Timing Variations in Two Balkan Percussion Performances

Daniel Goldberg


Many songs and dance pieces from the Balkan Peninsula employ aksak meter, in which two categorically different durations, long and short, coexist in the sequence of beats that performers emphasize and listeners move to. This paper analyzes the durations of aksak beats and measures in two recorded percussion performances that use a particular aksak beat sequence, long-short-short. The results suggest that the timing of beats varies in conjunction with factors including melodic grouping and interaction among members of a performing ensemble and audience. Timing variation linked to melodic groups occurs on a solo recording of a Macedonian Romani folk song. The performer, Muzafer Bizlim, taps an ostinato while singing, and the timing of his taps seems to mark some local and large-scale group boundaries. Melodic organization also seems relevant to the timing of beats and measures on a recording of Bulgarian percussionist Mitko Popov playing the tŭpan, a double-headed bass drum, in a small folk music ensemble. In Popov’s performance, however, timing differences might be related to characteristics of the ensemble dynamic, such as the coordination of multiple musical participants. These interpretations generate possibilities for future study of timing variations in relation to rhythm and meter.

Supplemental files available for this article: Audio Example 1 and Audio Example 2


Balkan; aksak; timing; rhythm; meter; performance; percussion

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/emr.v10i4.4884


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