Book review: A Matter of Time

In A Matter Of Time: The science of rhythm and the groove, Portland-based music educator John Lamb combines his backgrounds in music, biology, and psychology to explain the science behind concepts we usually take for granted.

It might seem easy to define what a “rhythm” is in terms of time intervals, but in “A Matter of Time” we learn that a rhythm is actually defined largely by how a listener’s brain responds to it. It’s not a rhythm unless someone interprets it as such!

The book is an interesting synthesis of different fields, and shows how music can’t simply be defined in terms of physics, but is a more complex interaction between the music and the listener. Even more complicated to define than rhythm is the concept of groove, which depends on more than hearing alone, and requires a sense of “feeling”, which is largely an individual experience.

The book emphasises the role of the observer in the interpretation of rhythm and the groove, and equally, the book’s medium requires an interaction with the reader: “A Matter of Time” is available as ebook, and makes good use of the format. While it can be read start to finish, it has multiple layers of information in the form of external links to videos that explain concepts in a way that fits the subject matter. Overall, a fun reading experience for an informative book.