Hemiolas in Non-Isochronous Meters

Jay Smith, Texas Woman's University

A provocative title such as "Hemiolas in Non-Isochronous Meters" likely arouses skepticism. Indeed, non-isochronous meters are incompatible with Richard Cohn's conception of hemiolas: "any successive or simultaneous conflict between a bisection and trisection of a single time-span." Cohn recognizes the limitations of his methodology, a limitation addressed by Zachary Cairns, who posited "shared-cardinality grouping dissonances" that occur in non-isochronous meters. Although Cairns's methodology illustrates occurrences of grouping dissonance involving non-isochronous pulses, it does not illuminate relative level of dissonance as Cohn does. Cohn addresses level of dissonance by expounding simple, double, and complex hemiolas, the latter defined as 2:3 conflict occurring at three or more metrical levels. This paper brings together Cairns's discussions of shared-cardinality grouping dissonance and Cohn's hemiolas by modifying Cohn's metric states and metric space visuals to allow for non-isochronous pulses. These modifications illuminate metrical conflict in a variety of repertoires, including Holst's "Mars" from The Planets, Gabriel Pierné's Piano Quintet, no. 41, and Heitor Villa-Lobos's Próle do Bébé, no. 2.