I understand both the terms polymeter and polyrhythm, but when songs from bands such as Meshuggah are discussed the term 'hypermeter' keeps popping up. Can someone please explain?


Hypermeter is meter at a higher level, combining several measures into one unit. The figure below is taken from an academic analysis of Meshuggah's album "Catch 33" - link:

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The cymbal plays a normal 4/4 beat (plus one 2/4 measure), but the snare drum and the bass drum superimpose an additional rhythm, which is indicated by the blue lines, and which can be analyzed as four 7/8 measures. This creates a hypermeter in which those four bars are combined into a larger unit.

  • Let's say you have a piece in 3/4 time, made primarily of quarter notes, with 4-measure phrases. Instead of counting the quarters as "one, two, three," you decide to think of them as triplets, so that each 3/4 measure is worth one beat. This is common. Musicians call that "counting in one." Think about this: if you think of each measure as a single beat of triplets, and the piece is made of 4-measure phrases, each phrase is actually behaving at a meta-level as a single measure of 12/8. This is a more straightforward example of hypermeter. – Jeff Aug 16 '19 at 2:58
  • If you're interested in this kind of academic rhythmic analysis of metal music, I'd suggest looking into the works of Dr. Olivia Lucas: lsu.edu/cmda/music/people/faculty/lucas.php I studied under her at Victoria University of Wellington, and can't recommend her work on extreme metal enough. – october Jun 14 '20 at 14:39

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