Title: The influence of pitch and time variations on musical expectations of melody

Ethics approval: 2011-88

Jon Prince
James Sunderland

Research on melodic expectancy has largely focused on responses to single notes following a musical context, however expectancies may occur over a longer time period than single notes. Additionally, the role of pitch and time (and how they combine) in forming melodic expectations is unclear. Therefore this research investigates the relative contributions of pitch and temporal information in judgments of melodic expectancy. Melodies were split into halves (based on complete musical phrases) and the pitch and temporal content of the second half was manipulated independently. Each dimension could consist of the original sequence (of pitches, or durations), a neutralized sequence (isochronous, or monotonic), or a random arrangement (atonal, or ametric). Factorial variation yielded 9 stimulus conditions based on these manipulations. Participants rated how expected the second half of the melody was, but with one of three instructions (varied in blocks): attend pitch (ignore time), attend time (ignore pitch), or attend both. Expectancy ratings are examined for effects of pitch, time, and pitch-time interaction for each instructional condition. This design allows for tests of selective attention failure, and linear or interactive contributions of pitch and timing to participants’ responses. Data collection was ongoing at the time of writing, but preliminary indications were that both pitch and temporal content influence ratings in all conditions. Furthermore, the pattern of contribution of each dimension should vary across instructional condition. This research contributes to the literature on musical expectancies and pitch-time integration.