Title: Perception of pitch and time similarity in music

Ethics approval: 2012-064


Jon Prince
Rachel Davey
Scott Devenish
Sandra O’Shea
Andrew Manucci
Taryn Van Gramberg
James White

There has been a debate whether pitch and time in music cognition are independent or interactive in perception. The purpose of the current study was to examine the relation between the dimensions of pitch and time in melodic similarity. These primary dimensions in music provide both surface and structural information. Surface dimensions involve the superficial changes in a melody, and structure is the deeper underlying meaning that adheres to rule organisation. Pitch contour and time contour (rhythm pattern) are the surface features of a melody. Tonality and meter are the structural characteristics of melodic organisation. In the current study, 34 listeners rated the similarity of melody pairs. , with systematic variations in their pitch and temporal characteristics. A factor analysis extracted 4 primary components from the similarity ratings. These components aligned well with the surface and structural manipulations in pitch and time. However, a separate analysis testing the significance of the stimulus manipulations revealed that tonality was not a significant contributor to perceived similarity. Overall, surface features appeared to be more salient than structural characteristics, for both pitch and time. Additionally, time affected ratings more than pitch, in surface and structure. The current study gives further evidence for the independence of musical dimensions in music cognition.