Perceptual organization and pitch memory

Carol L. Krumhansl

in Cognitive Foundations of Musical Pitch

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780195148367
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199893201 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Psychology Series

Perceptual organization and pitch memory

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The first chapter began with the observation that listeners do not hear the sounded events in music as isolated units. Rather, listeners perceive the events functioning in larger pitch and rhythmic organizations. The experimental work summarized to this point has been concerned with the abstract relations that exist between musical tones, and between musical tones and keys. The approach has been to obtain quantitative measures of the degree to which the elements are perceived as related. Various techniques were applied to the data to uncover contributing influences and to highlight regular patterns. This chapter turns away from these specific results to consider some principles that emerge from the empirical findings. It focuses on three principles that describe the way tonal contexts affect perceived relations between tones: contextual identity, contextual distance, and contextual asymmetry. These principles will be presented in the context of Gestalt theory, which provides a congenial framework for some of the phenomena to be discussed.

Keywords: Gestalt theory; tonal stability; musical tones; perceptual organization; tonal relations; contextual identity; contextual distance; contextual asymmetry

Chapter.  10899 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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