MUSICAL EXPERIENCE AND TONAL SCALES IN THE RECOGNITION OF OCTAVE-SCRAMBLED MELODIES


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Abstract

Octave-scrambled melodies, having their pitches randomly distributed over several octaves, are difficult to recognize. Such melodies do not preserve pitch-interval patterns of undistorted melodies, but only their sequence of chromas — that quality of pitch shared by tones an octave apart. In four experiments subjects heard chromaonly octave-scrambled melodies preceded by melody cues: unscrambled versions of either the target melody or a different melody. Subjects judged whether octavescrambled target melodies were the same as or different from the cue melodies. Familiar melodies were easier to recognize than unfamiliar, and subjects performed just as well with familiar melodies when melody cues were replaced with tune titles. Unscrambled repetitions of tonal unfamiliar melodies were easier to recognize than atonal ones, especially for inexperienced subjects. Moderately experienced subjects found tonal (vs. atonal) octave-scrambled melodies easier to recognize, but inexperienced subjects found tonal and atonal equally difficult. This suggests that subjects encoded diatonic scale steps or chromas of cue melodies, and tested those encoded representations against chromas of comparison melodies. Experienced subjects were better than inexperienced at using the chroma information in octave-scrambled test melodies.

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