Ladinig and Huron’s (2010) investigation of the relationship between mode (major-minor) and dynamics in Classical and Romantic piano music indicated higher levels of dynamics for compositions from the Classical period but only in major-mode pieces. This was contrary to the expectation that minor mode pieces from the Romantic era would be louder because romantic composers may have intended to convey seriousness, passion or even aggression, rather than sadness. Although the methodology was carefully crafted to enable necessary control for a quantitative study, it also contributed to the questionable relevance of the results. It is arguable whether the chosen repertoire is typical, whether initial markings in the score have a true bearing on the dynamic characteristics of a piece and whether notated dynamics are reliable data due to historical notation conventions and later editorial practices.
Ammirante and Thompson’s intriguing article aims to enhance the ecological validity of their previous findings (Ammirante, Thompson, & Russo, in press) by using music-like melodic stimuli, rather than random pitch sequences. In line with this aim, I will briefly discuss three issues that may be taken into account in relating the motion-like qualities of melody to music and music-related behavior (finger tapping). First, I suggest how the authors’ hypotheses may be examined within a context in which tapping is affected by expectancies for a specific melodic continuation. Second, I discuss how timing and velocity changes associated with melodic distance and contour may give rise to a prototypical joint accent structure, integrating melodic, agogic and dynamic accent. Finally, I note a possible confound of melodic direction and tonality in Ammirante and Thompson’s stimuli, and suggest ways to examine the effects of these two dimensions separately.
Woolhouse’s (2010) central empirical finding is a relatively high correlation between his interval-cycle proximity (ICP) model and the theorist Walter Piston’s (1979) Table of Usual Root Progressions. The fit between these two models can be understood in terms of a classification of chord progressions by root interval class (second, third, fifth) and directionality (strong, weak). The ICP model does not perform as well on data on chord progressions in Tymoczko’s (forthcoming) corpora of music by Bach and Mozart. The alternative MHP model (Quinn, 2010) does not fit the Piston data as well as the ICP model, but it fits the corpus data better than the ICP model.
(Empirical Musicology Review, 2010-07) Ammirante, Paolo; Thompson, William Forde
In a previous continuation tapping study (Ammirante, Thompson, & Russo, in press), each tap triggered a discrete tone in a sequence randomly varying in pitch height and contour. Although participants were instructed to ignore the tones, pitch distance and pitch contour influenced intertap interval (ITI) and tap velocity (TV). The current study replicated these findings with original melodies. Results were interpreted as an effect of apparent tonal motion, with deviation in ITI and TV mirroring implied tonal acceleration. Due to overlapping perceptual and motor representations, participants may have failed to disambiguate acceleration implied by tonal motion from the acceleration of their finger trajectory. Dissociative effects of pitch distance on ITI and pitch contour on TV implied that pitch distance influences the initial finger extension while pitch contour influences later finger flexion. Acceleration in ITI and TV were also both correlated with melodic accent strength values from perceptual data (Thomassen, 1982), suggesting that perception and production of melodic accent emerge from shared action associations.
(Empirical Musicology Review, 2010-07) Woolhouse, Matthew
The issue of the emergence of major-minor tonality is addressed by recourse to a novel pitch grouping process, referred to as interval cycle proximity (ICP). An interval cycle is the minimum number of (additive) iterations of an interval that are required for octave-related pitches to be re-stated, a property conjectured to be responsible for tonal attraction. It is hypothesised that the actuation of ICP in cognition, possibly in the latter part of the sixteenth century, led to a hierarchy of tonal attraction which favoured certain pitches over others, ostensibly the tonics of the modern major and minor system. An ICP model is described that calculates the level of tonal attraction between adjacent musical elements. The predictions of the model are shown to be consistent with music-theoretic accounts of common practice period tonality, including Piston’s Table of Usual Root Progressions. The development of tonality is illustrated with the historical quotations of commentators from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, and can be characterised as follows. At the beginning of the seventeenth century multiple ‘finals’ were possible, each associated with a different interval configuration (mode). By the end of the seventeenth century, however, only two interval configurations were in regular use: those pertaining to the modern major- minor key system. The implications of this development are discussed with respect interval cycles and their hypothesised effect within music