Stumbling and its relatives, bumping into things, getting caught and tripping, are associated with a momentary falling out of a planned spatio-temporal organization: walking, for example, a regular periodic movement, is momentarily interrupted by a tree root, the planned grasping of a jug turns into a hectic movement when something interferes. The organic rhythm of a movement is disrupted by external factors or reduced attention. Two views of stumbling, those of the music educator Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and the French philosopher Frédéric Bisson, contrast with each other.

Dalcroze describes the lack of ability to produce regular movements to pulse-based music as arrhythmia, which can be counteracted by practicing movement control (Dalcroze: 1906, VII). Coordinating time duration and movement in space with adequate force in order to be able to “combine certain movements with others of the same kind, and finally to perform movements of different kinds at the same time" is the goal of a wide variety of exercises in his catalog of methods (ibid. VIII). Stumbling, not being able to stop in time (inhibition) or being late in setting a movement impulse (incitation) are attributed to a lack of coordination and are classified as deficits.

Statements by phenomenologically oriented thinkers who do not necessarily look at rhythm from the point of view of music, but from the perspective of the Lebensphilosophie and sociology, are different: The liveliness of rhythm only arises through multiple variations and irregularities in the recurrence or: "Arrhythmia is the source of rhythm" (Bisson: 2012/13). According to this, the irregular can only be perceived because of regularity and recurrence and vitalizes the rhythm. Such disturbances of the balance in the temporal proportions of a rhythmic figure are known in music as rubato (Ital. rubare = to rob, to steal) and lead to shifts of the pulse through delays or accelerations.

Dalcroze deliberately included disturbances of the sense of timing in his method in order to train the ability to switch quickly from movement to pause and vice versa, for example by switching in pauses that lead to delays as agogic inhibition (see Illustration Dalcroze, Rhythm, Music and Education p. 220):

Dorothea Weise


Foreword Methode Jaques-Dalcroze, Rhythmische Gymnastik, first volume, 1906 (VII-VIII)

Bisson, Frédéric, èléments d’arythmétique. In: La Part de l’Oeil No. 27/28, 2012/2013 (S. 164-183).

Schmitt, Jean-Claude, Eine Geschichte der Rhythmen: warum und wie? in: Grüny, C., Nanni, M. (eds.): Rhythmus – Balance – Metrum, 2014 (p. 24-25).

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