Dodson, Alan. "Visualizing the Rhythms of Performance." In The Cambridge Companion to Rhythm, ed. Russell Hartenberger and Ryan McClelland, 41-60. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.


Traditional staff notation provides a quantized view of musical time: rhythm symbols place each note at a fixed position within a metric framework consisting of integer multiples and fractions of the beat. This familiar representation of rhythm conceals the temporal elasticity of music in performance, both in the context of Western art music—the focus of this chapter—and in other contexts. To promote a clearer understanding of the subtle variations in rhythm and tempo in performance, known as tempo rubato or expressive timing, several new visual representations of rhythm have been proposed over the past century.

The chapter has a three-part structure. Part I gives some historical background on rhythm notation and discusses some pioneering studies of expressive timing from the twentieth century. Part II surveys more recent scholarly literature that offers new illustrations of expressive timing as well as sensitive remarks on the motion qualities of Western art music in performance. Finally, Part III proposes a new visualization strategy for recordings that deviate from the notational meter, with examples from piano recordings by Ignacy Paderewski, Guiomar Novaes, and Claude Debussy.