WE INVESTIGATED PEOPLES' ABILITY TO ADAPT TO THE fluctuating tempi of music performance. In Experiment 1, four pieces from different musical styles were chosen, and performances were recorded from a skilled pianist who was instructed to play with natural expression. Spectral and rescaled range analyses on interbeat interval time-series revealed long-range (1/f type) serial correlations and fractal scaling in each piece. Stimuli for Experiment 2 included two of the performances from Experiment 1, with mechanical versions serving as controls. Participants tapped the beat at ¼¼- and ⅛⅛-note metrical levels, successfully adapting to large tempo fluctuations in both performances. Participants predicted the structured tempo fluctuations, with superior performance at the ¼¼-note level. Thus, listeners may exploit long-range correlations and fractal scaling to predict tempo changes in music.
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