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When textbooks define meter, they refer to patterns of strong and weak, or accented and unaccented beats, implying that these paired terms are categorically absolute. But all musicians understand that the third beat in common time, and the fourth beat in compound time, are both weaker than the downbeat and stronger than the immediately flanking beats, implying that accentual strength is contextual and gradated.
I would like the perspectives of colleagues on any of the following questions: (1) Are you aware of any textbooks that acknowledge and theorize the tension between the absolute definition and the gradated experience? (2) How do you address the tension between these two conceptions in your own teaching? (3) How do you respond to students who recognize this tension and would like you to address or resolve it?
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