Time on your hands? Watch 32 metronomes find a rhythm

Time on your hands? Watch 32 metronomes find a rhythm


norman lebrecht

November 08, 2013


32 metronomes


  • real says:

    This is entrainment. We apply this technique in an active and purposeful way in music therapy. It is precisely why we implement live music to meet patients in the moment-calibrating the preferred music to their vitals (e.g. heart rate, respiratory rate). Entrainment is happening all of the time, how we breathe, listen, walk, talk-fascinating to think of ourselves and our movements as synchronized to movements around us-and furthermore, the impact that music can make…

  • Thanks Norman. Lots more fun than watching the washing machine go round. Strangely militaristic though, don’t you think?

  • sixtus says:

    This is a uncredited, chamber-version rip-off of a 1962 piece by Ligeti for 100 metronomes. The Ligeti is for metronomes set for different speeds. The video has them set for the SAME speed, it looks like. You can see that the platform they are mounted on can MOVE, so it is to be expected that they will eventually become synchronized (since the motions of one metronome can be transmitted to another via the platform). This would NOT happen if they were all firmly mounted on a stationary platform.


    • That is utterly scandalous.

    • John Hames says:

      We know all that. We don’t care. It’s nice. . .

    • robcat2075 says:

      It’s not EXPECTED that they will synchronize. We expect them to not be able to influence each other by this tiny movement and yet they do.

      • sixtus says:

        Very tiny events can be amplified greatly by cascade effects. Rough analogies would include lasers, nuclear chain reactions, or the chemistry that generates usable amounts of DNA from minuscule bits left at a crime scene (polymerase chain reaction). Aside from the freely moving platform (suspended on cables as can be seen on other videos of this and related experiments done by the same group), the key to this demonstration is the setting of the metronomes to the SAME speed. — they are from the start primed to fall into sync at the slightest provocation. Once a couple of them lock sync, their motions start to dominate and in-phase mass synchronization becomes irresistible. You notice that one of them gets it precisely wrong and is 180 degrees out of phase. Like the 2nd violinist whose part wasn’t marked correctly — right tempo, wrong bow stroke.

        Note: an interesting experiment would be to randomly distribute metronomes set to integer multiples of some basic slow tempo (such as 40, 80 and 120 bpm). Good science fair project.


  • The Sibelian says:

    I don’t know if I’d call it a rip off… perhaps just “inspired by” Ligeti’s piece if anything at all. Just the instrumentation is the same while everything else has been changed. But also I can see something like this coming into existence by people who aren’t even aware of Poeme Symphonique. The goal of this piece/experiment/display/whatever was to make them synchronized… and they accomplished their goal through use of a suspended platform which they set up for this purpose. So yeah it’s expected that they will sync because, well, that’s the whole point here. Ligeti’s piece was different in nature and artistically had a very different goal.

  • Scott Belyea says:

    Reminiscent of seeing Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha (early 70’s, I think) do an in-concert demo of some features of their music. One was to play a short passage, and then explain what was happening. One played in 7 and the other in 13 (or something like that). They then said they’d play the passage again and cue for us when they were about as far apart as they could be and when they were about to come back into phase.

    Quite fascinating, and helped to understand the relative simplicity of rhythm in most western classical music.

  • R Overs says:

    More entertaining than watching grass grow I suppose