Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


Free Rhythm: Ethnomusicology and the Study of Music Without Metre

Martin R. L. Clayton

Like many other rhythmic terms, ‘free rhythm’ is widely enough used to be recognized as part of the vocabulary of musicology, without ever having been convincingly studied or even denned. In general, this term and its various synonyms refer to music without metrical organization. ‘Free rhythm’ is an important musical phenomenon which has been largely neglected by the field of ethnomusicology. This paper discusses the deeper theoretical and methodological problems underlying this neglect.