Musical Expectations Within Chord Sequences: Facilitation Due to Tonal Stability Without Closure Effects

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Abstract

Musical priming studies have shown that musical event processing is facilitated for the tonally related, stable tonic (chord, tone) in comparison with less-related, less stable events. However, target events have always been in the final position of the musical sequences, position at which the tonic is the most expected event as it brings closure. Priming data thus contain a confound between tonal stability and end-sequence wrap-up processes, comparable with those reported for sentence processing. To investigate musical expectations without this confound, our study omitted the advantage of the tonic linked to the final position and placed related and less-related targets at various positions within 8-chord sequences. To indicate to-be-processed targets, visual information was synchronized with the presentation of each chord. Data showed higher accuracy and faster correct response times for stable tonic over less-stable dominant targets. The here introduced musical priming paradigm contributes to our understanding of listeners' knowledge about tonal hierarchy and provides a new tool for testing musical integration and event processing in musical materials.

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