Back to Schedule for Joint Sessions

Session 4-1
Art Meets Science:
Collaboration Between Music Theorists and Music Psychologists

Richard Parncutt (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz)
Steve Larson (University of Oregon)
Co-Organizers and Moderators

 

In the interdisciplinary spirit of the Toronto meeting, and to explore the inter-relationships of science and art, our session is the first that we know of in music research in which collaboration between artists and scientists is not merely encouraged, but a requirement for participation. One author of each paper is a music theorist (or an academic whose primary qualifications and publications are in the domain of the arts) and the other a music psychologist* (or an academic whose primary qualifications and publications are in the domain of the natural sciences). The aim of the session is to generate original insights in music theory and analysis. Each paper emphasizes the relevance and implications of its findings for music theory and analysis, and each is supported with musical examples.
The session closes with a discussion of the purpose, pragmatics, and politics of collaboration between music theorists and music psychologists, led by Richard Parncutt. Topics of interest include the extent to which music psychology should be included in the training of music theorists, and music theory in the training of music psychologists; and the extent to which music theory positions might require knowledge of music psychology, and music psychology positions might require knowledge of music theory.

 

1 MUSICAL MATERIALS

1.1 Perceptual vs. Historical Origins of Musical Materials
R. Parncutt* (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz)
Roland Eberlein (Universität zu Köln)

Parncutt and Eberlein compare perceptual and historical explanations for the nature and origin of elements of tonal-harmonic syntax such as melodic and harmonic fifths and fourths, avoidance of parallel fifths, prevalence of triads in root position, and falling fifth cadences. They consider the relative importance of the history of compositional rules and practices, the physical structure of musical instruments, and perceptual models of pitch perception and consonance-dissonance. For example, in common-practice tonal music, major and minor triads in root position outnumber triads in first inversion, which in turn outnumber triads in second inversion. Should an explanation of this statistical pattern rest on the history of voice leading, on the 16th-century practice of falsobordone, or on modern perceptual theories of consonance and fusion?



1.2 Musical Materials And Social Meanings
Eric Clarke* (Sheffield University, UK)
Julian Johnson (University of Sussex, UK)

Clarke and Johnson consider the relationship between musical material and musical meaning from the twin perspectives of critical theory and perceptual theory. Adorno's vision of a"material theory of musical form," in which the sedimentation of social meaning within musical material was a central preoccupation, remained a tantalizing possibility that he himself never successfully realized in his own writing. By incorporating more recent perceptual theory, it may now be possible to pay proper attention both to the specific material and formal properties of music, with due awareness of the reciprocal relationship between material and listeners, and at the same time to consider ideological and critical aspects. A synthesis of this kind has the potential to make a contribution to analysis (by bridging the gap between formalist and critical traditions), to critical theory in music (by moving towards a realization of Adorno's ideal of a material critical theory), and to music perception (by demonstrating that perceptual theory and empirical methods can make a contribution to cultural theory). The approach will be illustrated by perceptually informed analyses of one of Webern's atonal instrumental miniatures, and a track by the British pop musician Tricky.

 

2 PERCEPTION OF STRUCTURAL RELATIONSHIPS

2.1 Thematic Variation and Cognitive Similarity
Nicola Dibben (Sheffield University, UK)
Alexandra Lamont* (Leicester University, UK)

Dibben and Lamont ask whether the surface and deep structures of music are always intertwined, and whether this relationship is style-dependent. Findings from existing work in cognitive and music psychology are reviewed to generate a set of surface and deep features of music to which listeners have been shown to be sensitive in different contexts. This feature set is applied to the analysis of a range of tonal classical and atonal serial music. Extracts are selected for degrees of similarity and difference following the above analyses, and listeners' similarity ratings of these extracts are examined. A combination of cognitive theories of similarity and music-analytic principles clarifies whether variation technique in tonal and atonal music is likely to lead to clearly structured and easily perceptible musical settings, and to what extent these factors are dependent on musical style.

 

2.2 Surface Effects on Perception of Deeper Levels
Gunter Kreutz* (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
Oliver Schwab-Felisch (Technische Universität, Berlin)

Gunter Kreutz and Oliver Schwab-Felisch also investigate the relationship between surface and deeper structures, but from another angle. They report a study in which listeners hear 16-bar compound melodies composed in the style of J. S. Bach's works for unaccompanied stringed instruments. Surface locations in the pieces corresponding to events at deeper levels are systematically varied. In each trial, the music is followed by one of three different reductions: Schenkerian, time-span (after Lerdahl & Jackendoff), and music-theoretically "incorrect" foils. Three groups of listeners - experts specializing in Schenkerian analysis, music students, and non-musicians - rate how well the reduction matches the preceding music. Possible implications for the development of perceptually-oriented approaches to reductive analysis are considered.

 

3 DYNAMIC RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MUSICAL ELEMENTS

3.1 Measuring Musical Forces
Leigh VanHandel* (Stanford University)
Steve Larson (University of Oregon)

VanHandel and Larson report the results of an experiment in which listeners rate the relative strengths of different melodic continuations in given contexts. Listeners' judgments are compared with the predictions of various algorithms (Larson 1993, Lerdahl 1996, and further revisions of these) that model the interaction of "musical forces". The experimental results and theoretical models are also be compared with a survey of the distributions of the same continuations in common-practice tonal music.

 

3.2 MODELING TENSION AND ATTRACTION
Joshua Fineberg (Columbia University)
Carol Krumhansl* (Cornell University)
Fred Lerdahl (Columbia University)

Fineberg, Krumhansl, and Lerdahl theoretically and empirically examine music-theoretic models of the cognitive distance, tonal tension, and tonal attraction between pitches, chords, and keys within a tonal pitch space. The models are ultimately based on the stability conditions in Lerdahl and Jackendoff's theory of prolongational reduction. Computer implementations of the algorithms ease quantification in specific theoretic and analytic applications. The efficacy of the models is evaluated by comparing predictions with listeners' responses in perceptual experiments.

Back to Schedule for Joint Sessions