A psychoacoustic model of harmonic cadences: a preliminary report

Milne, Andrew J. (2009). A psychoacoustic model of harmonic cadences: a preliminary report. In: 7th Triennial Conference of European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM 2009), 12-16 Aug 2009, Jyväskylä, Finland.

URL: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:jyu-2009411284


This report presents a psychoacoustically derived computational model of the perceived distance between any two major or minor triads, the degree of activity created by any given pair of triads, and the cadential effectiveness of three-triad progressions. It also provides statistical analyses of the ratings given by thirty-five participants for the "similarity" and "fit" of triads in a pair, and the "cadential effectiveness" of three-triad progressions. Multiple regressions show that the model provides highly significant predictions of the experimentally obtained ratings. Finally, it is argued that because the model is based upon psychoacoustic axioms, it is likely the regression equations represent true causal models. As such, the computational model and its associated theory question the plausibility of theoretical approaches to tonality that use only long-term memory and statistical features, as well as those approaches based upon symmetrical geometrical structures like the torus. It is hoped that the psychoacoustic approach proposed here may herald not only the return of psychoacoustic approaches to tonal music theory, but also the exploration of the tonal possibilities offered by non-standard tunings and non-harmonic timbres.

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