SIMILARITY JUDGEMENTS FOR HARMONIC PHRASE UNITS: THE RELEVANCE OF HARMONIC FEATURES AND SUBTLE RHYTHMIC MANIPULATIONS
Ms. Ioana Apetroaia Fineberg
The literature in the field of music cognition has shown that music is processed as units of 'discourse' unfolding in time, forming larger scale structures of various levels of complexity. Grouping into larger scale structures might rely on computation of similarity or difference between units. Studies on similarity between musical units have, so far, concerned mainly melodic stimuli.
This study investigates features which are used in similarity judgments for pairs of harmonic phrase units. Stimuli were constructed by varying three music-theoretically distinct harmonic dimensions and a subtle aspect of rhythm for a two-measures excerpt from a Chopin Prelude. Stimuli were written in a number of different musical idioms.
32 subjects with three different levels of musical training (novice to expert) rated the similarity of pairs of stimuli. The data obtained was analyzed using a Multidimensional-Scaling algorithm with latent class analysis.
The algorithm yielded a two-dimensional solution with specificities (features unique to individual stimuli), and three classes of subjects. The stimuli distributed coherently along the two axes which were interpreted to be: a 'global harmony' dimension and a temporal dimension. No direct relation was found between the three classes and musical expertise.
1) When comparing harmonic phrases, harmonic contour, roughness contour and chord type are all aspects of a 'global harmony' computation. 2) The temporal dimension, even when subtly manipulated, is extremely salient for some subjects. 3) Subjects adopted three different listening strategies depending on how much they relied on each of the dimensions manipulated and not on their expertise. 4) The results were pertinent to all the stimuli, suggesting that the same dimensions are used across musical idioms.
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