Rhythm in embodied interaction

Research suggests that synchronizing with others may be fundamental to human survival (Cross 2006; Arom 1991; Hall 1983) and that we learn this capacity through motherese, mother–baby talk (Condon and Sander 1974; Malloch and Trevarthen 2009; Miall and Dissanayake 2003). Humans are able to achieve heightened moments of connection with each other expressed in rhythmic simultaneous synchrony (Condon 1970; Gill 2002), where they can share a tacit level of understanding (Gill 2004).

Synchronizing with others facilitates emotional well-being and empathy (Rabinowitch et al. 2011), which suggests that emotional well-being is part of human survival. Condon suggested that synchrony facilitates the basic human need in communication to avoid loss and to release inner tension. In an interview with Boston University Radio in 1970, he describes how the conventions of greetings in everyday conversation allow us to achieve this efficiently in a very brief time frame with recognizable phrasing and rhythm.

In order to develop a conceptual framework for rhythm in embodied interaction, the paper explores a terrain of work that can inform this. This includes notions of rhythmic synchrony in pragmatics, embodied interaction in time, rhythm in presence, intra- and interpersonal synchrony, and entrainment. The paper is divided into thematic sections. Pragmatics and Rhythmic Synchrony discusses the emergence of the relation between rhythm in music and language. Time in Embodied Interaction explores the three inter-related notions of entrainment (mutual adaptation), synchrony (moving together simultaneously) and rhythm (flow, a form of entrainment), drawing on analyses of time in social and musical interaction. Survival explores research on the proto-musicality of rhythm in interpersonal encounters and group synchrony. Rhythm draws together concepts around rhythm that inform on the nature of presence, of witnessing and being witnessed. Synchrony , which focuses on intra- and interpersonal synchrony, considers its effects on physical and emotional well-being and explores synchrony from music psychology, kinesics (body movement), and phonetics. Entrainment explores everyday mutual synchronization and entrainment behaviours, drawing upon research in interpersonal interaction and how it extends the model of entrainment formed in ethnomusicology, touching on research in music in cognition, and attentional dynamics. The subsection on Neuroscience and entrainment considers work in neuroscience on rhythm and entrainment with regard to the relationship of body to sound and empathy. This includes mirror neurons, the neurobiology of rhythmic motor entrainment, and music and neuroscience. Although neuroscientific work in interpersonal synchrony is just forming, this work that has been done provides useful information about human synchrony and perception of sound at the neural level.