Rhythm under the Microscope: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Microrhythm and Groove in Popular Music

25-27 September 2024, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Institute of Popular Music

Organized by Ralf von Appen in Collaboration with David S. Carter (Loyola Marymount University)

Keynotes: Anne Danielsen (RITMO, University of Oslo) and Justin London (Carleton College)

Call for Paper Presentations and Workshops

Since Charles Keil (1987) argued that very small variations in timing, which he called “participatory discrepancies,” were crucial for a sensation of groove, microrhythm has been the subject of much scholarship in a variety of disciplines. Researchers have struggled to find convincing empirical evidence for the aesthetic effects proposed by Keil. Today, however, numerous studies show that timbre, center frequency, dynamic envelope and duration influence the perception of rhythmic “feel” at least as much as timing. Recently, Danielsen et al. (2024, 180) suggested distinguishing between microtiming and microrhythm, using the latter as a broader term that encompasses not just timing but also these additional aspects.

The range of disciplines, methods, and objects of investigation has reached an impressive breadth: neuroscientists, psychologists and music theorists investigate a wide variety of folk music, jazz, rock, hip-hop, and electronic dance music using interviews, motion capture devices, and onset detection algorithms, among other tools. While many such studies have been conducted in controlled laboratory settings, analyzing commercial recordings remains a challenge, particularly in the cases of songs recorded without a click track.

Microrhythmic phenomena are also currently attracting a lot of attention on popular platforms such as YouTube, in part due to the wave of interest in the microrhythmic manipulations of pioneer J Dilla and the many producers and drummers inspired by his music. At the same time, user-friendly software is making it easy for the next generation of music producers to achieve similar effects.

This conference seeks to bring together musicians and scholars from various disciplines to connect their different perspectives and further the current state of microrhythm and groove research.

Paper presentations should be 25 minutes long, with an additional 10 minutes allotted for questions and answers. We also encourage scholars to submit ideas for 90-minute workshops in which a group of participants would have the opportunity to learn about current research methods or new software and implement them. Artistic research is also highly welcome.

Applicants can submit a maximum of one presentation proposal and one workshop proposal.

Topics of proposed papers and workshops might include but are not limited to:

  • New methods for measuring microrhythmic phenomena, including the use of AI tools
  • Microrhythm and bodily movement
  • Perception of microrhythm and its neurological basis
  • The effect of timbre, pitch, duration, etc. on the perception of groove
  • Manipulation of microrhythm in digital music creation
  • Relationships between the timing of multiple instruments in a band, played live or manipulated in the studio
  • Expressive timing in rap vocals
  • Teaching microrhythm in music education
  • Microrhythm in specific folk musics
  • Identifying microrhythmic “fingerprints” of famous recording artists


Please submit your abstract by May 27, 2024 to rhythm-ipop@mdw.ac.at. Abstracts should be between 400-700 words (references not included in the word count).

Authors will be notified of acceptance by June 14, 2024. For further information, please contact rhythm-ipop@mdw.ac.at. Details about registration will be forthcoming.

List of Hotels

magdas HOTEL Vienna City

(5-8 min. walk to the university)
Ungargasse 38, 1030 Wien
Tel: +43 1 7200 288


Lindner Hotel Vienna am Belvedere

(14 min. walk to the university)
Rennweg 12, 1030 Wien
Tel: +43 1 794770


NH Wien Belvedere

(14 min. walk to the university)
Rennweg 12a, 1030 Wien
Tel: +43 12 67 59 72


Mercure Grand Hotel Biedermeier Wien

(5 min. walk to the university)
Landstraßer Hauptstraße 28, 1030 Wien
Tel: +43 1 716710


HiLight Suites Hotel

(6 min. walk from the university)
Salesianergasse 2, A – 1030 Vienna
Tel: +43 1 710 78 08; WhatsApp: +43 660 1109333


Self-Catering option (apartments):

b(l)ackhome – Vienna City Center

(6 min. walk to the university)
Neulinggasse 29, 1030 Wien
Tel: 0720310711


Budget-friendly option (rooms from €91/night):

Motel One Vienna-Hauptbahnhof

(16 min. on the S-Bahn; 20 min. on the tram)
Gerhard-Bronner-Straße 11, 1100 Wien
Tel: +43 1 6020000