Prioritizing Rhythmic Analysis: Temporal Organization of  ’Are’are Solo Polyphonic Panpipe Pieces


The repertoire of polyphonic panpipe music for solo performance, termed “‘au ni aau,” by ‘Are‘are musicians in the southern part of Malaita Island in the Solomon Islands is seemingly unique among musical traditions. As Hugo Zemp showed in 1981 (, solo polyphonic panpipes were designed so that some pairs of adjacent pipes could be sounded simultaneously to produce two or three kinds of dyads within each piece rather than being restricted to single tones as is usual in solo panpipe performance. Whereas Zemp’s analyses understandably focused on aspects of tuning and melodic structure, the present report treats features of temporal organization as its starting point and main concern. As well, in order to draw conclusions that might provide a basis for comparisons with other pieces and performers in the much larger repertoire of solo polyphonic panpipe music, the pieces analysed here are by a single ’Are’are musician, Manamaetare of Takataka in the southeastern part of the island. In this regard, the Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie (CREM) has streamed these pieces to the public ( and has graciously made them available to me as individual files for detailed acoustical analysis. Since Zemp’s initial study, software that provides acoustical corroboration of, and elaboration on, what one can hear in the original recordings has become widely accessible, both for free (e.g., Audacity: or almost free (e.g., Transcribe!: By means of such software one can trace with precision temporal aspects of the pieces that inform one’s understanding of topics raised in his original analysis. In particular, the pieces’ inter-onset intervals (IOIs), inter-stimulus intervals (ISIs), amplitude envelopes, and changing frequency spectra within individual dyads yield information relevant to the pieces’ meters, tempos, segmentations, formal structures, tremolos, and types of articulation, as well as issues concerning their relationship with the performer’s breath control, the layout of the polyphonic panpipe itself, and comparisons with the repertoire of polyphonic music for ’Are’are panpipe ensembles. In the present report, these topics are approached analytically in bottom-up fashion by applications of the Gestalt Grouping Principles of Similarity and Proximity (Wertheimer 1923) as well as the closely related principle of Analogy ( Special Topics Symposium 2023, Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York Cit

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Last time updated on 29/07/2023

This paper was published in YorkSpace.

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