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The integration of pitch and time in ratings of melodic goodness

Prince, J.B. (2009) The integration of pitch and time in ratings of melodic goodness. In: Paper presented at APCAM, 19 November 2009, Boston, MA, USA

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In typical Western music, pitch often dominates time, perhaps because pitch exhibits more structure. This research tested how varying the amount of structure in these two dimensions affects how pitch and time combine in judgments of melodic goodness. Melodies had either the original sequence of elements, a reordered sequence of existing elements, or a sequence with random elements. This manipulation was used for both dimensions independently, creating a crossed 3 pitch by 3 time conditions design. Participants were instructed to attend only to pitch, time, or both. Despite the selective attention instructions, both dimensions always contributed to goodness ratings. The effect size of pitch was considerably larger than that of time in all cases except for the attend time instruction, in which the main effects were of equal size. The pattern of how pitch and time contributed to ratings differed across instruction. Pitch and time combined independently only when attending time. When attending pitch, the effect of time declined with reduced pitch structure. When attending both pitch and time, the original pitch and time sequence was disproportionately better than other conditions. These results have four implications. First, pitch dominates melodic goodness ratings regardless of the degree of temporal structure. Second, listeners can consciously emphasize either dimension in this context, suggesting some independence between pitch and time on an explicit level. Third, however, listeners cannot ignore entirely either dimension when forming a goodness rating, suggesting some interdependence between pitch and time on an implicit level. Fourth, when attending to both pitch and time simultaneously, the unique combination of the original pitch and temporal elements can affect goodness ratings in an interactive manner. Overall, the combination of pitch and time in music can vary in complex ways based on conscious and involuntary allocation of attention to these two dimensions.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology
Publisher: Auditory Perception, Cognition, and Action Meeting
Conference Website: home
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