Dynamic Melody Recognition: Distinctiveness and the Role of Musical Expertise

By Bailes, Freya | Memory & Cognition, July 2010 | Go to article overview

Dynamic Melody Recognition: Distinctiveness and the Role of Musical Expertise


Bailes, Freya, Memory & Cognition


The hypothesis that melodies are recognized at moments when they exhibit a distinctive musical pattern was tested. In a melody recognition experiment, point-of-recognition (POR) data were gathered from 32 listeners (16 musicians and 16 nonmusicians) judging 120 melodies. A series of models of melody recognition were developed, resulting from a stepwise multiple regression of two classes of information relating to melodic familiarity and melodic distinctiveness. Melodic distinctiveness measures were assembled through statistical analyses of over 15,000 Western themes and melodies. A significant model, explaining 85% of the variance, entered measures primarily of timing distinctiveness and pitch distinctiveness, but excluding familiarity, as predictors of POR. Differences between nonmusician and musician models suggest a processing shift from momentary to accumulated information with increased exposure to music. Supplemental materials for this article may be downloaded from http://mc.psychonomic-journals.org/content/supplemental.

A popular 1950s radio show called Name That Tune allowed participants to wager on how few notes they would require in order to identify some well-known tune. Experienced listeners are often able to recognize a melody within just a few notes (Dalla Bella, Peretz, & Aronoff, 2003; Schellenberg, Iversen, & McKinnon, 1999; Schulkind, Posner, & Rubin, 2003). The present study provides an examination of how this is accomplished. Specifically, it investigates the factors that contribute to the time course of recognizing or identifying a melody.1

Cohort theory posits that word recognition is based on the distinction of the particular phoneme sequence of the word in the context of some lexicon. When applied to music, an initial cohort of melodies would be activated on the basis of the first notes of a melodic sequence. Thereafter, members of the initial cohort that do not match the increased information provided by the unfolding melodic sequence are dropped until the correct melody is isolated. A consequence of cohort theory is that a melody's point of recognition (POR) should correlate with an increase in information, or distinctiveness, of the melodic sequence. This is because a distinctive melodic event would serve to eliminate irrelevant melodies from the cohort, leading to isolation and recognition. Some melodies are more distinctive or unusual than others. For example, many melodies begin with an ascending perfect fourth interval, whereas few melodies begin with an ascending tritone. Hence, the first two notes of "Maria" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story are far more distinctive than the initial notes for "The Farmer in the Dell." Few melodies begin with the same rhythm as "Happy Birthday," whereas many begin with a series of isochronous durations, including "Frère Jacques."

In addition to their role at retrieval distinctive events may also be important in melody recognition because of their salience at encoding (see Reder, Paynter, Diana, Ngiam, & Dickison, 2008), with McAuley, Stevens, and Humphreys (2004) speculating that melodies that are not distinctive (or "catchy") are not well attended to. Studies of melody identification (Hébert & Peretz, 1997; White, 1960), recall, and expectancy (Carlsen, 1981) have posited a contribution of musical distinctiveness without directly testing it. Schulkind et al. (2003) examined the musical features that facilitate melody identification and, so, questioned what type of information (e.g., phrase boundaries, melodic interval, musical ornaments) contributes to melody recognition. In their study, 28 participants, who were not selected for musical training, identified 34 songs presented note by note. The relationship of recognition to serial position (i.e., note number) exhibited an inverted U shape, leading the authors to conclude that melodies generally were identified after the presentation of a moderate amount of information (namely 5-7 notes), enough information for unique identification. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dynamic Melody Recognition: Distinctiveness and the Role of Musical Expertise
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.