Rhythm – a World Language?


The article explores the idea and practice of rhythm as a subject as well as a perspective of cultural analysis that points to the physical dimension of culture, the social effects of bodily movements. Against holistic (and essentialist) conceptualisations of rhythm, the paper argues for a more detailed, multi-perspective approach, facing concrete phenomena in their specific and larger contexts, their functions and content and not least their interrelations and cross-references. The focus here is on a popular as well as questionable theoretical and practical model in a key area of rhythmic expressions: the model of rhythm as a (musical) “world language”. It can be shown how different, even (supposedly) competing concepts of rhythm are affiliated, how explicit and subliminalmodels and practices are adjoined by further meaning, and, finally, how they develop culture constituting qualities.


rhytm, disruption, resonance, physical figuration, bodily movement

How to Cite

Windmüller, S., (2010) “Rhythm – a World Language?”, Ethnologia Europaea 40(1), p.30-41. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/ee.1062

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.



Sonja Windmüller (University of Hamburg)



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Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

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