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The tonal-metric hierarchy: A corpus analysis

Prince, J.B.ORCID: 0000-0002-8267-9963 and Schmuckler, M.A. (2014) The tonal-metric hierarchy: A corpus analysis. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 31 (3). pp. 254-270.

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Despite the plethora of research on the role of tonality and meter in music perception, there is little work on how these fundamental properties function together. The most basic question is whether the two hierarchical structures are correlated – that is, do metrically stable positions in the measure preferentially feature tonally stable pitches, and do tonally stable pitches occur more often than not at metrically stable locations? To answer this question, we analyzed a corpus of compositions by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin, tabulating the frequency of occurrence of each of the 12 pitch classes at all possible temporal positions in the bar. There was a reliable relation between the tonal and metric hierarchies, such that tonally stable pitch classes and metrically stable temporal positions co-occurred beyond their simple joint probability. Further, the pitch class distribution at stable metric temporal positions agreed more with the tonal hierarchy than at less metrically stable locations. This tonal-metric hierarchy was largely consistent across composers, time signatures, and modes. The existence, profile, and constancy of the tonal-metric hierarchy is relevant to several areas of music cognition research, including pitch-time integration, statistical learning, and global effects of tonality.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: University of California Press
Copyright: © 2011 University of California Press
Notes: "Published as Prince, J.B. and Schmuckler, M.A. (2014) The tonal-metric hierarchy: A corpus analysis. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 31 (3). pp. 254-270. © 2011 by the Regents of the University of California/Sponsoring Society or Association. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [Caliber (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,"
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