When I was learning about the Fourier transform (which can be used to extract a frequency spectrum from an audio signal), it occurred to me that a rhythm could be thought of as an "audio signal," and might be interesting to look at through the microscope of the Fourier Transform.
Because the standard Fourier transform is not ideal for rhythm (which has relatively few interesting data points), I made a variant that is a little more suitable, and which could run in real-time on a slow computer. Because the results were a little less perfect than a true Fourier transform, I called it Furry .
The display below is based on a rhythm with a long note alternating with a short note:
Tapping this rhythm into Furry (download FURRY.EXE , an MS-DOS program) generates the following display:
The peak at the left corresponds to the 3 period (the dotted half); the largest peak correspond to the 1 period (the quarter). The smaller peaks to the right are "overtones" -- subdivisions of the beat.
Furry shows things about tempo and about what we might call "the feeling of the beat," but it doesn't give much insight into what rhythmic figures are about. This experiment led me to think of rhythm less as a string of beats or pulses, and more as a hierarchy of gestures .