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Cross-modal melodic contour similarity

Prince, J.B., Schmuckler, M.A. and Thompson, W.F. (2009) Cross-modal melodic contour similarity. Canadian Acoustics, Special issue: Multidimensional and multimodal integration in music, 37 (1). pp. 35-39.


In two experiments participants rated the similarity of melodic contours presented as auditory (melodies) and visual (line drawings) stimuli. Longer melodies were assessed in Experiment 1 (M = 35 notes); shorter melodies were assessed in Experiment 2 (M = 17 notes). Ratings for matched auditory and visual contours exceeded ratings for mismatched contours, confirming cross-modal sensitivity to contour. The degree of overlap of the surface structure (the relative position of peaks and troughs), and the strength and timing of the cyclical information (the amplitude and phase spectra produced by a Fourier analysis) in the contours predicted cross-modal similarity ratings. Factors such as the order of stimulus presentation (auditory-visual or visual-auditory), melody length (long versus short), and musical experience also affected the perceived similarity of contours. Results validate the applicability of existing contour models to cross-modal contexts and reveal additional factors that contribute to cross-modal contour similarity.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: Canadian Acoustical Association
Copyright: Canadian Acoustical Association
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