There is an uncountable number of different ways of characterizing almost any given real-world stimulus. This necessitates finding stimulus features that are perceptually relevant - that is, they have distinct and independent effects on the perception and cognition of the stimulus. Here, we provide a theoretical framework for empirically testing the perceptual relevance of stimulus features through their association with recognition, memory bias, and asthetic evaluation. We deploy this framework in the auditory domain to explore the perceptual relevance of three recently developed mathematical characterizations of periodic temporal patterns: balance, evenness, and interonset interval entropy. By modelling recognition responses and liking ratings from 177 participants listening to a total of 1252 different musical rhythms, we obtain very strong evidence that all three features have distinct effects on the memory for, and the liking of, musical rhythms. Interonset interval entropy is a measure of the unpredictability of a rhythm derived from the distribution of its durations. Balance and evenness are both obtained from the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) of periodic patterns represented as points on the unit circle, and we introduce a teleological explanation for their perceptual relevance: the DFT coefficients representing balance and evenness are relatively robust to small random temporal perturbations and hence are coherent in noisy environments. This theory suggests further research to explore the meaning and relevance of robust coefficients such as these to the perception of patterns that are periodic in time and, possibly, space.