2010 volume 39(7) pages 982 – 992

Cite as:
Chafe C, Cáceres J-P, Gurevich M, 2010, "Effect of temporal separation on synchronization in rhythmic performance" Perception 39(7) 982 – 992

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Effect of temporal separation on synchronization in rhythmic performance

Chris Chafe, Juan-Pablo Cáceres, Michael Gurevich

Received 14 May 2009, in revised form 18 April 2010

Abstract. A variety of short time delays inserted between pairs of subjects were found to affect their ability to synchronize a musical task. The subjects performed a clapping rhythm together from separate sound-isolated rooms via headphones and without visual contact. One-way time delays between pairs were manipulated electronically in the range of 3 to 78 ms. We are interested in quantifying the envelope of time delay within which two individuals produce synchronous performances. The results indicate that there are distinct regimes of mutually coupled behavior, and that ‘natural time delay’—delay within the narrow range associated with travel times across spatial arrangements of groups and ensembles—supports the most stable performance. Conditions outside of this envelope, with time delays both below and above it, create characteristic interaction dynamics in the mutually coupled actions of the duo. Trials at extremely short delays (corresponding to unnaturally close proximity) had a tendency to accelerate from anticipation. Synchronization lagged at longer delays (larger than usual physical distances) and produced an increasingly severe deceleration and then deterioration of performed rhythms. The study has implications for music collaboration over the Internet and suggests that stable rhythmic performance can be achieved by ‘wired ensembles’ across distances of thousands of kilometers.

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