Week 9 Assignment

1. The most important task over the next two weeks will be to advance your research for your individual project. To provide some incentive, I have planned for you to do a “preliminary findings” presentation during class on 11/14; specific details will be posted soon on the Individual Projects front page. You might also want to review the handout on “Writing an Empirical Paper” (prepared by David Huron); the format it describes can be adapted to your specific project. NOTE: It is not too early to pick a final presentation date. If you have a preference (12/5 or 12/12), email me! (Final projects are due on 12/17.)

2. Readings: There are no required general readings for next week, but you might want to review the “Rhythmic Complexity Abstracts” in preparation for class.

3. Student-led discussion: Asymmetrical rhythms (Peter); check the Forum for instructions.

4. Group projects: This is on the back burner for a couple weeks; make sure to respond quickly to any query from Shashank (Mary’s assistant), and test your experiment promptly once it is up (see Step 4 on the Group Projects front page). She will be contacting your group’s contact (Stefanie & Stephen) when it is ready. In preparation for the next step, review the handout on Measurement Scales, complete the Group Task #12 (individually), and review the general remarks on Statistical Tests. Remember that for this project, only descriptive statistics are required; however, if a member of your group has experience with statistical methods, you may endeavor to use inferential statistics (see Step 5 on the Group Projects front page).

Individual Project Proposal – Scale Categorization, Mental Schemata Creation, and Musical Form

In 1987, Nicholas Cook studied the limits of large-scale tonal perception. He tested effects of tonal closure (or non-closure) on aesthetic response and found no correlation for time spans longer than 1 minute. Thus, he concluded that while large-scale tonal form was defined as a theoretical and even compositional concept, it served no real effect on perception of music (Cook 1987, p. 203). Thus, Cook argues, theories of tonal form are better suited for understanding the practice of composition but not of listening and affect.

A large quantity of research and modeling been accomplished on musical boundary perception of shorter time-scale musical objects (melodies, motives, etc.). This research is based on defining similarity and difference, derived from basic underlying Gestalt principles that are imperative for musical organization, perception, and structural analysis (Deliège 2001, pp. 235-236). Boundary formation arising from similarity and difference functions as categorization, which in turn, is a mental process that is “essential in the study of the formation of a mental schema while listening to a musical work.” (Deliège 2001, p. 236).

As Robert Gjerdingen explains, mental schemata are stereotypes developed to organize knowledge, prototypes created from “generalized abstractions.” (Gjerdingen 2007, p. 10). He has identified schemata, or general musical patterns, in galant music that he argues “lead to a greater awareness of subtle differences in galant music…the music may seem to develop more meaning.” In a sense, Gjerdingen is arguing that, by acquainting ourselves with musical schemata, we can gain better understanding or meaning in music, contrasting with Nicholas Cook’s prior argument. While Gjerdingen’s schematas are specifically musical patterns arising from treble and bass partimenti, he argues they can be any exemplar from a basic instrumental timbre to a “symphony.” One could extrapolate this to mean any mental construct, including large-scale musical forms such as a period, a sentence, or even larger such as a sonata or rondo form.

The question then arises: what happens when musical schemata are extrapolated to a larger temporal realm? Do mental processes of categorization still apply in processing musical form beyond simple conceptualization or theoretical analysis? The answer, I presume would be a resounding yes based on schema formation in other psychological realms (see Piaget’s theory of intelligence and other social work, for example). In either case, the proposal herein relies on an investigation of the existing literature: how categorization functions in larger-temporal spans of music, how schemata are formed in these cases, and how schematic forms aid in perception of musical structures. A further point is raised regarding memory and how mental schematas aid in memory processing of musical structures (did Cook’s experiment fail based on lack of mental schematas for tonal forms?).

SOME ANNOTATIONS (All of these found on JSTOR)

Clarke, Eric F. & Carol Krumhansl (1990). Perceiving Musical Time.” Music Perception 7(3), 213-251.

ABSTRACT: Three experiments are described that investigate listeners’ perceptions of the segmentation of a piece of atonal piano music, the location of seg-ments extracted from the piece, and the duration and structural qualities of each segment. The experiments showed that listeners segmented the music in broad agreement with the grouping principles proposed by Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) and perceived the location of randomly presented segments of the music in a strongly veridical manner. Listeners’ location judgments did, however, show systematic departures from veridicality, segments towards the beginning and end of the piece appearing to be located closer to the center of the piece than was actually the case. Judgments of the duration of extracted segments also were strongly veridical and were unaffected by concurrent ratings of structural properties of the segments. In order to assess possible effects of the unfamiliar musical style, the same three experiments were carried out on a piece of tonal piano music of comparable length, yielding essentially identical results. It is argued that the pattern of departures from veridicality in the location judgments for both pieces may indicate systematic changes in attention in the course of listening to the music, linked to large-scale properties of musical structure that are found in music from a variety of styles and periods. The independence of the segmental duration judgments from structural properties of the music may be a consequence of the performance skills of the musically trained listeners used in this study (a sense of absolute tempo is one of the abilities that a performer must acquire) and/ or the particular methods used in the experiments.

This article gives a succinct, even if outdated, review of prevalent literature for my topic, mainly regarding segmentation principles stemming from Gestalt principles (a la Lerdahl/Jackendoff), memory for different musical time spans and relations, and time perception models. The experiments test multiple temporal issues on excerpts drawn from Stockhausen’s Klavierstück IX and Mozart’s K. 475. In the segmentation task participants were asked to segment the piece as they seemed fit: for both pieces, boundaries were found to be similar by a majority of participants. A location task in which participants were to indicate the original location of isolated excerpts throughout the piece found that median values corresponded with the actual locations of the pieces and subjects tended to displace the segments toward the middle of the pieces. The third experiment was geared toward seeing if structural properties affected perceived duration of isolated excerpts; they were quite accurate in perception and no musical features seemed to have an effect.
Cook, Nicholas (1987). “The Perception of Large-Scale Tonal Closure.” Music Perception 5(2), 197-205.


Music of the tonal period generally begins and ends in the same key, although passing through other keys in the course of a movement. Theorists of music generally ascribe great significance to such large-scale tonal closure. In order to test the effect of such closure upon aesthetic response, listeners were required to evaluate a number of compositions in two versions, one of which was in each case tonally closed while the other was not. The results indicate that the direct influence of tonal closure on listeners’ responses is relatively weak and is restricted to fairly short time spans – much shorter than the duration of most tonal compositions. Although large-scale tonal structure may not in itself be perceptible, it plays an important role as a means of compositional organization, and it is argued that the theory of tonal music is more usefully regarded as a means of understanding such organization than as a means of making empirically verifiable predictions regarding the effects of music upon listeners.

As described, Cook asked subjects to rate 7 real compositions (real music with transposed segments to create tonally closed or open sections) on an affective scales (pleasure, expressiveness, coherence, completion). He found no relations between the scales and the tonally closed vs. open versions (except for two, the shortest of all the pieces). He concludes that for musical time-spans longer than 1 minute, tonal form has no bearing on musical aesthetic or perception and that tonal forms are merely theoretical constructs to understand compositional process and concept.

Deliege, Irene (2001). “Similarity Perception – Categorization – Cue Abstraction.” Music Perception 18(3), 233-243.

Deliège’s article is an introduction to a special issue of Music Perception on similarity perception, categorization, and cue abstraction. It describes her and other work on categorization (based on the Gestalt principles of similarity and difference) and the musical listening process. Musical perception is drawn as a system of cues (points of reference for comparison) which are abstracted into levels/groups through categorization and schemata.

Rehashing some questions – Individual Project

BIG OVERARCHING QUESTION: What is musical form and how do we cognize it?

Smaller questions:
*What are the temporal parameters that influence perception of musical form? How do they influence structure?
*Are temporal parameters stronger or weaker than melodic/timbral/etc. parameters? Are they separate from the other parameters?
*NARROWER: How does musical temporality (rhythm/meter/etc.) affect categorization/similarity perception of musical structures? 


Clarke, Eric F. & Carol Krumhansl (1990). Perceiving Musical Time.” Music Perception 7(3), 213-251.

Cook, Nicholas. “The Perception of Large-Scale Tonal Closure.” Music Perception 5(2), 197-205.

Deliege, Irene. “Similarity Perception – Categorization – Cue Abstraction.” Music Perception 18(3), 233-243.

Reybrouck, Mark (2004). “Music Cognition, Semiotics and the Experience of Time: Ontosemantical and Epistemological Claims.” Journal of New Music Research 33(4), 411-428.

Tillmann, Barbara & Emmanuel Bigand (2004). “The Relative Importance of Local and Global Structures in Music Perception.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62(2), 211-222.


Tempo Perception

At the beginning of the semester, we discussed findings from experimental studies that were consistent with the existence of a preferred tempo or maximal pulse salience zone around 100 bpm (600 ms), i.e., a rate around which participants spontaneously tap and at which participants’ performance on tapping and detection tasks tends to be better. While some of the studies that reported these findings did involve “real” music as source materials for lab stimuli, most did not. Furthermore, most studies focus on a single pulse level (beat or tactus) and map this pulse level on a theoretical model that presuppose a metric hierachy.

Martens’s (2011) and London’s (2011) studies offer a somewhat contrasting account of pulse perception that, at the very least, calls for some qualification of these earlier findings. How do these two studies relate to one another? How do their findings converge or diverge? And what might be some of the implications of these findings for a theory of tempo perception (and meter)? And how does this week’s focus article on the “swing ratio” (Honing & de Haas, 2008) inform this issue?

If you will not be attending class on Thursday morning, please post a preliminary response by Tuesday, October 30, 11:59PM. If you will be attending class, you may still post a preliminary response, but it is optional.

Swing ratio

Dear classmates,

Please read Honing&deHaas 2008 in preparation for Thursday.


Check back soon for guiding questions. Have a great week!


Systematic Variation and Microtoming in Rhythmic Performance of Bach and its relation to Polyphony

Question: What systematic deviations from a mechanical norm can be found in the performance of the solo cello work of Bach?  How do these deviations relate to the underlying polyphonic structure of the piece and what tendencies can be derived from the analysis?

As a performer, I am particularly interested in how to interpret the music that I play.  This question allows me to look closely at how the finest perfomers interpret the music of Bach and to see what deviations they all have in common.  This experiment deals mainly with the performance of musical rhythm.  This question is important because, through data analysis, I expect to find standard variation in timing which correlates with a change of voice in the polyphonic structure.

“Systematic deviation” refers to consistent and recurring deviations from the mechanical norm Bengtsson & Gabrielsson (1980).

For data analysis, I will choose 8 performers interpretations of 4 specific measures of polyphony from the Allegro portion of the Prelude to Bach’s Suite for Cello No. 5 in C minor.  Using Davis (2006) analytical system, I can provide proof of where the lines change voices using her numbered score system.  I chose to use only 4 measures because of the issue of time.

The duration analysis will be carried out in the following fashion, as it was in Bengtsson & Gabrielsson (1980):

“The durations measured and analyzed in this paper refer
to the duration from the beginning (onset) of one tone
sound event to the beginning of the next tone sound event”

I will present my findings in a paper format with data inserts.

As Bengtsson and Gabrielsson (1980) found, I expect that the analysis of systematic variations or SYSVAR will elucidate important and relevant perceptual data with respect to the cognition of polyphonic music..


Bengtsson, Ingmar, & Gabrielsson, A. L. F. (1980). Methods for analyzing performance of musical rhythm. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 21(1), 257-268. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.1980.tb00369.x     (ARTICLES+)

Stacey Davis. (2006). Implied Polyphony in the Solo String Works of J. S. Bach: A Case for the Perceptual Relevance of Structural Expression. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 23(5), 423-446. doi: 10.1525/mp.2006.23.5.423   (GOOGLE SCHOLAR)



D’J’ed workouts at 130 bpm

“[R]esearchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and other institutions began by inventing an electronic kit that could be integrated into the internal workings of weight-training machines, transforming them into oversize boom boxes. Once installed, the kit would produce a range of propulsive, electronic-style music with a variety of sound levels and rhythms, depending on how the machine’s weight bar or other mechanisms were manipulated during workouts.

The researchers installed the kits into three different workout machines, one a stair-stepper, the other two weight machines with bars that could be raised or pulled down to stimulate various muscles.

They then recruited a group of 63 healthy men and women and divided them into groups, each of which was assigned to use one of the musically equipped machines during a strenuous though brief six-minute exercise session.

As the volunteers strained, their machines chirped and pinged with a thumping 130 beats per minute, the sound level rising or falling with each individual’s effort and twining with the rhythms created by the other two exercisers. “Participants could express themselves on the machines by, for instance, modulating rhythms and creating melodies,” said Thomas Hans Fritz, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute who led the study.

The groups were, in effect, D.J.’ing their workouts, creating sounds that echoed their physical efforts.”

To read the whole story (with links to the original published study):


Individual Project, Version 2

Individual Project Proposal

Primary Question: Are (non-explicitly musically trained) shoppers more likely to feel confident in their purchasing choices if they have been previously been entrained to music that expresses confidence?

Realizing that it would be implausible to complete this experiment in the next two months, I instead propose a project that will take the next semester to complete. This experiment will be in two parts:

Part 1) Gabrielsson (2001, 2010) provided compelling evidence that listeners do, in fact, experience real emotions based on music that they hear. The scale of these emotions, obviously, are vastly different based on personal factors, situational factors, etc, but very few people are constantly unmoved by all types of music. Even in the case of Gerling and dos Santos (2007), listeners perceived emotions expressed in the music, although they did not always match the intended ones.

However, Juslin, Liljestrom, Vastfjall, and Lundqvist (2010) propose that music induces emotions in only 55-65% of listening experiences. This represents a different theory: that to derive emotional value from music takes significantly more mental energy than just aurally processing music. According to this study, listeners do NOT always perceive emotions expressed in music.

I propose to test how often music that intentionally expresses the emotion of “confidence” actually makes the listener feel the intended emotion. First, I would create an online survey with about 20 different songs, and ask people to choose one of eight adjectives that best describes the piece. (These 20 songs would be picked from the classical genre so that words are not a confounding factor, and preferably NOT broadly known popular songs so that familiarity would not become a confound.) This would test the Gabriellson/Gerling conclusion that people do in fact hear emotions intended in music, and do agree with them (even if the emotion is not necessarily felt.) I would then have a scale where participants would rate how strongly they agree with the adjective’s connection to the music (which would test the Juslin et al theory—if people generally do not agree with their own choices or do not feel strongly about them, then perhaps this would throw off the study from the very beginning.)

After receiving survey responses, I would narrow down the song choices to the top two rated “most confident” songs, and the two that were rated antonyms, such as “timid” or “shy.” These two songs would become crucial for Part 2.

Part 2) There are a great many studies that have been written about shoppers and their participation with music while shopping. In Gordon C. Bruner’s study, “fast tempi elicited responses relating to exhilarating/joyous sorts of feelings…and sales volume is significantly higher with slow music than with fast music.” Part 2 is a simulation of a shopping experience influenced by the music chosen in part 1. First, they will be told to fill out a form with biographical information (how much musical training each participant had received) and wait in a waiting room, where either the “confident” music or the “timid” music will be playing. The participant will stay there for a minimum of 10 minutes.

After listening to the music, the participant will enter a different room, where he or she will be given a shopping list and a “budget” on a computer simulation. He or she will be shown computer screenshots from inventory of a well-known store, such as Target, and asked to purchase as many items as possible from the list while staying under budget. For example, if the shopping list says “laundry detergent,” the screenshot will show 4 or 5 brands of detergent with the different price points. (The one caveat to this is that at the lowest price point, there will always be more than one brand. This measure prohibits people from simply mathematically calculating the best option possible and choosing these items, rather than choosing those that they themselves would purchase.)

The computer will time, down to the nearest second, the length of time that it takes for participants to make their choices.

I hypothesize that those people that were entrained (consciously or not) to isochronous rhythms that people identified as “confident” will make, on average, faster and more decisive purchasing choices.

Individual Project Proposal

In Huron (1989), an experiment is carried out to determine trained musicians ability to denumerate individual lines from a polyphonic musical texture.  The examples used were played using homogenous timbre.  This experiment led me to the idea that I could possibly alter its structure, and create an entirely new experiment, only this time with respect to timbre.  Timbre, as it relates to this proposal, can be defined as “that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which a listener can judge that two sounds similarly presented and having the same loudness and pitch are dissimilar” Brancucci (1999).  My proposal is to use the musical examples from Gregory (1990) in order to test a participants ability to denumerate, or count the number of voices active in a polyphonic structure.  These examples would be altered using different timbres in order to observe what effect this might have on a participants ability to attend to concurrent and independent stimuli.  This question could lead to further studies about the perception of music and how timbre can effect our ability to attend to simultaneously occurring independent auditory streams.

Using the 5 polyphonic examples from Gregory (1990) the stimuli will be randomly organized and presented to participants.  As a rule, no one will hear the same excerpt twice.  The control timbre will be a standard grand piano sound.  I will alternate using tuba and oboe in order to get a good sense of the high and low ends of the pitch spectrum.  I will then analyze the results with respect to timbre and example number, doing a side by side comparison.

My prediction is that timbre will have an effect on the listener’s ability to denumerate individual lines in a polyphonic texture.  Specifically, I expect to observe a higher rate of success in identification with the oboe.  The tuba’s timbre quality I expect will make it more difficult to attend to separate audio streams.



Gregory, A. H.  Listening to Polyphonic Music. Psychology of Music, October 1990; vol. 18,

2: pp. 163-170. Article DOI: 10.1177/0305735690182005.

I used the musical examples in this article.


Huron, D. Voice Denumerability in Polyphonic Music of Homogeneous Timbres

Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Summer, 1989), pp. 361-382

Published by: University of California Press. Article DOI: 10.2307/40285438.

I used this article as a model for my current experiment.



Pietro, S.M. and Brancucci, A. Laterality in the perception of temporal cues of musical

timbre. Neuropsychologia, Volume 37, Issue 13, December 1999, Pages 1445–

1451. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0028-3932(99)00065-2

I used this article to help define timbre as it relates to this experiment.


Risset J.C. and Wessel D.L. Exploration of timbre by analysis and

synthesis. In: Deutsch D, editor. The psychology of music. New

York: Academic Press, 1982. p. 25±58.

I used this chapter to further clarify my definition of timbre as it relates to this experiment.



Negative effect of sensorimotor entrainment…

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 2013 Oct;21(5):408-415
Music increases alcohol consumption rate in young females

Stafford LD, Dodd H
Centre for Comparative & Evolutionary Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK

Previous field research has shown that individuals consumed more alcohol and at a faster rate in environments paired with loud music. Theoretically, this effect has been linked to approach/avoidance accounts of how music influences arousal and mood, but no work has tested this experimentally. In the present study, female participants (n = 45) consumed an alcoholic (4% alcohol-by-volume) beverage in one of three contexts: slow tempo music, fast tempo music, or a no-music control. Results revealed that, compared with the control, the beverage was consumed fastest in the two music conditions. Interestingly, whereas arousal and negative mood declined in the control condition, this was not the case for either of the music conditions, suggesting a downregulation of alcohol effects. We additionally found evidence for music to disrupt sensory systems in that, counterintuitively, faster consumption was driven by increases in perceived alcohol strength, which, in turn, predicted lower breath alcohol level (BrAL). These findings suggest a unique interaction of music environment and psychoactive effects of alcohol itself on consumption rate. Because alcohol consumed at a faster rate induces greater intoxication, these findings have implications for applied and theoretical work.