Rainer Polak

Image of Rainer Polak
Norwegian version of this page
Visiting address Forskningsv. 3A Harald Schjelderups hus 0373 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 1133 Blindern 0318 Oslo

Research interests

  • Music and dance from Mali;

  • Rhythm, timing, meter, and entrainment; 

  • Cultural variation in music perception;

  • Multimodality in rhythm performance and perception;

  • Performance and audiency beyond the staged concert;

  • Situated learning in vernacular music/dance practices.


  • 2017 – 2022  Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

  • 2011 – 2016  Researcher, University of Music and Dance Cologne

  • 2006 – 2007  Postdoc, University of Bayreuth

  • 1993 – 2010  Djembe player/teacher, Freelance

  • 2002  Doctor of Philosophy (Social Anthropology), University of Bayreuth

  • 1996  Magister Artium (Social Anthropology, African Studies, African History), University of Bayreuth

Selected publications

* joint first authors

Jakubowski, Kelly*; Polak, Rainer*; Rocamora, Martín; Jure, Luis & Jacoby, Nori (2022). Aesthetics of musical timing: Culture and expertise affect preferences for isochrony but not synchrony. Cognition, 227, 105205.

Polak, Rainer (2022). Non-isochronous metre in music from Mali. In M. Doffman, E. Payne, & T. Young (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Time in Music (pp. 252–274). Oxford University Press. 

Jacoby, Nori*; Polak, Rainer* & London, Justin* (2021). Extreme precision in rhythmic interaction is enabled by role-optimized sensorimotor coupling: Analysis and modelling of West African drum ensemble music. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B,376(1835).

Polak, Rainer*; Jacoby, Nori*; Fischinger, Timo; Goldberg, Daniel; Holzapfel, Andre & London, Justin (2018). Rhythmic prototypes across cultures: A comparative study of tapping synchronization. Music Perception, 36(1), 1–23.

Polak, Rainer (2017). The lower limit for meter in dance drumming from West AfricaEmpirical Musicology Review, 12(3-4), 205–226.

London, Justin*; Polak, Rainer* & Jacoby, Nori* (2017). Rhythm histograms and musical meter: A corpus study of Malian percussion music. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 24(2), 474–480.

Polak, Rainer*; London, Justin*; & Jacoby, Nori* (2016) Both isochronous and non-isochronous metrical subdivision afford precise and stable ensemble entrainment: A corpus study of Malian jembe drummingFrontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 285. 

Polak, Rainer & London (2014) Timing and meter in Mande drumming from MaliMusic Theory Online 20(1). 

Polak, Rainer (2010) Rhythmic feel as meter: Non-isochronous beat subdivision in jembe music from MaliMusic Theory Online 16(4).

Polak, Rainer (2007). Performing audience: On the social constitution of focused interaction at celebrations in Mali. Anthropos 102(1), 3–18.

Polak, Rainer (2004) Festmusik als Arbeit, Trommeln als Beruf. Jenbe-Spieler in einer westafrikanischen Großstadt. Berlin: Reimer Verlag.

Polak, Rainer (2000). A musical instrument travels around the world: Jenbe playing in Bamako, West Africa, and beyond. The World of Music, 42(3), 7–46.  Reprint (2006) in J. Post (ed.), Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader (pp. 161–185), NY: Routledge Press.

Published June 9, 2022 12:07 PM - Last modified June 22, 2022 6:23 PM