Chapter 3: The poumtchak pattern and body movement

 The poumtchak: a basic beat in electronic dance music   

A presentation of the poumtchak

  The effect of the poumtchak

 Examination of the poumtchak effect

The club remix

The music video

The poumtchak pattern in aerobics music

 Survey on the poumtchak pattern and body movement

Preliminary exploratory survey

Main survey: method

Main survey: results

Main survey: discussion

  Main survey: limitations and future research


Chapter 4: Theoretical contributions to the study of music and movement

Attention and perception

Affordances of the poumtchak pattern

  Entrainment and attentional energy

 Motor processes

Motor memory and perceptual learning

Motor activation

  Verticality in music





An electronic dance music production might follow many paths. Its starting point or creative origin could be a bassline, a particular synthesizer sound, a drum loop, a melodic theme, or even a vocal phrase. However, literature on dance music production and remixing most often begins with the drums,[1] and basic processes involve selecting a time signature, setting a tempo, and choosing what Erik Hawkins in his introduction to remixing calls the “basic beat.”[2]


A typical course of action might be to set one’s sequencer to a 4/4 time signature (which is probably the default), decide on a tempo between 120 and 135 bpm (beats per minute), select one or two drum sounds, and start to record (or program) a few basic patterns. These patterns may form the rhythmic basis or basic beat of the composition, and the poumtchak pattern is one example. Within the many subgenres of electronic dance music, this pattern is primarily associated with house and trance music. Rick Snoman describes the production techniques of different dance music styles: “Generally, house relies heavily on the strict four-to-the-floor rhythm with a kick drum laid on every beat of the bar. Typically, this is augmented with a 16th closed hi-hat pattern and an open hi-hat positioned on every eighth (the off beat) for syncopation. Snares (or claps) are also often employed on the second and fourth beats underneath the kick.”[3] A straightforward “four-to-the-floor” bass drum pattern and a hi-hat attack on every upbeat supplies a perfectly adequate starting point for any further variation, and this combination is in fact found in innumerable electronic dance music tracks.


My focal point in the following two chapters will mainly be the track’s basic beat, and its correspondence to body movement. In chapter 3, I begin with a thorough introduction to the poumtchak pattern that includes comparisons to other rhythmic patterns, an overview of its historical roots, and a brief review of its shifts in popularity since the 1970s. I also examine a club remix and a music video, discuss the use of the poumtchak pattern in music for workout sessions, and conclude with a survey concerning the congruence of body movement direction among listeners exposed to the poumtchak pattern.


In chapter 4, I present theories that in various ways support, elucidate, or explain the correspondence between the musical poumtchak pattern and a vertical movement pattern. The chapter includes discussions on attention and perception processes, on sources for the development of vertical movement patterns, on motor processes connected to the activations of these movements, and on reasons for why the poumtchak pattern is especially effective in this task. The theoretical perspectives I will present and discuss include an ecological approach to music listening, the entrainment of attentional energy, views on motor-mimetic processes, and metaphor-theory. This material then informs my later analyses and discussions of electronic dance music.


Chapter 3:

The poumtchak pattern and body movement


In this chapter I will address the first of the two main questions of this study: Is there a significant and relatively consistent correspondence between the musical poumtchak pattern and vertical movement patterns within the club-oriented dance music culture? I will work mainly within this musical culture but also draw from a wider cultural context, and I will begin with an introduction to the poumtchak pattern itself.


The poumtchak: a basic beat in electronic dance music


A presentation of the poumtchak


This rhythmic pattern actually consists of two sound components that may also appear separately. One of these components already has a name – the “four-to-the-floor” (or “four-on-the-floor”) indicates bass drum sounds on all four downbeats of a 4/4 measure.[4] The other is the complementary high-frequency sound, usually the hi-hat cymbals, that occurs on the upbeats between the bass drum sounds, as shown here:



Figure 3.1: Notational representation of the poumtchak.


While this is perhaps more commonly known as “the disco beat,” I prefer a name related to the actual sound it makes.[5]Poumtchak” is an onomatopoeia: “poum” imitates the bass drum sound and “tchak” the hi-hat. (Poumtchak is also the name of a small French house music label.)


The poumtchak pattern closely resembles other common popular music rhythmic patterns. A backbeat snare drum pattern recalls the poumtchak when the tempo is above 200 bpm (for example, Chuck Berry, Maybellene from 1955, 238 bpm), and if the snare drum is replaced with a handclap or a tambourine, the resemblance is even stronger (for example, Fats Domino, I’m Walkin from 1957, 220 bpm). The alternating octaves typical of some disco basslines from the late 1970s (for example, the Sylvester tracks You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) from 1978 or Do You Wanna Funk from 1982) or similar ostinatos by other instruments may also evoke the poumtchak.


In other genres and traditions we find similar musical structures, mostly in music related to dance or marching. The accordion’s bass and chord buttons lend themselves to a poumtchak-like alternation in its accompanying figures, as in a polka, for example. A certain rhythmic pattern common to many marching-band arrangements is also quite similar to the poumtchak, with the bass drum on the downbeats and the snare drum on the upbeats (the example below is in alla breve).



Figure 3.2: Percussion part displaying bass drum and snare drum of Dixieland Spectacular! ­– a medley of Dinah (H. Akst, 1925), Tin Roof Blues (New Orleans Rhythm Kings, 1923), and High Society (P. Steel and W. Melrose, 1931), arranged by John Edmondson in 1980.


The locomotive movement of marching, of course, corresponds to many dance-related movements in other forms of music.[6] Marching to the above rhythmic pattern is comparable to the head nodding or foot tapping initiated by a poumtchak pattern: the feet hit the ground at every bass drum downbeat and lift up at every snare drum upbeat.


In these two excerpts from the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, the accompanying figures in the left hand have structures evocative of the poumtchak, probably as a result of Grieg’s interest in Norwegian dance-oriented folk music (gangar).



Figure 3.3: Measures 9–12 of the piano part of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, third movement.




Figure 3.4: Measures 1–4 of Edvard Grieg’s March of the Dwarfs.


Several sources credit origin of the upbeat hi-hat pattern to Philadelphia drummer Earl Young on the recording by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes titled The Love I Lost, 1973.[7] Session drummer Allan Schwartzberg also played an important part in spreading the upbeat hi-hat pattern.


Schwartzberg, who played for everyone from Stan Getz to Judy Collins and James Brown – sometimes in one day – pays tribute clearly to the trendsetting work of MFSB drummer Earl Young in such up-tempo Philly classics as Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ “The Love I Lost.” But Schwartzberg got most of the notice for developing disco’s characteristic sound: a driving, open, high-hat cymbal. He often fielded calls from producers and drummers for step-by-step instructions in disco technique: “It sounds like it’s just ‘shh, shh,’ but you’re actually playing [the cymbal] double-time and opening the high-hat on the ‘and,’” he explained to them.[8]


The bass drum was not very dominant in recordings of the early 1970s even when played on all four downbeats of the measure. Producer Giorgio Moroder decided to bring it up in the mix.[9] With regard to Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby from 1975, Moroder describes his process: “The four-on-the-floor beat of the bass drum was elevated to the centre of the mix . . . I just felt the bass drum was so important . . . The thought was, ‘Why not help the dancers to dance even better by making the drum into more of a stomping sound?”[10]


There are not many well-known disco tracks with the poumtchak’s four-to-the-floor bass drum and upbeat hi-hat pattern. Either a backbeat pattern with a snare drum on beats 2 and 4 overwhelms the steady bass drum or the hi-hat alternates among a variety of patterns. In the following tracks, however, the poumtchak is quite evident, at least in longer sections:


Thelma Houston: Don’t Leave Me This Way (1976)

Cerrone: Love in C minor (1976)

Trammps: Disco Inferno (1976)

Baccara: Yes Sir, I Can Boogie (1977)

Donna Summer: I Feel Love (1977)

Dan Hartman: Instant Replay (1978)

Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (1978)

Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive (1979)

Abba: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight) (1979)


After disco’s popularity declined, producers of popular music became reluctant to use musical elements associated with it. The four-to-the-floor bass drum and upbeat hi-hat pattern are found in very few 1980s tracks, save for a few disco productions early on and the tracks by Chicago house producers.[11] In these productions the four-to-the-floor was much more consistently used than the upbeat hi-hat pattern – drum machines were mostly programmed with alternating hi-hat patterns to provide variety throughout the tracks. Still, there are Chicago house tracks where a poumtchak pattern appears in longer sections:


Marshall Jefferson: Move Your Body (1987)

Ralphi Rosario, featuring Xavier Gold: You Used to Hold Me (1987)

Joe Smoth: Promised Land (1987)

Phuture: Acid Trax (1987)

Frankie Knuckles, featuring Satoshi Tomiie: Tears (1989)


Of these tracks, Jefferson’s was probably the most influential; its clear opening poumtchak pattern may have even provided a template to later house music producers in Europe in the 1990s. Club-related dance tracks eventually spread to radio and the music charts, bringing the poumtchak pattern to other pop genres as well, such as the British entry for the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest, Gina G’s Ooh Aah . . . Just a Little Bit, the Danish teen-oriented pop-dance act Aqua’s Barbie Girl and Doctor Jones from 1997, or Cher’s hit Believe in 1998. A list of the tracks with a definite poumtchak pattern that reached the UK Top 10 from 1998 to 2002 illustrates how widespread the phenomenon was during this period (in parentheses: highest position / year).[12]


Stardust: Music Sounds Better with You (2 / 1998)

Aqua: Doctor Jones (1 / 1998)

Aqua: My Oh My (6 / 1998)

Faithless: God Is a DJ (6 / 1998)

Spacedust (Bob Sinclair): Gym & Tonic (1 / 1998)

Cher: Believe (1 / 1998)

Mr Oizo: Flat Beat (1 / 1999)

Basement Jaxx: Red Alert (5 / 1999)

Basement Jaxx: Rendez-Vu (4 / 1999)

The Vengaboys: Boom Boom Boom Boom (1 /1999)

A.T.B.: 9pm (Till I Come) (1 / 1999)

Chemical Brothers: Hey Boy Hey Girl (3 / 1999)

Eiffel 65: Blue (Da Ba Dee) (1 / 1999)

Moloko: The Time Is Now (2 / 2000)

Eiffel 65: Move Your Body (3 / 2000)

Fragma: Toca’s Miracle (1 / 2000)

Aqua: Cartoon Heroes (7 / 2000)

Modjo: Lady (Hear Me Tonight) (1 / 2000)

Robbie Williams: Rock DJ (1 / 2000)

Daft Punk: One More Time (2 / 2000)

Rui Da Silva, featuring Cassandra: Touch Me (1 / 2001)

Basement Jaxx: Where’s Your Head At? (9 / 2001)

Chemical Brothers: It Began in Afrika (8 / 2001)

Roger Sanchez: Another Chance (1 / 2001)

Faithless, featuring Dido: One Step Too Far (6 / 2002)

Missy Elliot: 4 My People (5 / 2002)

Scooter: The Logical Song (2 / 2002)

Scooter: Nessaja (4 / 2002)

Chemical Brothers: Star Guitar (8 / 2002)


Since 2002, club-oriented dance music has lost some of its popularity, so tracks with a definite poumtchak pattern do not appear as frequently on the charts. Nevertheless, websites with house music productions still bring forth innumerable tracks with the poumtchak pattern solidly in place, and in countless clubs and discos the world over people still dance to the same basic beat.


The effect of the poumtchak


My interest in the poumtchak pattern arises from the effect I believe it has on the body. A DJ who wants to make a crowd dance has to start their bodies moving to the music, as Phil Jackson describes: “The infectious nature of the music gradually permeates their bodies: heads nod, feet tap, hips wriggle, torsos bounce. No one’s dancing out in the open yet. They’re chatting, watching, teetering on the edge, but they are beginning to move into the dance by experiencing the music as an irrepressible embodied force.”[13] The poumtchak pattern seems to have exactly this effect. It appears to be particularly well-suited to triggering up-and-down movements like head nodding, upper-body bouncing, foot tapping, and so on.[14]


The explicit poumtchak features related to movement are its contrasting sound components, and especially their alternation. This alternation follows the musical structure, so that low-frequency sounds correspond with downbeats and high-frequency sounds with upbeats:




Figure 3.5: A sonogram of a poumtchak pattern from Daft Punk’s PhŌnix, 1996, 00:15–00:17.


The use of downbeat and upbeat instead of beat and off-beat resonates with how this pattern may move the body: a body movement down on the bass drum (on the downbeat) and up on the hi-hat (on the upbeat) seems most common. In Buckland’s study of club culture, her informant Thomas describes the subgenre “hard house,” where the beat has subsumed the music: “It’s not really music anymore, it’s just rhythm. Up and down, up and down.”[15] The general tempo of this subgenre (140 to 165 bpm) is considerably faster than the standard house music genre (120 to 135 bpm), which may have caused Thomas’s discontent. The pleasure associated with moving up and down probably depends upon the pace demanded by the music, and when a tempo feels too fast, moving may no longer be desirable. Various tempi therefore affect dancing.[16]

Examination of the poumtchak effect


I have observed that the poumtchak pattern is especially effective in activating movement patterns like foot tapping, head nodding, and upper-body bouncing. These activities are prevalent not only in dance music cultures but in popular music cultures in general, as well as in other music cultures where groove-based music is common.[17] Yet the poumtchak evokes them with more immediacy than most rhythmic patterns.


In the following I will contextualize my hypothesis about the poumtchak through a survey I have conducted among music students. As an introduction to this survey, however, I will present other material that supports my observation about the widespread occurrences of the poumtchak pattern in dance music contexts and further demonstrate its connection to the movement patterns in question. First, I will discuss a short, culture-specific “test” inspired by Phillip Tagg’s technique of hypothetical substitution. Then, I will present an analysis of a music video in light of the correspondence between the poumtchak pattern and vertical movement patterns, and, finally, I will discuss the widespread use of the poumtchak pattern in aerobics music.


the club remix


In Phillip Tagg’s analyses of popular music, he employs a technique he calls “hypothetical substitution.” In his 1982 article “Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method and Practice” he demonstrates this technique through a comparison of the Swedish national anthem (AO = analysis object) with other national anthems (IOCM = interobjective comparison material),[18] given the assumption that a national anthem is “assumed to be of a traditionally solemn and positively dignified yet confident character.”[19] He then tests this assumption by substituting various discrete musical parameters (melodic contour, upbeat, key, phrasing, tempo, lyrics, metre) of the AO with different alternatives and comparing the results with the IOCM. Through this process he comes to identify the parameters that determine the affective qualities of the anthem.


One might evaluate a dance music track in the same way, beginning with the assumption that the track, by definition, should be effective in motivating body movements. Other tracks from the same genre and with the same basic beat could be introduced for comparison and the various parameters could then be altered. Interestingly, however, dance music culture already offers a version of this process: the club remix of a pop song varies only certain parameters of the original and so represents a provocative variation on Tagg’s hypothetical substitution. The aim with a club mix is to make the song suitable for a club environment, after all, which means making it more effective in motivating body movements (and dancing).


As an example of a typical club mix I have chosen Todd Terry’s remix of Everything but the Girl’s Missing from 1994.[20] After a slightly longer intro than the original version, the remix follows the form of the original from the first verse to the last refrain.[21] But important changes have been made to it. The following is a comparison of how the second verse is rendered in the two versions (starting at 0:48 in the original and 0:55 in the remix).


Identical elements:

Tempo: Both versions have a tempo of 123 bpm.

Key/chords: Both versions have the same key (a minor) and mostly the same chords.

Vocals (melody/phrasing/lyrics): Tracey Thorn’s vocal contribution is identical in the two versions, except that it is mixed a bit lower and has slightly more reverb in the remix.

Strings: A slow ascending string melody enters in the second part of the second verse in both versions.


Substituted elements:

Instrumental (harmonic) accompaniment: A plucked acoustic guitar (broken chords with eighths) and an electric piano (sustained chords at the first beat of every second measure) appear only in the original version. In the remix these elements are replaced by a short synthesizer sound (doubled every fourth entry with an acoustic guitar sound) playing a counterrhythmic pattern (standard pattern), as follows:[22]


Figure 3.6: A counterrhythmic pattern from Todd Terry’s remix of Everything but the Girl’s Missing.


The bass guitar and bassline of the original are replaced with a synthesizer bass playing a part that follows the same counterrhythmic pattern as the synthesizer.

Drums/percussive accompaniment: The drums of the original play a standard backbeat pattern, with snare drum attacks on beats 2 and 4 and the hi-hat on unaccented eighths. The bass drum has entries on the first, sixth, and last eighth of the measure, and a cowbell (pitched rather low in the mix) plays on all of the downbeats. In the remix, the poumtchak pattern is loud in the mix, with bass drum sounds on all four downbeats and hi-hat sounds on the eighths between them. In addition to the poumtchak pattern, there is a snare drum on beat 2 and 4, a shaker pattern on sixteenth notes, and a short pattern of a mid-tone percussive sound that partly follows the counterrhythmic pattern of the bass and synthesizer. The drums sound as if they are programmed rather than played “live” on both versions.


We may assume that Todd Terry has examined the musical elements of the original and decided which to include and which to replace, using a process similar to Tagg’s technique of hypothetical substitution. Those elements Terry changed while turning this song into a club mix point to ways that music motivates body movement and dance in a club environment. The basic beat of the track was altered from a backbeat pattern to a poumtchak pattern, and other accompanying elements were replaced with more pronounced rhythmic elements and a counterrhythmic pattern. These two changes participate in a strategy of building a simple but solid rhythmic framework and then combining it with other rhythmic elements that interact in a somewhat conflicting manner.[23] The poumtchak pattern is present in many club remixes of tracks that originally relied upon other basic beats, which indicates its special role in a club and dance-related musical context, a role I will investigate further over the course of this study.


the music video


A second source of material that proves to be relevant in linking the poumtchak pattern to movement patterns – and to vertical movement patterns in particular – is music video. It is, however, beyond the scope of this study to do a more systematic investigation of a larger material. I thus intend to do a qualitative case study of one exemplary music video made for a dance track that relies heavily upon the poumtchak pattern.[24] The music video for Basement Jaxx’s Jump n’ Shout from 1999/2000 is particularly replete with body movements that are not choreographed.[25] It includes recurring scenes of various individuals and groups of people filmed at outdoor locations close to Basement Jaxx’s club and studio in Brixton, London.[26] These participants seem to have been loosely instructed to dance, jump, or just move to the music while the camera was running.



The music video was directed by Simon Bisset and consists of more than one hundred clips of various lengths from about half a second up to a maximum of eight seconds long. The longer clips display the lead toaster, Slarta John, performing the vocal parts of the track while moving through a corridor, together with the assistant toaster, Madman Swyli.[27] The shorter clips display primarily people who appear to be randomly chosen from the Brixton area, mostly dancing or jumping in front of a graffiti wall or in and around a covered street market. In addition, there are clips of two capoeira dancers, an Anubis statue, and an old Caribbean man in a poncho in a large open field, as well as a face-painted girl, a group of children, a boy or girl with an alien outfit, and several appearances of Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliff of Basement Jaxx. Certain clips also consist of still photos with basically the same material.


I studied the music video using the digital audio workstation Logic Studio 9. I set the sequencer of the computer program to the appropriate tempo (127 bpm) and placed the music within the metric grid of the sequencer. I then studied the movements in the music video in detail according to the metric structure of the music and made the following notes.







The N in the title – placed in the middle – bounces up and down in synch with the music.



Man in a black T-shirt with a large P dances with slow movements – slightly up-and-down movements (half time).



Two men in the background carrying a pallet. The one in front is head nodding in synch with the music.



Participant with alien mask. The mask dangles a bit but his or her head swings up and down – somewhat ambivalent movements at the end of the scene.



Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton dances in the background with up-and-down movements.



Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton and a woman at his side raise arms (and body).



Girl in white T-shirt dances with up-and-down movements of her body throughout most of the scene.



Old man in poncho – head nodding – clearly in synch with the music.



Old man in poncho (new scene from different angle) – again head nodding.



Woman with sunglasses and white singlet – dancing, moving up and down in the beginning of the scene. Other people in the background also moving up and down.



Young man with blue hat – one up-and-down movement (a bit chaotic).



Assistant toaster jumps up and down around the main toaster mostly in synch with the music.



Basement Jaxx’s Simon Ratcliffe is head nodding in the background.



A group of children jumping up and down (three short scenes). A bit chaotic in the first scene but in the two last scenes a young girl with rasta braids jumps clearly in synch with the music.



Camera moves back and forth (up and down).



Young man in black singlet dances with up-and-down movements in synch with the music.



Main toaster moves upper body up and down in synch with the music.



Assistant toaster moves whole body up and down in synch with the music.



Main toaster in a crowd  – moving up and down.



People in an elevator – jumping up and down (chaotic).



Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton head nodding while DJing.



Both toasters head nodding (in turn) – very explicit movements (close-up shot) in synch with the music.



Both toasters jumping up and down (a bit chaotic).



Young man in green T-shirt dancing. Up-and-down movements of whole body in synch with the music.



Young woman in black singlet dancing. Up-and-down movements of whole body in synch with the music.



Group of children jumping up and down. A bit chaotic but mostly in synch with the music.



Group of people jumping/raising arms up and down.



Young man with blue hat head nodding in synch with the music.



Children moving/jumping up and down (very short scene).



Five people dancing together. Moving up and down in synch with the music.



Young woman with cowboy hat dancing. Movements up and down.



People in a crowd (behind older lady). Movements up and down (chaotic).



Flute player. Moves up and down (short clip repeated).



Felix Buxton moving up and down (a bit out of synch).



Felix Buxton in front of a group, moving up and down in synch with the music.



Children in white T-shirts jumping up and down (chaotic).



Young man in crowd (up and down) – a bit out of synch with the music.

Fig. 3.7. Occurrences of head nodding, upper-body bouncing and other up-and-down movements in the music video for Basement Jaxx’s Jump n’ Shout.


The table above shows thirty-seven unique examples of up-and-down movements mostly in synch with the music (though some of the scenes are a bit chaotic). The total duration of these examples adds up to approximately 1:26, or 38 percent of the total length of the music video (3:46). Specific sections of the music video do not feature that many occurrences of up-and-down movements, including the toaster’s verse sections and the breakdown section. The lack of vertical movement patterns in the breakdown section (from 2:31 to 3:01) is particularly telling, since the poumtchak pattern is also absent from the music at this point. For example, the old man in the poncho, who is head nodding very distinctly in the earlier parts of the music video, keeps his head still in this section. On the other hand, the main toaster’s disinclination to move up and down while toasting, even though the poumtchak pattern is present, is probably necessitated by the performance itself. An up-and-down movement might make his vocal delivery too staccato and accentuate the downbeats too much. Excluding these sections from the music video, then, and only counting the parts where the poumtchak pattern is present gives a total length of 1:54. The total duration of the scenes with up-and-down movements in this portion of the track adds up to 0:53, or 46.5 percent of the total length.


The poumtchak pattern’s correspondence with vertical movement patterns in this music video, then, is quite convincing, but to what extent is this music video a reliable source of a common pattern of this culture? The director’s work has obviously influenced the results and the “jump” in the title has led him to encourage jumping in his subjects. Nevertheless, there is a profound sense of cultural priority around these movements and this rhythmic pattern. Not all of the occurrences of up-and-down movements in the music video decisively correspond to the common tendency of going down on the downbeats and up on the upbeats. Some are chaotic, short clips; others are examples of movements and movement patterns that simply go in both directions (jumping, particular types of dancing). Yet the general congruence of direction in most of the movement patterns demands further consideration.


The poumtchak pattern in aerobics music


Besides clubs and dancefloors, the poumtchak pattern also appears frequently in music accompanying workouts and physical training. Although many genres and styles of popular music fill this role, the workout tracks themselves are typically remixes in a dance/house style with an unambiguous poumtchak pattern as the basic beat.[28] Might this be because of the pattern’s unique ability to move bodies up and down?[29] Productions that are intended for workout sessions tend to elevate the basic beat in the sound mix, as Tia DeNora describes: “Aerobic music firms select and tailor the musical and stylistic features of individual numbers. One of the first things they try to do is heighten rhythmic clarity. Rhythm is typically positioned in the musical foreground, with vocals often relegated to the background. Features that might detract from this clarity (for example complicated transitions) are deleted.”[30] In studies of music and aerobics the usefulness of the music’s rhythmic aspects is invariably emphasized.[31] Sophie Belcher, in her research on how music was used in aerobic classes,[32] compared “failed” sessions with successful ones: “In this way it is possible to illuminate the musical characteristics that afford aerobic embodied agency, that enable the particular bodily movements, endurance, motivation, arousal and co-ordination, and that constrain the perception of fatigue.”[33] Class members reported confusion when the music had “lots of different beats going on at once”[34] and no clear movement “signal.” Anne Kari Įysĺd also notes from an interview with aerobics instructor Ellen Berntsen that a training session becomes more demanding if the instructor starts with an upward movement on a clear downbeat.[35] Successful sessions instead map their various movements directly onto structures or features in the music. A session usually lasts forty-five minutes, and the music mix is supposed to lead participants from a warm-up stage into a steadily intensifying training period and finally back to a resting state. The tempo of the tracks shapes these transitions.[36] Changes in the music accompany variations on repeated movement patterns, and new tracks introduce different sections of the workout.[37]


DeNora questions any “automatic” effect of music on the body, however, instead pointing to efforts by producers, instructors, and class members to create successful training sessions: “Thus, to say that music will ‘cause’ things to happen, that it makes the body do things or that its objective properties will automatically entrain the body in particular ways, is to miss the collaborative dimension of how music’s effectiveness is achieved, for it is always in and through the ways that it is appropriated that music provides structuring resources—devices that enable and constrain the body.”[38] This statement recalls Gilbert Rouget’s conclusions that the relationship between movement and music as not causal or deterministic.[39] He does not believe that heavy, fast drumming or repetitious melodic phrasing specifically incites certain types of trance, instead attributing the state to the cultural expectations surrounding it. The widespread use of the poumtchak pattern in aerobics music, however, suggests at minimum a specific functional role for it, if not true causuality: the participants of an aerobics class tend to work out harder and longer when the beat supports their vertical movement patterns. As one of the informants of Belcher’s study says, “[Music] can make me work harder . . . if it’s just a simple strong beat then it’s easier to work with . . . and if it very slowly gets faster . . . I don’t sort of realize it.”[40]


In the same way, occurrences of heavy drumming or repetitious melodic phrasing in “trance” contexts also appear to indicate that some musical features are simply more efficient than others in producing certain bodily responses.[41] This does not have to lead to a mechanistic or deterministic view of the effect of music. Music certainly requires a social setting with certain accompanying expectations in order to succeed in producing these body movements. An aerobics instructor may experience potent images of or urges around body movements while listening to an aerobics mix on an mp3 player, but will not subsequently start exercising in a setting where it would not be welcome (the subway, a classroom, and so on). While certain social settings, then, seem to demand appropriations of various musical features and their structuring effects, the music has a specific role in this process. The poumtchak pattern, for example, seems to have spread from dance settings to workout sessions as a result of its ability to facilitate movement.


The aforementioned aerobics instructor, Ellen Berntsen, also observes that a movement ought to go down in congruence with the downbeat in the music.[42] The poumtchak pattern appears to demonstrate an unambiguous rhythmic structure quite well. Still, to what extent the poumtchak pattern causes congruence of direction in vertical movement patterns needed further investigation.


Survey on the poumtchak pattern and body movement


My survey was intended to gauge the extent to which people move in the same direction when listening to music with the poumtchak pattern. I was also interested in whether movements were influenced by the level of complexity of the music in question and whether people would report any similar experiences related to how the effect was realized.


My hypothesis was that the poumtchak pattern would activate a movement downward with the bass drum sound and upward with the hi-hat sound. I also suspected that this effect would depend upon the level of complexity of this musical feature, and that the pattern creates an experience of being physically “pulled” in various directions. 


Preliminary exploratory survey


Initially, I conducted a preliminary exploratory survey with members of a Facebook group interested in house music.[43] I sent an invitation with a short introduction and three questions to the first three hundred members on the group’s list, and thirty-seven individuals from all five continents (but mostly from Britain) responded to the survey, including ten females and twenty-seven males.[44] The questions were:


1. Do you recognize this beat: Poum-tchak-poum-tchak-poum-tchak-poum-tchak? (“Poum” represents a bass drum sound and “tchak” a hi-hat or similar sound.)


2. If you nod your head (rather than dance) to this beat, will your head instinctively go down with the poum and up with the tchak? 


3. If you hear only tchaktchaktchaktchak (usually played on a hi-hat), will you nod your head as if the “poum” (the bass drum) were present?


The respondents (quantity in percentage) answered as follows:

1. Yes: 94.4%, No: 5.6%.

2. Yes: 85.3%, No: 9.4%.[45]

3. Yes: 71%, No: 22.6%, Not Sure: 6.4%.[46]


Even though the questions were leading, the results provided a basis for continuing the study with a methodically valid and more reliable survey. The response to the first question indicated a familiarity with the poumtchak pattern, and the second supported my initial hypothesis. Answers to question 3 were less consistent, which is probably due to its more ambiguous structure.[47]


Main survey: method




All of the music students (340) affiliated with the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo were invited by e-mail to participate in a web-based survey.[48] A total of ninety-four students participated (a response rate of 27.6 percent). All responses were anonymous.


Music students were chosen due to their musical skills and their ability to recognize the various instrumental sounds in the survey. A group of clubgoers would have given more accurate results relative to the culture in question but would probably have required an observational rather than a self-reported study.[49]


Questionnaire design


The survey included a short introduction that suggests how to answer the questions, followed by eight sections:[50]


1–2: Demographics

3–8: Questionnaire on rhythm and movement


Sections 3–8 concerned supplied musical excerpts. Respondents were asked in the introduction to sit in front of a computer and listen to the music through earphones or speakers. They were further asked to move their head and/or upper body to the music without reading ahead in the questions until a movement pattern was established. They were also told to answer “Don’t know” and continue on to the next question/section if they could not understand the question or did not have an answer.


Stimuli and Questions


Section 1: The respondents were asked to report gender and age.


Section 2: Music tradition/genre preference was addressed through questions asking for (1) their primary tradition/genre of performance and (2) their preferred tradition/genre for listening, with the following choices: Pop/Rock, Jazz, Classical, Folk Music, and Others; (3) They were also asked if they had listened/danced frequently to house/dance/techno, with the following choices: Yes, Some, or No.


Section 3: An excerpt was taken from Chuck Berry’s Maybellene from 1955 (0:00–0:40). This track has a basic backbeat pattern that evokes the poumtchak pattern at its tempo of 238 bpm,[51] and it seem to initiate either a type of body movement triggered by this similarity (that is, going up on the snare drum) or a double-speed movement pattern (going down on the snare drum). The question here was to what extent this ambiguity would be present in comparison to songs with clear poumtchak patterns. (1) The respondents were asked to move their heads/upper bodies up and down when listening to the excerpt and report the position in correspondence to the snare drum sounds, with the following choices: Up, Down, and Don’t Know. (2) The relation between basic pulse and movement was also addressed through a question about the position of the snare drum sounds in relation to the main pulse, with the following choices: Between the Beats, On 2 and 4, or Don’t Know.


Section 4: The excerpt was taken from The Beginning of the End, Funky Nassau, 1971 (0:00–0:32, tempo 119 bpm). This track has an unambiguous upbeat cymbal pattern that is clearly noticeable in the first part. It was included in the survey to test the consistency of responses related to a track in a different genre that featured only one of the components of the poumtchak pattern. The respondents were asked to move their heads/upper bodies up and down and report the position relative to the cymbal sounds, with the following choices: Up, Down, or Don’t Know.


Section 5: This excerpt included a poumtchak pattern without any other elements taken from Daft Punk’s PhŌnix, 1996 (0:00–0:32, tempo 127 bpm). The track starts out with a solitary four-to-the-floor bass drum pattern. (1) Respondents were first asked to move their heads/upper bodies up and down and report the position relative to this bass drum sound, with the following choices: Up, Down, or Don’t Know. An upbeat hi-hat pattern then appears halfway through the excerpt, establishing a typical poumtchak pattern. (2) Respondents were asked to continue to move their heads/upper bodies up and down and to report whether the movement pattern changed with the introduction of the hi-hat, with the following choices: Yes, No, or Don’t Know. (3) Respondents were further asked for the position relative to the hi-hat sound, with the following choices: Up, Down, or Don’t Know. (4) They were also asked if the body movement was experienced differently after the hi-hat was introduced, with the following choices Yes, No, or Don’t Know. (5) Those that answered yes to question 4 were also asked about the character of this difference, with the following choices: Stronger Pull Upwards; Stronger Pull Downwards; Stronger, But Not In Any Direction; Weaker; Don’t Know.


Section 6: The excerpt was taken from Chemical Brothers, Star Guitar, 2002 (4:47–5:25). A poumtchak pattern provides the basic beat for the second half of this excerpt (5:02–5:25), but it is completely integrated with other rhythmic and melodic patterns. The questions were identical to questions 3, 4, and 5 of the previous section.


Section 7: The excerpt was taken from the track Cübik, 1990, by 808 State, with an added upbeat hi-hat pattern in the second part. This excerpt includes a counterrhythmic pattern (4:3):



Figure 3.8: A notational representation of the synth-bass theme from 808 State’s Cübik (1990).[52]


In relation to the poumtchak pattern, the counterrhythmic component might have been expected to evoke incongruent movement patterns,[53] though it was joined by an upbeat hi-hat pattern after four measures. Respondents were asked to move their heads/upper bodies at the start of the song and continue the movement through the introduction of the hi-hat pattern, then report the position of the head/upper body relative to the hi-hat sound, with the following choices: Up, Down, or Don’t Know.


Section 8: Respondents were asked to listen to the excerpts once more and alternate between (1) moving and (2) sitting and listening without moving. They were asked to report on the more satisfying/engaging alternative, with the following choices: While Moving; While Sitting Concentrated Without Moving; Just As Satisfying/Engaging; Just As Satisfying/Engaging, But In A Different Manner; Varying Related To The Different Excerpts; Don’t Know.




The questionnaire was made in cooperation with the web-survey section at the Centre for Information Technology at the University of Oslo. The music students received a username and a password to log into the webpage, and no username/password could be used for more than one response. The webpage was open to the respondents for one month (February 2008), and those that had not answered were e-mailed a reminder halfway through this period.


Main survey: Results




Section 1: Gender and age.

The respondents consisted of forty-five females (47.9 percent) and forty-nine males (52.1 percent), and the mean age was twenty-six years (SD = 6.98),[54] with a range of nineteen to sixty-nine years.[55]


Section 2: Preferences according to music tradition/genre. 






Folk Music


1) Primary tradition/genre of performance






2) Preferred tradition/genre of listening














3) Listened a lot to dance/house/techno?






Results from questionnaire:


Section 3: Chuck Berry: Maybellene.



Figure 3.9: Percentages of respondents reporting a position of head/upper body as “Up” or “Down” in relation to the snare drum sound of Chuck Berry’s Maybellene, 0:00–0:40.


The majority reported “Up,” which may suggest that most of the respondents moved with the tempo of 119 bpm rather than 238 bpm. Nonetheless, the relatively large group of respondents answering “Down” points to the metrical ambiguity of the track.


Figure 3.10: Percentages of respondents reporting the position of the snare drum sound in relation to the main pulse when listening to Chuck Berry‘s Maybellene, 0:00–0:40.


In relation to a backbeat pattern, the placement of the snare drum should be heard on beats 2 and 4 at the tempo of 238 bpm, and one might have expected a group of music students to use this fact to determine the pulse.[56] This was not the case, however: 54.2 percent of the respondents answered “Between the Beats.” Thus the pulse seems to relate instead to an experience of body movement or a preferred (or more natural) tempo.[57] Many of the respondents may have located the pulse at half tempo (119 bpm) simply because a vertical body movement or foot/finger tapping seems more familiar (or comfortable) at this speed.


Section 4: The Beginning of the End, Funky Nassau.



Figure 3.11: Percentages of respondents reporting a position of head/upper body as “Up” or “Down” in relation to the cymbal sound when listening to The Beginning of the End, Funky Nassau, 0:00–0:32.


Almost three-quarters of the respondents reported the same direction of body movement related to this excerpt, which is considerably higher than was reported for the Chuck Berry excerpt. Because the Funky Nassau excerpt has a more defined structure regarding movement and tempo than the Chuck Berry excerpt, these results support the hypothesis that consistency in body movements depends upon the song’s level of structural complexity.


Section 5: Daft Punk, PhŌnix.


Figure 3.12: Percentages of respondents reporting a position of head/upper body as “Up” or “Down” in relation to the bass drum sound when listening to Daft Punk’s Phoenix, 0:00–0:14.



Figure 3.13: Percentages of respondents reporting whether the movement pattern changed (“Yes”) or not (“No”) when an upbeat hi-hat pattern was introduced at 0:15 in Daft Punk’s Phoenix.



Figure 3.14: Percentages of respondents reporting a position of head/upper body as “Up” or “Down” in relation to the hi-hat sound in Daft Punk’s Phoenix, 0:15–0:32.


Figure 3.15: Percentages of respondents reporting whether the body movement was experienced differently (Yes) or not (No) after the introduction of the hi-hat pattern at 0:15 in Daft Punk’s Phoenix.



Figure 3.16: Percentages of respondents that answered “Yes” to the previous question (Figure 3.15) reporting the experience accompanying the introduction of the hi-hat pattern at 0:15 in Daft Punk’s Phoenix.


Almost 95 percent of the respondents reported the same direction of vertical movement in response to the poumtchak pattern, in relation to both the bass drum sound and the hi-hat sound. The results for the question concerning the changing direction of the pattern do not correspond entirely in percentage with the preceding and succeeding answers concerning position, but the deviations are not substantial. When it comes to how the introduction of the hi-hat was experienced, 45.7 percent of the group reported a stronger pull upward (which is 64.3 percent of those who experienced a difference at all). Though this does not represent a majority of the respondents, it does represent the largest single group with an identical answer. The results of this section in fact support all of my hypotheses concerning the directions of the movement patterns, the level of corresponding musical complexity, and, at least to some extent, the presence of the experience of being physically pulled in various directions.


Section 6: Chemical Brothers, Star Guitar.



Figure 3.17: Percentages of respondents reporting a position of head/upper body as “Up” or “Down” in relation to the hi-hat sound when listening to Chemical Brothers, Star Guitar, 5:02–5:25.



Figure 3.18: Percentages of respondents reporting whether the body movement was experienced differently (Yes) or not (No) after the introduction of the hi-hat pattern at 5:02 in Chemical Brothers, Star Guitar.



Figure 3.19: Percentages of respondents that answered “Yes” to the previous question (Figure 3.18) reporting on the experience of the introduction of the hi-hat pattern at 5:02 in Chemical Brothers, Star Guitar.


Compared to the Daft Punk excerpt, the Chemical Brothers excerpt produced less consistent answers, but a definite majority of the respondents reported positioning that corresponds to the previous movement pattern. The experience of difference after the introduction of the hi-hat pattern, however, is less dominated by the stronger pull upward. Most reported a somewhat stronger pull but more people than previously did not report any specific pull in any direction at all related to this experience. The tendencies are predominantly the same as before, but the potential variation in bodily movement increases in the context of a more complex sound mix.


Section 7: 808 State, Cübik (modified).



Figure 3.20: Percentages of respondents reporting a position of head/upper body as “Up” or “Down” in relation to the hi-hat sound when listening to a modified version of 808 State, Cübik.


The result here points to notable consistency in the body movements elicited by the Cübik excerpt. These results, however, should be interpreted with caution, as we do not know whether the respondents actually started their movement with the counterrhythmic pattern and continued it despite the succeeding hi-hat pattern.


Section 8: Listening preferences.



Figure 3.21: Percentages of respondents reporting on the most engaging or satisfying way of listening to the excerpts for the survey.


Only a slight majority reported a greater satisfaction/engagement while moving. It is of course possible that music students, who are generally trained in a sedentary, concentrated practice of music listening, are more comfortable that way that participants in club culture would be. A similar survey with excerpts from different genres and traditions, conducted with people from diverse music cultures, would offer more perspectives on this issue.


Main survey: Discussion


The direction of the vertical movement patterns reported by the respondents predominantly follows a pattern of going down on the bass drum and up on the hi-hat (or similar high-frequency sound). The excerpts with relatively few rhythmic patterns (Daft Punk and 808 State) produced more identical answers than those with a more complex rhythmic mix. This supports my hypothesis that the effect of the poumtchak pattern depends on the level of complexity of the music. Since the 808 State excerpt is rhythmically complex, for example, the poumtchak effect increases only according to its prominence in the mix.


Relatively large groups of respondents reported a stronger pull upward at the introduction of the hi-hat sound in a dance track (see the Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers excerpts). Therefore a notion of verticality would appear in fact to be relevant to the movements elicited by the poumtchak pattern to some extent.


In relation to the 808 State excerpt, we probably should account for the contextual expectations of the genre: the synth sound of the 4:3 pattern signals a type of music where the poumtchak pattern is dominant, so that the pattern might be supplied “virtually,” if not actually. In introductions to tracks such as the example from 808 State, then, this could be the case; even if the poumtchak pattern is not acoustically represented in the rhythmic components, its main pulse and rhythmic structure will be realized through contextual expectations. When a track is played with others of the same genre (as in a DJ performance), these expectations grow.


The results of the survey largely support my initial hypothesis regarding congruence in body movement direction among listeners exposed to the poumtchak pattern. The relationship of this congruence to culturally learned behaviour, the alternation of high and low sounds and the notion of verticality in music, the metric structure, and other such matters are less obvious from these results (these issues will be discussed in the next chapter). But the survey at least partly supports the possibility that the poumtchak pattern facilitates a vertical movement pattern, because relatively large percentages of respondents reported a pull upward.


Main survey: Limitations and future research


An important issue regarding the validity of the present study is the extent to which the respondents are relevant representatives for this research. Only 11.7 percent of them reported that they had listened/danced a lot to dance/house/techno. On one hand, music students may be considered expert listeners because they are trained in performing musical tasks (practical and theoretical), which would have helped them to answer questions requiring technical expertise. On the other hand, they are not experts regarding this specific music culture – they have divergent musical preferences, and most lacked experience with dancing in clubs. However, 50 percent reported that popular music was their preferred listening tradition/genre, and, as I indicated earlier, I believe that the correspondence between rhythm and movement that is in question here can be detected in a wider range of popular music listeners as well. All of the respondents have been to a greater or lesser degree exposed to popular music through their participation in Western society.[58] The results of the preliminary survey indicate that a similar survey conducted with participants from a club cultural context would be congruent.


A further issue related to reliability concerns the research method here. Variables could have complicated the process that are not obvious in the results: misreadings of the questions, misreadings of the sounds to be recognized, disturbing movements from other body parts, and so on.[59] The sound quality available from respondents’ computers is also an ungovernable condition. The participation of music students, however, lessens the likelihood of sound-related misunderstandings. Nevertheless, other research methods might prove more reliable, such as filming respondents moving to music in an approved location. The size and composition of the present participant sample prohibited the statistical analysis of the effect of musical preferences and cultural background on the bodily experience of the poumtchak pattern. This makes them more indicative of rough trends than of infallible conclusions. Still, they provide a compelling starting point for more detailed research into variations in movement patterns related to music. 


Though listening while sitting in front of a computer is not ideal for sound quality or physical activity (and is nothing like a club context), participants nevertheless had the advantage of a rather private space where they were not influenced by others or constrained by knowing that they were being observed.


In future research, securing an appropriate sound system and high volume would be particularly useful for the low-frequency sounds in the music excerpts and therefore enhance the effect of the poumtchak pattern – a similar survey under those circumstances might have resulted in more consistency of response, especially regarding the more complex rhythmic mixes. Another direction for further research might be surveys using groups with different musical preferences or cultural backgrounds.[60] Furthermore, comparisons with other rhythm patterns might be relevant. The respondents in this survey were asked to perform a specific type of movement (head nodding/upper-body bouncing). The extent to which this was experienced as a natural response was not examined, but the relatively large number of respondents who reported a pull downward and then upward in congruence with the downbeats and upbeats of the rhythmic structure at least partially indicates that the sounds of the poumtchak pattern facilitate body movements.[61]




In this chapter I examined various connections between the poumtchak pattern and body movement to gauge the strength of the correspondence in various environments. A comparison of the poumtchak pattern with other patterns reveals its resemblance to music mainly related to dancing or marching, and its historical roots are located mainly in the disco period of the 1970s. A review of its surges in popularity since the 1970s demonstrates that its position in the production of popular music is connected to the popularity of specific dance genres.


A comparison of Todd Terry’s club remix of Everything but the Girl’s pop song Missing with the original version shows that a basic beat in the form of a poumtchak pattern and various counterrhythmic patterns were the basic elements that turned a pop song into a club track. This supports the assumed prevalence of the poumtchak pattern in club music (as opposed to popular music in general). An examination of the music video for Basement Jaxx’s Jump n’ Shout displays several correspondences between the poumtchak pattern in the music and various vertical movement patterns.


To further support my hypothesis regarding the poumtchak pattern’s particular effectiveness in activating vertical body movement patterns, I turned to the practice of aerobics. Music accompanying workouts and physical training often uses the poumtchak pattern, placed in the front of the mix, in connection with vertical body movements. An unambiguous basic beat seems to inspire participants to work harder and longer, introducing again the possibility of processes that facilitate the activation of body movements.


My listener survey largely supported my hypothesis regarding congruence in body movement direction among listeners exposed to the poumtchak pattern, though this effect depends on the level of complexity of the music. The survey also at least partly supported the possibility that the poumtchak pattern facilitates the body movements in question, because several respondents reported an experienced pull downward and upward in response to the rhythmic structure of downbeats and upbeats.


Chapter 4:

Theoretical contributions to the study of music and movement



The path from music to body movement involves several complex systems: our sensory system, our central nervous system, and our musculoskeletal system. My aim in this chapter is not to give a systematic account of these various systems but rather to present selected theoretical perspectives that will shed light on the correspondence between the poumtchak pattern (at a tempo from 120 to 135 bpm) and a vertical movement pattern such as head nodding or upper-body bouncing. In the illustration below, various aspects of music perception and performance are mapped according to the areas of the human brain (mainly in the right hemisphere) that may be involved with them.[62] This illustration demonstrates the complexity of music listening and its many processes and potential cerebral interactions.

Figure 4

Fig. 4.1 Processes connected to music perception and performance mapped according to the areas of the human brain that may be involved with them.


Several studies have demonstrated that activity takes place in both the auditory and the premotor areas of the brain during either the perception or the production of music.[63] This overlapping of activity has been especially apparent with regard to the rhythmic aspects of music. Joyce Chen and her colleagues observed activity in the same premotor areas of the brain whether subjects were asked to tap along with a rhythm or simply sat and listened without tapping along.[64] Such findings indicate the strong connection between musical rhythm and movement, whether virtual/imagined or actual/realized.


Extending our native connection between rhythm and movement to specific rhythmic and movement patterns is a challenging task, given the many complex processes involved in the proposed correspondence. Our sense of hearing, first of all, is profoundly influenced by our other senses – the vibration of rhythmic pulses can also be detected by skin receptors and internal receptors in muscles and joints, for example. Furthermore, we must allow for the possibility of an interdependent relationship between music perception and body movement so that a correspondence in the opposite “direction” (from movement to music listening) is also potentially relevant here.[65] In what follows, I will focus first on the various ways we attend to and perceive music and then on the ways motor processes are formed and activated.


The general perspectives on perceptual/cognitive processes put forward by the theories of embodied cognition and the ecological approach to perception will inform my discussion. Embodied cognition recognizes a mode of understanding wherein “body and mind are brought together,”[66] in the sense that the body’s impact on cognition must be accounted for when we consider otherwise “mental” processes.[67] The ecological approach to perception originates in the work of psychologist James J. Gibson (1904–1979), who was particularly concerned with the impact of our moving body on perception. Drawing heavily upon evolutionary biology, Gibson saw the process of perception mainly as a search for what the environment around us has to offer.[68]


Attention and Perception


In a dance club, our senses are overwhelmed with stimuli: music, lights, dancing and moving individuals, faces, clothing, voices, laughter, smells, tastes, and so on. How, then, might a simple repeating alternation of a bass drum and a hi-hat sound compete for our attention? 


Musical sound from speakers is energy in the form of waves in the air that propagate according to their frequency content, loudness, and acoustics of the surroundings. These waves cause vibrations in our ears that in turn become impulses in our central nervous system, and our attention processes register some and ignore others.[69] Gibson’s concept of “affordance” will help us clarify those processes.


affordances of the poumtchak pattern


Gibson based his work upon evolutionary biology’s role in perception, given that human beings evolved from animals and therefore share their perceptual capacities: “The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill . . . It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment.”[70] When sensing our surroundings, Gibson believes that we actively select only the information that we anticipate will be significant to us and ignore the rest. On the dancefloor at a club, this means that the people talking loudly somewhere behind us are much easier ignored than the musical sound from the speakers, which contributes significantly to what we are at the club to do. It demands our attention, particularly as we begin to couple rhythmic bodily movement to it. It is useful to us; the chatter at the bar, on the other hand, is not.


Gibson, significantly, sees perception and action as closely connected.[71] We do not hear sounds and subsequently interpret their meaning, but instead understand them directly and intuitively. We therefore can act on them instantly. From the evolutionary perspective, of course, animals that lack this ability have less chance of survival.[72] Crucial to the ecological approach, then, is the notion that we are not passive receivers but active collectors of information: “Perceiving is an act, not a response, an act of attention, not a triggered impression, an achievement, not a reflex.”[73] Gibson links perception and action very closely in any human encounter with the outside world; perception leads to actions that in turn lead to new perception. This perception-action cycle is basic to the processes involved when we attend to our environments.[74]


While Gibson’s work primarily deals with visual perception, Eric F. Clarke’s Ways of Listening from 2005 extends Gibson’s conclusions to aural perception, and especially music.


The interdependence between perception and action that is emphasized in ecological theory suggest that every perceptual experience will bear the trace of an action component. In the case of music, these traces are not hard to find—they are displayed overtly in the foot-tapping, head-nodding, and body-swaying that are commonly observed in even the most constrained circumstances of the Western art music tradition.[75]


The correspondence between the musical poumtchak pattern and a vertical movement pattern seems to resonate with the perception-action cycle that Clarke describes.[76] The musical sounds are perceived with their afforded actions: the bass drum affords downward movement, while the hi-hat affords upward movement. Therefore we attend specifically to these sounds despite many potential distractions because they are coupled with certain specific actions. We respond actively only to those affordances that matter. With electronic dance music, we attend to those auditory patterns or specific sounds that afford movement, and when we respond to them, we initiate a self-reinforcing perception-action cycle (the patterns become more and more present to us as we move to them).


Clarke observes that “music affords dancing, worship, co-ordinated working, persuasion, emotional catharsis, marching, foot-tapping, and a myriad other activities of a perfectly tangible kind.”[77] In other words, a musical sound event can have many affordances. Typically, one or two affordances may dominate, however, while others may be present only remotely. A poumtchak pattern at the beginning of a dance track can afford foot tapping, head nodding, dancing, or (virtual) playing along, as well as assorted mental activities such as recognizing the producer’s style, recalling the track from another time or place, figuring out what production techniques are being used, and so on. Gibson does not limit the affordance to either absolutely subjective or absolutely objective relations; it may be totally contextually dependent, completely basic and universal, or some combination of the two. Certain affordances can be handled simultaneously, without complication or competition, because they activate discrete parts of, or systems within, our bodies; others in fact comprise rival interpretations. These mostly unconscious choices guide our attention processes, or the act of hearing. The social context also helps to determine how (or which) affordances will be perceived; if no one in the club has started to dance yet, for example, a dance track will typically afford only more modest movements, such as foot tapping or head nodding.


entrainment and attentional energy


The work of Gibson also inspired the research of neuropsychologist Mari Riess Jones, particularly around her use of the entrainment concept.[78] A centerpiece of her theories about attention and expectation in music, this compelling concept directly addresses the fact that rhythmic processes tend to adjust themselves to other occurring rhythms.[79] Presented with music with an isochronous rhythm, which is typical for a club environment, we might then be expected to respond by synchronizing our foot tapping or head nodding to it. Jones assumes that in such cases our attentiveness will oscillate,[80] determining in turn how we perceive various subtleties of rhythm, time, and pulse in music. She makes three assumptions regarding our “entrainment” to such events. First, she describes time as fundamentally related to event structure,[81] explaining that events may be “driving rhythms” or “environmental happenings arising from animate or inanimate activities.”[82] Second, she describes time as it exists in the structures of inherently rhythmic organisms with diverse biological oscillations (such as ourselves) – our physiological systems or processes function as “driven rhythms.” Finally, she considers the interaction between event time and organism time, or a driving rhythm and a driven rhythm. In line with ecological theories of adaptation in environmental processes, she concludes: “Rhythmic organisms interact, more or less effectively, with dynamic flow patterns of events via entrainment: An event’s driving rhythm shapes an organism’s driven rhythm through adaptations of period and phase. This entrainment process extends to rhythms that reflect the ebb and flow of attending energy.”[83] In music, the driving rhythm is the energy a track passes along, while the driven rhythm is our perception of or action upon this energy. During this process we might “attend to” a flow of sound events as we orient ourselves: “Attending entails a synchronization of many internal attending periodicities with corresponding time spans within an event.”[84]


Jones suggests that the process of attending is not stable or uniform but “requires a selective allocation of attending energy at critical points in time.”[85] Within the dynamics of this process she describes “anticipatory attending” and “reactive attending”: the first involves the expected onset of the relevant sound in an already recognized pattern, while the second involves the unexpected onset (or sound) or violated pattern. When synchrony is achieved through anticipatory attending, interestingly, “it ensures that attention is allocated just before the onset of an expected sound.”[86] This form of synchronization resembles a phase-lock between the oscillation formed by expected sounds (in the music) and the oscillation formed by our anticipatory attending.


Entrainment models illuminate both music that is inclined to synchronicity and music that incorporates more challenging rhythmic strategies (time variations, early/late onsets, and so on). The poumtchak pattern is certainly of the former type: the four-to-the-floor bass drum pattern and upbeat hi-hat pattern offer clear, regular indications of orientation. Based on Jones’s illustrations of how period and phase govern the entrainment of an internal oscillator to a stimulus’s timing, I have made illustrations that demonstrate these mechanisms in relation to the poumtchak pattern. [87] 




Figure 4.2: Attention illustrated as an oscillation in relation to a repeated bass drum sound, with the peak of the phase representing the peak of attention (which is located just before the expected sound).

Figure 4.3: Attention illustrated as an oscillation in relation to a repeated hi-hat sound, with the peak of the phase representing the peak of attention (which is located just before the expected sound).


When the two patterns are brought together, the occurrences of expected sounds double in number.



Figure 4.4: Attention illustrated as an oscillation, with the peak of the phase (the peak of attention) located just before the expected sound.


A characteristic feature of the poumtchak pattern in relation to other patterns in groove-oriented music is the multitude of reference points in its rhythmic structure. Moreover, the basic beat in club-oriented dance music is often kept more or less unaltered for very long periods.[88] This multitude of reference points, and their stability, makes the chances of a phase-lock (synchronization) extremely good. Jones writes: “When an event is rhythmically regular (i.e., very coherent) phase synchrony tends to be high and a narrow attentional pulse develops, indicating precise temporal expectations.”[89] The poumtchak pattern’s strict rhythmical regularity easily accommodates this precise temporal expectation. This is significant for two reasons. First, in electronic dance music tracks where the poumtchak pattern is present, there are often specific periods where the bass drum drops out (the “breakdown”). During the breakdown, then, listeners will be able to maintain their entrained oscillation even in the absence of the anticipated sound of the bass drum, and building up to the bass drum’s reappearance in fact represents an excellent opportunity for DJs/producers to tease and excite their dancers. Second, the poumtchak pattern accommodates what Jones calls “attunement shifts,” which “[direct] some attending energies away from the referent period to another level.”[90] Thus various other rhythmic patterns can be attended to while one is still phase-locked to the poumtchak pattern.[91] Jones calls this flexibility “skilled attending” to various event levels. During a track there might be periods where dancers/listeners completely leave the referent level of the basic beat to attend (and move) to other patterns. Such shifts may be encouraged by certain emphases in the musical production, or the music may offer several event levels simultaneously, among which the dancers may choose.


Jones is primarily focused on perceptual processes involving how we attend to and perceive time and rhythm in music, so she does not discuss if or how body movements are then activated by the music. Ethnomusicologist Martin Clayton, on the other hand, observed physical movements (playing and beat marking) to determine how synchronized actions in music performance occur. His study focused on the production of music and thus included those motor processes that activate movements and he encountered “the emergence of complex hierarchies of entrained movement patterns in the course of producing music.”[92] These observations might also be relevant for a clubgoer’s head nodding or foot tapping, though those movement patterns may be simpler than the movements linked to the musicians in Clayton’s study.


The poumtchak pattern has repeating sounds that clearly attract attention, and Gibson’s and Jones’s theories both shed light on how a listener/dancer who is familiar with the poumtchak pattern perceptually responds to it by allocating attentional energy to the sounds that constitute the basic beat and then entraining to the rhythmic structure of the music.[93] But how is this process then taken to the level of specific synchronized body movements?


Motor Processes


The skeletal muscles contract when the muscle fibres are excited by motor neurons, and these contractions (and relaxations) of the muscles produce body movement.[94] In what follows I will first discuss how motor memory related to vertical movement patterns is formed on a more general level. Then I will discuss how these movement patterns are activated, and why the poumtchak pattern seems to be particularly effective at doing so.


motor memory and perceptual learning


We store information on how to perform physical tasks in our memories, and we are typically able to access this information in a straightforward and immediate fashion.[95] The series of motor actions required to ride a bike, for example, comes without thinking, but to consciously account for them takes much more effort. This information is encoded through bodily participation; when we first learn to ride a bike, we must consciously perform the required actions in the proper succession; later on however, we simply do them. So how is this type of motor learning accomplished for vertical movement patterns that are performed in response to a musical rhythm?


Returning to the ecological approach to perception and the close link between perception and action, we appear to learn actions related to perceptual inputs through both individual and guided experiments throughout our lives. Gibson sees all knowledge as an extension of perception:


The child becomes aware of the world by looking around and looking at, by listening, feeling, smelling, and tasting, but then she begins to be made aware of the world as well. She is shown things, and told things, and given models and pictures of things, and then instruments and tools and books, and finally rules and short cuts for finding out more things. Toys, pictures, and words are aids to perceiving, provided by parents and teachers. They transmit to the next generation the tricks of the human trade. The labors of the first perceivers are spared their descendants.[96]


Through what Gibson describes as “perceptual learning processes” our knowledge of the world around us matures.[97] The members of a new generation inherit the “tricks of the human trade” from their parents and other role models, who teach them how to act based upon their own experiences. In a milieu where dancing is a common activity, then, we learn how to move to music, and movement becomes a likely affordance of music. If we, on the other hand, grow up in a milieu where dancing is not common, music that appeals especially to movement makes no sense. Dance music’s affordances are therefore perceived differently, and the poumtchak pattern is no exception.


In describing perceptual learning processes, Eric Clarke also emphasizes that we become “increasingly sensitive to distinctions within the stimulus information that were always there but previously undetected.”[98] Perceptual learning processes allow us to improve upon our ability to differentiate between subtle variations. With reference to Gibson’s theories, the musicologist Björn Vickhoff describes how the sound engineer learns to “differentiate features in music [that are] unperceivable to others.”[99] Two bass drum sounds that appear alike to most listeners might be quite distinct to the professional producer of dance music – moreover, one might be preferred based upon its specific perceived capacity to evoke body movement.[100] Among dancers, basic perceptual learning leads to the ability to move in synchrony with a returning rhythmic pattern, while more advanced differentiation might include the ability to hear differences in the sounds of various tracks and then translate those differences into slightly divergent movements. As one listens more, one recognizes more patterns in more complex mixes, as well as minor differences in timing or sound-related realizations.


The existence of perceptual learning processes may account for a connection between music and movement at a general level. The specific vertical movement patterns like head nodding and foot tapping that are often performed in connection with musical rhythm, however, demand further investigation. We recognize right away the similarity of these patterns to basic human movements like walking, running, or jumping, which rely upon quite similar patterns of contraction and relaxation of the muscles.[101] In an article from 2004 about groove in popular music, Lawrence Zbikowski “explore [s] a way to model the knowledge basic to producing and understanding musical grooves.”[102] First he links basic human experiences to musical rhythm: “Our conceptions of rhythm in general, and of musical rhythm in particular, are strongly informed by the manifold regularities basic to human experience – the regular cycles of our breathing, the alternation of our limbs in walking or the repeated actions that accompany our physical work.”[103] He then forms a conceptual model that comprises the basic cognitive structures of regularity, differentiation, cyclicity, and embodiment.[104] Central to Zbikowski’s article is Lawrence Barsalou’s theory of perceptual symbol systems, which Barsalou summarizes as follows:


A perceptual state can contain two components: an unconscious neural representation of physical input, and an optional conscious experience. Once a perceptual state arises, a subset of it is extracted via selective attention and stored permanently in long-term memory. On later retrievals, this perceptual memory can function symbolically, standing for referents in the world, and entering into symbol manipulation. As collections of perceptual symbols develop, they constitute the representations that underlie cognition.[105]


According to Barsalou, then, a subset of a perceptual state is stored for use later on in various cognitive processes. Zbikowski uses Barsalou’s theory mainly to describe a route from embodied knowledge to an abstract understanding of rhythm. This understanding then has to be transferred back into bodily movement when we play an instrument or move/dance while listening to music. In the context of consideration here – a rather simple movement pattern performed by participants of a culture where music is not written down or learned systematically – it would appear more likely that movement patterns are in fact stored and retrieved directly. In this case, then, the “neural representation of physical input” not only functions symbolically but also directly informs our motor processes.


The link between rhythm in music and movement may originate early in our childhoods. Several books on music and children address prenatal sound experiences and their assumed relevance to the development of a child’s musical abilities.[106] The human foetus hears rhythmic sounds like its mother’s heartbeat and breathing. It also experiences movements – its own and its mother’s.[107] The prenatal development of the vestibular system is likely relevant to our equation of music and movement, because it is anatomically and physiologically connected to our auditory system. Located in our inner ear, the “saccule” consists of sensory cells that communicate information about head movement to the brain. Interestingly, Jessica Phillips-Silver and Laurel Trainor have conducted studies of seven-month-old infants to see whether the metrical interpretation (duple or triple meter) of an ambiguous musical rhythm would be influenced by body movement.[108] In tandem with other studies conducted with adults, they concluded that “the strong, early-developing relation between the auditory modality and movement-related sensory inputs is maintained in adulthood”[109] and that “musical rhythm patterns elicit movement, that movement of the body can influence auditory perception of the metrical structure of rhythm, and that vestibular and auditory information is integrated in perception.”[110] In his book on the musical lives of young children, John Flohr writes “Children are predisposed to move to the sound of music.”[111] This inclination  appears to be grounded in the interaction between the perception of sounds and the proprioception of body movements at early stages of human development.[112]


Lily Chen-Hafteck has studied her own daughter’s development of physical movement to music. In the first months of life, a lack of muscle control limits her daughter’s ability to exhibit any bodily interaction with music, but between seven and twelve months she begins to move, mainly to the beat. Infants start to perform up-and-down movements with the torso and feet (while lying on the floor) as soon as they are able to, and in line with Chen-Hafteck’s observation, rhythmic music with a definite beat can intensify or interact with such movements. She further reports that by thirteen months her daughter “walked and bounced in standing position to the music.”[113] Such activities demonstrate that vertical movement patterns might well have roots in early childhood and already comprise likely affordances to rhythm in music. In cultures where dance and movement to music is prevalent, music/movement relations would probably develop even faster.


A wide variety of individual participants appear in a typical club environment, however. They all have different bodies with different predispositions for moving to the music. How are consistent vertical movement patterns then spread throughout such a culture? What mechanisms are significant for activating them?


Motor activation


People have an inclination to imitate movements made by others. The recent discovery of “mirror neurons” reveals that motor networks used to perform a certain action are partly triggered by the act of observing someone else performing it.[114] This discovery applies also to sound stimuli. In 2003 the neuroscientist Christian Keysers and his colleagues identified audiovisual mirror neurons that discharged regardless of whether the subjects (monkeys) performed, heard, or saw a specific sound-related action.[115] Istvan Molnar-Szakacs and Katie Overy explain how mirror neurons may apply to music listening:


The experience of music thus involves the perception of purposeful, intentional and organized sequences of motor acts as the cause of temporally synchronous auditory information. Thus, according to the simulation mechanism implemented by the human mirror neuron system, a similar or equivalent motor network is engaged by someone listening to singing/drumming as the motor network engaged by the actual singer/drummer; from the large-scale movements of different notes to the tiny, subtle movements of different timbres.[116]


When we hear someone playing an instrument, then, our mirror neurons will activate parts of the motor system in our brains and thus evoke experiences of movement as if we were actually playing too. This hypothesis is central to the theoretical framework for motor-mimetic processes in the perception of music.[117] Rolf Inge GodŅy emphasizes further the embodied relationship and close connection between perception and action as well as our multimodal manner of perception: “The idea of gestural affordances of musical sound initially rests on the assumption that musical sound is a transducer of source-information, meaning both the actions that go into producing the sound . . . and the material properties of the sound source.”[118] The movements (or gestures) required to produce sounds on an instrument are viewed as a source for a meaningful experience of “sound as movement” for the listener. More precisely, the musical sound evokes our awareness of the instrument as a source for producing it.[119]


Compared to a concert situation, where musicians are visually present, a club environment usually lacks the visual stimuli of relevant source information. But the effect of mirror neurons could still be active on a visual level, because clubgoers watch each other: when someone sees someone else nodding her head or tapping her feet, motor regions for performing these actions may be activated. Many DJs move a lot while they work, providing another potential visual source for vertical movement patterns.[120] Furthermore, according to studies of dance-related motor simulation, this correspondence or imitation is more likely regarding actions with which we have real physical experience.[121] Thus body movements that are already common to a culture will readily recur within it.[122]


To what extent do the musical sounds of electronic dance music serve as a “transducer of source-information”? Even though the club environment is almost devoid of traditional visual musical sources, listeners may draw on related experiences with musical and other sound-producing sources. Depending upon a listener’s knowledge of acoustic drumming, for example, the poumtchak sounds might evoke the action of playing the drums. The four-to-the-floor bass drum pattern is produced with a regular downward movement of the foot on a pedal, one that corresponds perfectly with straightforward (non-drumming) foot tapping. On a more general level, drum sounds may evoke the action of hitting a batter-head with a downward strike. Knowledge of the actual production processes of electronic dance music, however, may counteract this particular motor-mimetic action because the drums are usually programmed (or played on a MIDI-keyboard) rather than played “live,” and they are recognizable as such.


Musicologist Arnie Cox emphasizes the embodied human experience involved in how we make sense of sounds. He believes that we unconsciously compare “sounds we hear with the sounds we have made ourselves,”[123] and that we imitate these sounds (actually or virtually) when we listen to music. Since all humans have a voice box, he sees the voice as vital to these acts of imitation, and it would seem logical that an active use of the voice in making sounds is also relevant to how we experience dance music. The “human beatbox” (the production of rhythmic sounds with the mouth) is a widespread hip-hop phenomenon that may have influenced musical participation in adjacent music cultures. Vertical movement patterns could be affected or even activated by a vocal imitation of the sounds of the poumtchak pattern. However, in order to explain why the poumtchak pattern works so well in this regard, we must look to other mechanisms. 


As mentioned earlier, the steady stream of sounds in the poumtchak pattern provides many critical points of attention. In accordance with Mari Riess Jones’s theories of dynamic attending these critical points can drive bodily oscillations in our distribution of attentional energy. To what extent do such bodily oscillations also equate with the activation of motor commands? Daniel Schneck and Dorita Berger describe correspondences between rhythmic pulse and muscle activation:


Rhythmic pulsation embodies a consistent symmetrical balance of energy output, of fall and rebound . . . of tension and relaxation. Rhythmic vibration in music involves the same steady stream of force–rest–force–rest, of systematic strong and weak impulses, of alternating flexion (contraction), release (relaxation), and extension as in the case for paired and coupled muscular behavior.[124]


A symmetrical rhythmical balance obviously happens in music to varying degrees (when it exists at all), but the poumtchak pattern is an extreme example of such balance, with its specific sounds for both downbeats and upbeats. It communicates an unambiguous rhythmic structure that allows the listener to easily determine the main pulse and convert it to a movement pattern. But, as Schneck and Berger imply, might the rhythmic pulse also activate the muscle commands directly? When a vertical movement pattern is synchronized with the poumtchak pattern in the music, there is powerful correspondence between the alternating sounds and the contractions and relaxations of the muscles (force-rest-force-rest). The movements in either direction are supported by a unique sound, which means that there is a direct relationship between sounds and movements.[125] The extensive use of the poumtchak pattern also in aerobic mixes further indicates its connection to muscle activation. As pointed out by one of the informants of Sophie Belcher’s study of aerobic classes, music with a simple strong beat made him/her work out harder.[126] This may be because the oscillation of attentional energy initiated by the steady stream of critical points in the rhythmic pattern also causes oscillations in muscular behaviour – the external rhythm (in the music) drives the internal rhythm (in the body), not only in terms of perception but also in terms of actual rhythmic movement of the body.


Verticality in music


But why down on the downbeat and up on the upbeat? Here I will pursue the idea that motor schemas are formed through our perceived understanding of verticality in music – of high and low, up and down, above and below, and ascending and descending.[127] This will clarify the link between low-frequency and high-frequency sounds and the low and high positions in a vertical movement pattern.


Sound waves, of course, do not actually move up or down in physical space with the pitch we are experiencing, as Arnie Cox points out: “Verticality is not inherent in music (let alone in its notational representation); it is not there to be observed (heard) in the music, but it is instead a product of logical, metaphoric conceptualization.”[128] Or as Björn Vickhoff adds: “Although there are no obvious directions of melody movement, most listeners feel directions in music. When the melody is moving ‘upwards’ or ‘downwards’ you get a feeling of spatial direction.”[129] Such processes of conceptualization have been addressed by cognitive semantics.[130] In Philosophy in the Flesh from 1999, linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson employ the concept of “primary metaphors” (as opposed to “complex metaphors”) to illustrate the basic connection that exists between abstract and literal expressions.[131] Primary metaphors are metaphors that have been incorporated into our worldview so thoroughly that we no longer see them as metaphors. They are based on correlations between expressions and embodied experiences and are, according to Lakoff and Johnson, fundamental to all thinking regarding subjective experience and judgement:


We do not have a choice as to whether to acquire and use primary metaphor. Just by functioning normally in the world, we automatically and unconsciously acquire and use a vast number of such metaphors. Those metaphors are realized in our brains physically and are mostly beyond our control. They are a consequence of the nature of our brains, our bodies, and the world we inhabit.[132]


With reference to Christopher Johnson’s “theory of conflation,”[133] Lakoff and Johnson then describe how primary metaphors are formed: “For young children, subjective (nonsensorimotor) experiences and judgments, on the one hand, and sensorimotor experiences, on the other, are so regularly conflated—undifferentiated in experience—that for a time children do not distinguish between the two when they occur together.”[134] Lakoff and Johnson use the example of the subjective experience of affection and the sensory experience of warmth through being held.[135] Even when children eventually develop the ability to differentiate between them, they will preserve associations from one domain (the “source domain”) to the other (the “target domain”). Thus “affection” and “warmth” will be connected, and in relation to affective meaning, “warmth” may be used where no actual (literal) high temperature is present. Similarly, metaphors are linked to movements: when we use “falling” metaphorically in the phrase “falling asleep,” the downward movement is projected upon the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness. Yet we have not “fallen” anywhere.


Verticality underpins our understanding of music as well, though the adverbs “up” and “down” and the adjectives “high” and “low” imply nonexistent spatial orientations there.[136] According to Lakoff and Johnson such parallels “arise from the fact that we have bodies of the sort we have and that they function as they do in our physical environment.”[137] Motor schemas and image schemas are parts of the conceptual structure we form through sensorimotor experience and visual perception. Bob Snyder describes schemas as “memory structures created by generalizations made across seemingly similar situations in the environment.”[138] These affect perception and shape actions. In the same way that we use image schemas as points of departure for producing images when we are told stories, we use motor schemas to form motor commands when listening, dancing, conducting, singing, or playing an instrument. A motor schema related to tempo in music will support a correspondence between fast rhythms and rapid body movements; a motor schema related to verticality in music will encourage vertical movements in response to pitch. This latter motor schema has been shaped through our encounter with sources of verticality in music. Cox refers to ten such sources that possess both literal and metaphoric features:


Of the ten sources of verticality, three are based on literal vertical relations—(1) verticality in staff notation, (2) verticality in vocal experience, and (3) the propagation of sound waves—and seven are based on metaphoric verticality—(4) “higher” and “lower” frequencies, (5) the “higher” and “lower” perceived loudness levels of high and low notes, (6) the “higher” and “lower” amounts of air used for high and low notes, (7) the “higher” and “lower” magnitudes of effort needed for high and low notes, (8) the “higher” and “lower” degrees of tension in producing high and low notes, (9) the association of “high” levels of emotional intensity and pitch at climaxes, and (10) the metaphoric state-locations of tones in pitch space.[139]


Several of these sources are mainly corporeally experienced and do not have to trigger any explicit knowledge before helping us to form motor schemas. In a culture where music is written (as notation) and actively learned, verticality in music likely arises from a mixture of rational and corporeal knowledge. Presumably the participants in the main survey presented in the preceding chapter are to some extent familiar with notation, possess at least some vocal experience, and recognize the concept of “high” and “low” frequencies. Music students are undoubtedly more accustomed to notation and the conventions surrounding singing and playing instruments than clubgoers are as well. Still, a producer of dance music, it should be noted, constantly confronts the notion of “high” and “low” frequencies. The sound systems in clubs are usually organized with separate subwoofers and tweeters that are situated vertically, so that “low” sounds come from the speaker beneath the one that produces “high” sounds.[140] The loud volume level in clubs also intensifies how sounds resonate in our body. Low-frequency sound waves have a greater impact than high-frequency waves in how they are felt most noticeably in boneless body regions like the abdomen, which is obviously below our ears (and eyes), thereby contributing to the physical realization of a “low” frequency.[141]


Sensorimotor experiences are important to both image schemas and motor schemas. The alternation of “low” and “high” is not as obviously “vertical” as a continuous pitch movement either up or down, but in relation to a vertical movement pattern, the structural parallel is pivotal. The bass drum sound evokes the “low” position of verticality, while the hi-hat sound evokes the “high” position. While theories of motor-mimetic processes view musical sound as a “transducer of source-information,[142] it may also be a transducer of verticality-information, from music to spatial orientation. The information that is part of the alternating “low” and “high” in the poumtchak pattern is thereby transduced to analogous up-and-down movements.[143]


Head nodding, upper-body bouncing, foot tapping and similar vertical movement patterns are also performed in response to music with other rhythm patterns, but certain features seem to make the poumtchak pattern especially effective in evoking them.


1. The steady stream of reference points (critical points of attention) using specific sounds to mark out the downbeats (the bass drum) and upbeats (the hi-hat) of a basic rhythmic structure. The alternating pattern of bass drum and hi-hat sounds not only marks out the rhythmic pulse but communicates the basic rhythmic structure very clearly. This steady stream of reference points makes it easy to achieve synchronization of attentional energy and motor commands.


2. The regular alternation of the low-frequency bass drum sound and the high-frequency hi-hat sound. These alternating sounds offer the listener a musical verticality that can be mapped directly onto the “down” and “up” positions in a vertical movement pattern. When a motor schema of up and down is mapped onto the “up” and “down” in music, the “low” bass drum and the “high” hi-hat can be experienced as literally generating “up” and “down” movements.  


3. The interaction of these two features. In the figure below, an undulating line is drawn onto a sonogram of the poumtchak pattern. The bass drum sounds are the four dark areas at the lower part of the sonogram, while the hi-hat sounds are the four pillars between them. The positioning of the sounds in the sonogram emphasizes their vertical relation, and the metric grid on top displays the rhythmic structure of downbeats and upbeats. The undulating line illustrates a vertical movement pattern but might also indicate oscillatory processes such as the distribution of attentional energy (where both the peaks and the troughs indicate peaks of attentional energy) and muscle commands (where the peaks and troughs indicate contractions and relaxations of the muscles).



Figure 4.5: A sonogram of a poumtchak pattern (from Daft Punk’s PhŌnix, 1996, 0:15–0:17) in a grid showing the metric structure with an undulating line illustrating a possible movement pattern and/or oscillations in bodily processes such as the distribution of attentional energy or muscle commands.


Notions of verticality, which are embedded in our understanding of musical rhythm (downbeat/upbeat), form clear expectations about which sounds are appropriate in what positions in a rhythmic structure. If the bass drum sound is associated with “heaviness” and the hi-hat with “lightness,” this leads to notions of accented and unaccented beats and ultimately to assumptions regarding the overall metric structure.[144] It may be difficult to pinpoint which of these features is at stake when a correspondence between the poumtchak pattern and a vertical movement pattern occurs. However, the fact that their combination and interaction is likely to increase the chances of such an occurrence seems to be beyond doubt.




In this chapter I have presented and discussed various theoretical contributions towards the elucidation of the correspondence between the musical poumtchak pattern and a vertical movement pattern. I have discussed how the poumtchak pattern contains impulses for synchronized movements and, moreover, how its conveyed verticality leads to expectations about direction of movement.


In the realm of attention and perception processes, James J. Gibson’s theories of ecological perception, and his term “affordance,” suggest ways in which a musical pattern might capture our attention. Gibson proposes that the “affordances” of the environment guide our perception and direct our attention to what is relevant in specific situations. If the poumtchak pattern affords movements in a club environment – that is, it is relevant because we can move to it – then we attend to it.


Mari Riess Jones’s works on entrainment and the ways in which we attend to music offer a theoretical explanation for how a “driven rhythm” – a responding oscillation of attentiveness in the listener, may align itself with the “driving rhythm” of the music. She claims that certain critical points in the music demand our attention and, in turn, encourage the forming of expectations regarding when such critical points are likely to reoccur. The poumtchak pattern has a steady stream of reference points that would work as these critical points in the distribution of attentional energy, in turn facilitating the synchronization between musical rhythms and bodily oscillations.


Gibson’s theories on perceptual learning processes clarify connections between vertical movement patterns and musical rhythms. According to Gibson, we acquire connections between perception and action through individual experimentation and guided learning throughout our lives. In this way we come to code vertical movement patterns onto the input of a rhythm pattern (like the poumtchak). Lawrence Zbikowski even suggests a link between rhythm in music and basic physical human activities like walking or jumping. Correspondences between musical rhythm and body movement at early stages of a child’s development strengthen this presumed link.


The prevalence of vertical movement patterns in a club environment, and the mechanisms that activate them, may be further explored using research and theories on motor-mimetic processes. Our inclination to imitate others, first of all, is supported by the discovery of “mirror neurons” – motor networks are activated not only when we perform an action, but also when we observe one. Thus motor networks related to the production of sounds on instruments may be activated when we observe or hear someone else who is playing.


The poumtchak pattern consists of a steady stream of alternating sounds that clearly communicates a rhythmic structure of downbeats and upbeats. The resemblance between rhythmic pulsation and coupled muscle behaviour facilitates a conversion of musical pulse to vertical movement patterns and reveals the link between the alternating sounds of the poumtchak pattern and the activation of muscle commands. The movement in a specific direction (down on the downbeat, up on the upbeat) must be associated with a commonly shared experience of perceived verticality in music. The metaphor theory of Lakoff and Johnson elucidates how such a notion of verticality might originate in metaphors at a basic, unconscious level, which is useful, given that verticality in music is simply a construction of our understanding (sound waves do not move up or down). Lakoff and Johnson explain how our use of metaphors is linked to sensorimotor experiences that form our understanding and shape image schemas and motor schemas. Bodily experiences of musical verticality thus contribute to motor schemas that provide a direct link between the “low” and “high” sounds of the poumtchak pattern and the “low” and “high” positions of a vertical movement pattern.


Three points stands out as especially relevant to the correspondence between the poumtchak pattern and a vertical movement pattern; (1) the steady stream of structural reference points in the music, (2) the alternation of two sounds with opposite frequency content, and (3) the interaction of these two characteristics. The poumtchak’s rhythmic clarity and verticality work together to activate the proper motor commands and synchronize a vertical movement pattern with the music.   


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[1] For example, see Brown & Griese 2000, Snoman 2004, Hawkins 2004, and Fassbender 2005.

[2] Hawkins 2004:77.

[3] Snoman 2004:272.

[4] Lawrence uses “four-on-the-top” in a similar way to indicate a snare drum sounding on all four beats of the measure, as was typical in 1960s Motown productions, for example. The name four-on-the-floor likely reflects the literal location of the bass drum as well as the sound’s musical function (Lawrence 2003:120).

[5] See Lawrence 2003:120. The term “disco beat” would probably be perfectly clear to many drummers and other musicians but not to most disco fans. This beat was not used often in its pure form in the 1970s, at least compared to the more established “backbeat.” Its role is particularly pronounced in 1990s electronic dance music, however, so it would appear to merit a new name now.

[6] William H. McNeill describes the emotions aroused by the collective experience of “drilling” and its similarity to other forms of rhythmic movement to music, especially around the bonding of “keeping together in time” (McNeill 1995:4).

[7] See Lawrence 2003:120 and Shapiro 2005:140. A similar cymbal pattern can be heard in a recording of the Caribbean group the Beginning of the End called Funky Nassau from 1971. According to Lawrence (2003:84), this recording was played by the New York DJ David Mancuso at the Loft in the period 1970–73. The group Osibisa, with three Caribbean and three Ghanaian members, was also vital to the process of introducing African/Caribbean rhythms to the American audience. In the recording Dance the Body Music from 1976, the cowbell pattern (struck on the last three upbeats of a 4/4 measure) has a similar rhythmic effect to Young’s hi-hat pattern.

[8] Chin 1999:32–33.

[9] Moroder was probably inspired by the German production duo Michael Kunze and Silvester Levay and their 1975 hits with Silver Convention (Fly, Robin Fly and Save Me).

[10] Lawrence 2003:174.

[11] For example, Arthur Russell, Go Bang (1982), and Alexander Robotnick, Problémes d’amour (1983).

[12] Source: Webpage 3.1.

[13] Jackson 2004:18 (Phil Jackson).

[14] Why this might be so will be discussed in detail in the next chapter.

[15] Buckland 2002:72.

[16] Various tempi and how they shape movements also define genres. A comparison of the music video for the hip-hop artist Hodge’s Head Nod (1995), with a tempo of 89 bpm, with the music video for Basement Jaxx’s club remix of Missy Elliott’s 4 My People (2002), with a tempo of 131 bpm, reveals many similar movement patterns that are performed at different speeds and in various manners. The differences in how the movements are performed signify how corporeality in music is linked to questions of identity and cultural affiliation.  

[17] The music video for Paul McCartney’s Nod Your Head (2007) is filled with head nodding (and upper-body bouncing) throughout the video. All of the examples are in synch with the tempo and in the same direction – that is, going down on the downbeat and up on the upbeat.

[18] Tagg uses the term “interobjective” to refer to “consistency of sound events between two or more pieces of music” (Tagg 1982:49).

[19] Ibid.:51.

[20] Todd Terry is a legendary New York house DJ/producer, and Everything but the Girl (EBTG) is the name of an English pop duo (Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt). EBTG moved from traditional pop to electronic dance music during the 1990s.

[21] This is not in fact especially typical of club remixes, but it is an advantage for this type of comparative study.

[22] Counterrhythmic patterns are discussed in chapter 6.

[23] Why the poumtchak pattern is especially effective as a basic beat will be considered in chapter 4, while the tension created by counterrhythmic elements will be discussed further in chapter 6.

[24] There are several DVDs that display scenes from club and dance environments – for example, Modulations: cinema for the ear (1998), Intellect: techno house progressive (2003), and Maestro (2005). These show many scenes from clubs with head nodding and upper-body bouncing that quite convincingly connect the poumtchak pattern to vertical body movements, despite the fact that the audio tracks for these DVDs seem to have been added to the scenes afterwards.

[25] This track also undergoes extensive musical analysis both in chapter 6 and in the concluding part of this study, and thus represents an opportunity to link video analysis to musical analysis.

[26] Several scenes are shot at the Brixton Market. Brixton has a large population of African and Caribbean descent that dominates the scenes from the area in the music video.

[27] Toasting is a Jamaican-influenced rap style.

[28] See, for example, productions by Pure Energy, Power Productions, Koreography Klub, and Muscle Mixes; see also webpage 3.2.

[29] See Karageorghis & Terry 1997 for an overview of research related to the general effect of music in sports and exercise.

[30] DeNora 2000:91–92.

[31] For example, DeNora 2000:88–103 and Įysĺd 2003.

[32] This study was a part of a project led by Tia DeNora and presented in her book Music in Everyday Life from 2000.

[33] DeNora 2000:89.

[34] Ibid.:96.

[35] Įysĺd 2003:60.

[36] A diagram in DeNora’s book of a successful aerobics session shows a tempo starting at 130 bpm, increasing to 140 bpm, then concluding at 127 bpm (DeNora 2000:94).

[37] Electronic dance music tracks are often structured in shorter sections of four, eight, or sixteen measures, where small variations are introduced at the beginning of each new section. Such forms are well suited to workout sessions.

[38] DeNora 2000:96.

[39] See Rouget 1985.

[40] DeNora 2000:101.

[41] Becker stresses the cultural richness and variability of trance-related contexts but still points to certain “defining characteristics” (Becker 2004:43). These also concern the music involved.

[42] Įysĺd 2003:60.

[43] The Facebook group is named Addicted to house music and has more than five thousand members worldwide (as of September 2008).

[44] The full Facebook message is included here as Appendix 1. This preliminary survey took place in May/June 2007.

[45] In addition, two respondents provided other alternatives: “Side to side” and “Side to side and up and down with a slightly swung rhythm.” Among the few who answered “No” to the second question was “Daniel,” a DJ from South Africa, who told me how participants of his club milieu moved in the opposite direction of what was predominant for the poumtchak pattern. This opposite movement pattern was in his club considered to be more “rhythmical”: “Maybe, subconsciously, dancers and djs here react in a pulsating way, imitating a throbbing subwoofer (which expands on the bass drum). However, I must admit that on second thought, I don’t think that the movement can be regarded as purely instinctual. It could be more of a cultural difference which is developed through experience on our dancefloors. It is forced upon those who do not want to look out of place (or rhythm!)” (Facebook message from Daniel 26/5/2007).

[46] Some supplied more information, such as “I would only tilt my head vertically, I would not do strong headbutt movements. Or maybe clap my hands,” or “If it’s only that sound, the movement nearly always tends to come from my hands (not dancing). I have a habit of marking the hi-hat with wags of my right index finger.”

[47] The many affirmative answers may indicate a relation to movement more connected to musical verticality than to structure. But how the question immediately follows a realization of the poumtchak pattern has to be taken into consideration. In a break section of a track where the bass drum has been removed, it is likely that the listener would continue to nod upward on the tchak, but then structural aspects undoubtedly are in play. Whether a sole repetitive hi-hat sound, heard out of context, will make the respondents move upward remains unclear.

[48] See Appendix 2.

[49] Due to difficulties concerning anonymity issues, I decided not to conduct a study that incorporated filming people in clubs.

[50] See Appendix 3.

[51] See page 5.

[52] My transcription is copied from Butler 2006:102.

[53] For a discussion of counterrhythmic patterns in electronic dance music, see page Error! Bookmark not defined..

[54] SD (standard deviation) measures the dispersion of the collected values.

[55] The sixty-nine-year-old respondent represented an outlier (relative to the rest of the group), but I decided not to remove the respondent since the answers did not deviate particularly from the majority (except for section 6, where the respondent answered Don’t Know on all three questions). Without this respondent, the mean age would have been 25.5 with a SD of 5.35, with a range of nineteen to forty-eight years.

[56] This assumption would probably have been more applicable to a group of music students who were also experts in rock’n’roll music from the 1950s.

[57] See, for example, Fraisse 1982:151ff and McKinney & Moelants 2006 for discussions on preferred tempo.

[58] I do not see it as a problem that the group self-selected by deciding to participate or not. The intention was not that the respondents should be representative of the larger group of music students but that they represent examples of moving bodies.

[59] Moving the feet or lower body, for example, might cause the upper body to compensate by moving in the opposite direction, thus reversing the (expected) direction of movement.

[60] The nature and size of the present participant sample prohibited the statistical analysis of the effect of musical preferences and cultural background on the bodily experience of the poumtchak pattern.

[61] Since few respondents used the “Don’t Know” alternative, and a slight majority also experienced the most satisfaction/engagement while moving, it would appear that these movements were generally comfortable for this group.

[62] This illustration is part of a larger illustration that includes the brain and its various areas (from an article by neurologist Mark Jude Tramo; see Tramo 2001:55).

[63] For an overview, see Zatorre et al. 2007.

[64] Chen et al. 2008.

[65] The sound system, volume level, type of event, conditions of the physical listening environment, and so on also influence the outcome of a listening experience.

[66] Varela et al. 1991:27.

[67] In their influential book on embodied cognition from 1991, Francisco Varela and his colleagues point specifically to Buddhist meditative psychology, where reflection is a form of experience that is performed with an awareness of one’s physical presence.

[68] Gibson 1979.

[69] Space prohibits a detailed description of the physiological processes of sensory transduction.

[70] Gibson 1979:127.

[71] Graham Pike and Graham Edgar point to Gibson’s occasionally ambiguous explanations of the processes that actually link perception to action. They see his description of the ways in which the perceptual system resonates with the information from the surrounding environment, without the intervention of cognitive processes, as lacking as an explanation of, for example, how a memory of prior experiences affects the actions (see Pike and Edgar 2005, 80–90).

[72] According to an article by Stephanie Pain (1999) in the magazine New Scientist, the California ground squirrel has evolved to be able to determine a rattlesnake’s size and body temperature (a warm snake is more dangerous than a cold one) by its rattling sound. This information is used to instantly gauge the threat the snake represents.

[73] Gibson 1979:149.

[74] The term “perception-action cycle” was first introduced by the psychologist Ulric Neisser (see Neisser 1976).

[75] Clarke 2005:62.

[76] See Clarke 2005:19ff for further discussion of the perception-action cycle.

[77] Clarke 2005:38.

[78] My summary of Jones’s theoretical perspectives is largely based upon her book chapter “Attention and Timing” from 2004, which is in turn based on earlier studies (see Jones 1976, 1990 and 1992). Her productive work with Edward W. Large is presented in their joint article titled “The Dynamics of Attending: How People Track Time-Varying Events” from 1999.

[79] The notion of entrainment dates back to the seventeenth century, when Christiaan Huygens noticed that two pendulum clocks placed on a common support would eventually synchronize with one another. See Clayton et al. 2005:4ff for a historical overview of the concept.

[80] A relevant topic beyond the scope of the present study concerns neural activation patterns: psychologist Daniel N. Stern, for example, points to “oscillatory” neural processes in describing how “adaptive oscillators” act like clocks and how their rate of neural firing can be “adjusted to match the rate of an incoming stimulation” (Stern 2004:80). Miriam Zacksenhouse has also identified “intrinsic oscillators” in neural circuits as the “basic building blocks of central pattern generators” (Zacksenhouse 2001:301).

[81] See also Gibson 1979:93ff.

[82] Jones 2004:50.

[83] Loc. cit. Emphasis in the original.

[84] Loc. cit.

[85] Loc. cit.

[86] Ibid.:52.

[87] Ibid.:53, 57.

[88] In the illustrations, the oscillations representing attention are portrayed as uniform waves, though it is in fact likely that attention will peak in particular at the introduction of the pattern or when the pattern is interrupted by a conflicting sound or a shift in character. “Habituation” refers to a reduction in degree of response after a stimulus has been repeated several times; it may occur at various points and reduces one’s attentional energy (Purves et al. 2008:330). The complementary energy from a moving body probably shapes these processes; moreover, the poumtchak pattern normally occurs in connection with other rhythmic patterns, and these combinations will of course impact habituation as well.

[89] Jones 2004:54.

[90] Jones & Boltz 1989:470.

[91] In Albert S. Bregman’s book Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound (1990) he explains stream segregation in the perceptual processes of the human auditory system. His theories can elucidate how we group the various entries of a complex sound mix into separate streams.

[92] Clayton 2007:51.

[93] See Naish 2005 and unit 4 of Purves et al. 2008 for further descriptions of attention processes.

[94] For a good introduction to motor processes; see David A. Rosenbaum’s book Human Motor Control (1991).

[95] See, for example, Snyder 2000:chap. 6 and Rutherford 2005 for descriptions of long-term memory.

[96] Gibson 1979:258; emphasis in the original.

[97] His wife, the psychologist Eleanor J. Gibson, has also done substantial research on perceptual learning processes; see, for example, Gibson & Pick 2000. For perceptual learning processes in relation to music, see Clarke 2005:22ff.

[98] Clarke 2005:22.

[99] Vickhoff 2008:85.

[100] Certainly the Western inclination to favour melody as the main focal point in popular music will hinder listeners’ ability to differentiate among sounds that are considered to be “accompaniment.”

[101] The bio-kinetics of movement and the effects of gravity and various inertial forces on the moving body might also be relevant for my discussions. See van Norden 2010. Among the topics Van Norden discusses are connections between human locomotion, dance, and tempo in music (157ff).

[102] Zbikowski 2004:273.

[103] Ibid.:277-278.

[104] Ibid.:276.

[105] Barsalou 1999:577–578. Barsalou contrasts his theories with “amodal symbol systems” where “perceptual states are transduced into a completely new representational system that describes these states amodally” (ibid.: 579). Here he intersects with Gibson, who also favoured a view of perception whereby information is directly interpreted from its stimulus, in contrast to a view of perception as an act of gathering, organizing, and interpreting unstructured data by our brains.

[106] See Flohr 2005 and McPherson 2006.

[107] See DeNora 2000:77 and Parncutt 2006.

[108] Phillips-Silver & Trainor 2005.

[109] Philips-Silver & Trainor 2007:543.

[110] Philips-Silver & Trainor 2008:100.

[111] Flohr 2005:98.

[112] It should be noted that because a mother’s movements and vocal sounds (singing, talking, dancing, playing an instrument), as well as the sounds from outside, communicate a specific cultural context, this stage/process of human development should not be considered “universal.” Middleton writes: “Modern genetic theory insists that the question of whether ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ has priority is in principle not susceptible of resolution; this is because it is impossible to find, or to conceive of finding, even the smallest, the most embryonic bit of human nature which is not already nurtured” (Middleton 1993:178).

[113] Chen-Hafteck 2004:3. The pleasure children derive from bouncing, jumping and swinging may also have a biological basis. Hodges writes: “The cerebellum is directly linked to the limbic system, specifically a region of the hypothalamus known as the pleasure center. The result is that body movement brings pleasure” (Hodges 1996:44).

[114] See Rizzolatti & Craighero 2004.

[115] Keysers et al. 2003.

[116] Molnar-Szakacs et al. 2006:236.

[117] The term “motor-mimetic” was introduced by Rolf Inge GodŅy

 (2001). He and his colleagues use the term “musical gesture” to denote a combination of sound and movement that affords meaning. See GodŅy & Leman 2010.

[118] GodŅy 2010:106; emphasis in the original.

[119] In an experiment on “air piano,” GodŅy and his colleagues investigated how the instrument provided source information to respondents of different knowledge levels. They found a fairly clear correspondence between the participants’ movements and the actions that were actually needed to produce the sounds on the instrument, though obviously the experts were able to imitate this more closely (GodŅy et al. 2006).

[120] Vertical movement patterns probably also derive from the auxiliary movements of musicians, which audiences pick up through motor-mimetic processes. By watching musicians playing rhythmic patterns while moving their heads, upper bodies, or feet, spectators adopt the same vertical movement patterns and gradually transfer them to listening scenarios. Musicians are at times also spectators as well and may transfer performance-related movements to the activities of listening or dancing.

[121] Calvo-Merino et al. 2005 and 2006; Cross et al. 2006.

[122] Leen De Bruyn and colleagues conducted an experiment with children and adolescents who were dancing to music that compared a situation in which they could see each other with one in which they could not. It demonstrated that both intensity of movements and mean synchronization to the beat were greater in the former situation, which indicates the significance of social interaction when dancing and moving to music (De Bruyn et al. 2009).

[123] Cox 1999:59.

[124] Schneck & Berger 2006:139.

[125] A simple experiment to test sound’s significance for movement is to compare (1) a side-to-side or up-and-down head movement accompanied by a tic-toc-tic-toc with (2) the same movement accompanied by only tic–tic– (same tempo, but without the toc in between).

[126] See quotation on page 27. DeNora 2000:101.

[127] I use the simple plural form “schemas” instead of the standard form “schemata”.

[128] Cox 1999:50; emphasis in the original.

[129] Vickhoff 2008:52.

[130] See Lakoff & Johnson 1980 and 1999, and Johnson 1987. Also see Echard 1999, Aksnes 2001 and 2002, Larson 2002, and Gur 2008 for analyses drawing upon the Lakoff-Johnson theory of metaphor as related to meaning in music.

[131] The distinction was introduced by Joe Grady, who used “primitive” and “compound” in an article from 1996 (Grady et al. 1996) before settling upon “primary” and “complex.”

[132] Lakoff & Johnson 1999:59, emphasis in the original.

[133] Johnson 1999.

[134] Lakoff & Johnson 1999:46.

[135] Loc. cit.

[136] My eldest daughter at the age of six already had ideas of “up” and “down” in music, even though she was not familiar with notation. If I asked her to sing a “high” note, she tended to stretch her upper body so as to reach “up” to the pitch, and vice versa. These movements may point to the fact that it is easier (and therefore more natural) to lift the head/upper body and stretch the throat to make “higher” pitches; on the other hand, perhaps my daughter had already adapted to the metaphoric understanding of verticality in music. Zbikowski confirms that “low” sounds resonate in our chests while “high” sounds do not (they seem instead to be located nearer to our heads); Zbikowski 1998:3.9. On the question of the universality of verticality in music Zbikowski also remarks upon how other languages characterize pitch relations differently: “Greek music theorists of antiquity spoke not of ‘high’ and ‘low’ but of ‘sharpness’ and ‘heaviness’; in Bali and Java pitches are not ‘high’ and ‘low’ but ‘small’ and ‘large’; and among the Suyá of the Amazon basin, pitches are not ‘high’ and ‘low’ but ‘young’ and ‘old’” (Zbikowski 1998:3.5). See Cox 1999:31ff for further discussion of the various cultural sources of vertical relations.

[137] Lakoff & Johnson 1980:14.

[138] Snyder 2000:102.

[139] Cox 1999:18–19. Some of these sources are based on the experience of singing or playing certain instruments and are blended with other metaphoric associations of “high” and “low,” especially greater or lesser quantities/magnitudes (“more = up, less = down”) (Lakoff & Johnson 1980:15).

[140] This vertical placement has little specific impact upon low frequencies, but high frequencies are generally more directional, so tweeters are often placed at ear height. See Rossing et al. 2002: chap. 24.

[141] The bio-kinetics of movement and the effects of gravity and various inertial forces on the moving body might also be relevant for my discussion. See van Norden 2010.

[142] GodŅy 2010:106; emphasis in the original.

[143] Descending pitch movements are common features in the bass drum sounds created for electronic dance music tracks; see chapter 8.

[144] After I posed a question concerning the poumtchak pattern and its corresponding movements on in June 2007, a discussion started between two DJs about sounds and verticality versus rhythmic structure in determining up-and-down dance movements: see webpage 4.1.