Rainer Polak

I am an interdisciplinary music researcher. I presently hold a visiting fellowship at Durham University and will take up a researcher position at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (Frankfurt) in March 2017. Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), I was affiliated as a senior research fellow to the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln from 2011 to 2016.

For the past 10 years, my focus has been on empirical rhythm research. I combine qualitative and quantitative empirical methods (ethnographic fieldwork, computer-aided timing analysis, and psychological experiments) to study issues of timing, meter, and entrainment. My projects adopt interdisciplinary perspectives, combining social anthropology and ethnomusicology with music theory, comparative musicology, empirical musicology, and music psychology.

From the early 1990s, I have specialized in West-African dance drumming. Much of my work highlights the particularities of percussion ensemble music from Mali (jembe drumming, among others) in its historical, social, and cultural contexts. My current research aims to understand rhythm performance and perception also from a cross-culturally comparative view-point.

My publications include:

  • The book Festmusik als Arbeit, Trommeln als Beruf (Reimer Verlag, 2004);
  • Articles in a range of journals (Anthropos, The World of Music, Music Theory Online, Empirical Musicology Review, Music Perception, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Frontiers in Neuroscience);
  • Several refereed book chapters and encyclopedia entries;
  • Book reviews, CD liner-notes, music transcriptions, and media appearances.

Download my  CV [pdf] here.

Contact me at  polak@mail.de.