In music literature, rhythm is defined relative to a certain tempo, and tempo is defined relative to a certain rhythm. This vicious circle implies that any sequence of time durations can be regarded as either (a) a sequence of these durations at a constant tempo or (b) a sequence of equal durations at a varying tempo or (c) a sequence of unequal durations at a varying tempo in numerous ways. Most listeners, however, perceive rhythm and tempo in the same way, which we explain as the result of a close interaction of the grouping and simplicity laws of Gestalt psychology.
Operationally, the complexity of a data representation is defined as the amount of memory that is required for the algorithm of the data generation. Each rhythm-tempo representation includes rhythmic patterns and the tempo curve that ‘generates’ their augmentations and diminutions in time. The complexity of such a representation is split between the rhythmic patterns and the tempo curve, and the representation with the least total complexity is selected. Rhythm and tempo are thus complementary structures that mutually adapt according to the criterion of simplicity, which leads to an optimal rhythm-tempo perception. ... mehr
In addition to general provisions, we consider a few rules for grouping time events into patterns, a directed search for optimal representations of time events, and the influence of the musical context on the perception of rhythm and tempo.