotta say, time’s slipping away,
And what will it hold for me.

What am I gonna do while I’m looking at you,
You’re standing ignoring me

I thought that I heard someone say now,
There’s no time for running away now,
Hey now! Hey now!

Feel no shame – cos time’s no chain,
Feel no shame.

And time as it stands,
Won’t be held in my hands,
Or living inside of my skin,
And as it fell from the sky,
I asked myself why,
Can I never let anyone in?

Gallagher, Noel. 1995. “Hey now.” (What’s the story) Morning glory. London: Creation Records.


Jonathan Kramer explores the position that a real, musical time, exists. In comparing the clocked measurements of the durations of musical notes, with how long such notes seem to a listener, a consideration is developed of which constitutes the real time of music.

Many writers on music acknowledge, directly or indirectly, that music provides more than one kind of time experience, more than one temporality…Some writers address implicitly, some explicitly (and some not at all), which of music’s temporalities is/are “real” and which are, in some sense, virtual or illusory or transitory or imaginary…

I will take up questions of time taken vs. time evoked in a musical performance, real time as a performer’s or a computer’s reaction without delay to a musical stimulus, real time as objectively measurable (clock time) vs. real time as the essence of subjectively perceived music, and the relationship among the composer’s, the performer’s, and listener’s real time.

The distinction – between musical time that is real and musical time that somehow is not – is meaningful not only on the abstract philosophical level addressed by my questions above. Even in the pared down context of a simple sequence of durations, the question fo what time is real is complex…We now understand that the durations implied in musical notation do not generally correspond to the “actual” durations performed, yet our perception of these durations corresponds more closely to the notation than to their clock-time measurement. Consider, for example, this series of durations, which has been studied by Henkjan Honing and Peter Desain.

Honing and Desain have found that, in an expressive performance at a certain tempo, the duration of note A is 0.34 seconds and the duration of note B is 0.35 seconds. Note B – a sixteenth note, presumably representing a quarter of a beat – is performed slightly longer than note A – an eighth note of a triplet, presumably representing a third of a beat. Yet listeners do not perceive B as longer than A. Quite the contrary: they invariably hear A as longer than B, because of the rhythmic and metric context.

So: which is the “real” time? The objectively measured time, which tells us that B is longer than A, or the musical time as interpreted by performers, which tells us that A is longer than B? The answer depends on just what we mean by “real.” Is real musical time an objective time, out there in the world, or is real musical time the way listeners perceive musical events in relation to one another? Scientists may be more comfortable calling clock time “real,” but performing musicians may well feel the opposite. The musical time they feel and project, and that they hope listeners sense, is for them the essential musical reality. Musicians tend to disparage or dismiss outright objective time…

So, which is the real time? The lengths of sections as measured by the clock, or their apparent lengths as felt by listeners? (Kramer 2016, 161-62).

Kramer, Jonathan. 2016. Postmodern music, postmodern listening. New York and London: Bloomsbury.