Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

Rhythm Section: Spending A Week Trying To Catch The Beat

old man playing congas

This week on All Things Considered and Morning Edition, we're listening closely to the beats and the pulses that are all around us, and inside us, every day, trying to hear rhythms in a new way. Of course we're are aware that music and poetry (and the drip of our neighbor's air conditioner and the wheezing of the bus) affect us. We've spoken with people who study and make different rhythms about how these patterns function in music, in our heads and on our bodies.

We'll kick off the week with a story about military cadences — which you'll notice in almost every single Hollywood depiction of basic training, to the point where you can't hear "Sound off, one-two, sound off, one-two" without thinking of a uniform. That rhythm has a very specific, and very American, origin story. It also serves a dual purpose: to at once control people's movement and give the people singing it room to extemporize and subvert.

From there, we'll count off other ways rhythms rule our lives. Come back to this page all week to find more stories that ask what happens when rhythm is elusive, and why it sometimes feels so natural. From the beat of our hearts and the oscillations of our brains to the rise and fall of a presidential address or a poem, here is our look into the hidden world of rhythms.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit