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Title: An experimental investigation into the relationship between pitch-interval and contour in melody processing
Author: Edworthy, Judy
ISNI:       0000 0001 2459 8770
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1983
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The relationship between pitch-interval (precise intervals between notes) and contour (sequence of ups and downs) in melody processing was considered in eight experiments. Each experiment consisted of subjects listening to a number of melody pairs, the second in each pair serving as a comparison to the first. Depending upon the condition, subjects were required to attend to the pitch-interval or contour relationships in the first melody and to detect an alteration in that relationship in the comparison melody. A reaction time measure served as the dependent variable. The methodology was tested in Experiment 1. Experiments 2, 3 and 4 showed the relative salience of pitch-interval and contour to be a function of both melody length and serial position. Contour was found to be more salient for short melodies and at the beginnings of melodies, whereas pitch-interval was more salient for longer melodies and for later serial positions. In these experiments, the melodies heard were novel and their comparisons transposed. The results were interpreted in terms of the listeners' need to establish a tonal centre for the encoding of pitch- interval information which may not be necessary for the encoding of contour information. Until a tonal centre can be established contour is the more salient aspect of a melody. Pitch-interval and contour might therefore be of differing importance depending upon the current availability of a tonal centre during melody processing. Experiment 5 investigated the effect of alteration size and no significant effects were found. Experiment 6 showed that when transposition effects are controlled for such that the comparison melodies were heard in the same key as the first melody, the pitch-interval relationships were more salient than the contour relationships but contour was still available to the listener. Experiment 7 showed pitch-interval to be more salient them contour when melodies were familiar. Thus both Experiments 6 and 7 show pitch-interval to be more important when a tonal centre is more readily available to the listener. Contour is still available, but less essential under these conditions. Experiment 8 showed pitch-interval but not contour to be affected by key-distance, again showing pitch-interval encoding to be dependent upon a tonal centre which is not necessary for contour. The experiments thus show contour always to be available but to be more or less important depending upon the availability of pitch-interval information which is in turn dependent upon the availability of a tonal centre. The relationship between pitch-interval and contour thus changes according to the salience of a tonal centre. Any condition which serves to make a tonal centre more available (particularly non-transposition or familiarity) also makes pitch-interval more available. Contour is independent of a tonal centre and thus becomes more important in the total percept when tonality is confusing or unpredictable. This has implications for both the understanding of the cognitive processing of melodies and for the understanding of the role of contour in music itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; M Music