Tonal Cognition

Emmanuel Bigand and Bénédicte Poulin-Charronnat

in Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298457
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Tonal Cognition

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This article focuses on the combinatory nature of Western music. What type of organization in the tonal pitch structure allows the production of so many different styles, and so many different pieces inside each style? In order to address this issue, the article starts start by considering the theoretical distinction between ‘tonal’ and ‘event hierarchies’. It then summarizes the main features of tonal hierarchies and examines how these hierarchies may be parsimoniously represented. The influence of tonal hierarchies on music perception is then reviewed. The article concludes by considering how tonal hierarchies contribute, along with other musical parameters, to the definition of an event hierarchy specific to a given piece.

Keywords: tonal hierarchy; event hierarchy; tonal pitch; music perception; Western music

Article.  7479 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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