Relationships Between Tonal Stability and Metrical Accent in Monophonic Contexts


  • Christopher White The University of Massachusetts Amherst



Accent, Meter, Tonality, Entrainment, Exposure, Statistical Learning


Recent corpus analyses have provided evidence for interactions between tonal and metric hierarchies by illustrating that tonally stable pitches occur disproportionately often on strong metrical positions while tonally unstable pitches occur more frequently on weaker metrical positions. This study begins to investigate whether this observed property is salient to listeners' identification of metrical accents: by presenting participants with tonally-determined but metrically ambiguous beat patterns, we ask how tonal hierarchies might influence listeners' interpretation of these metrical-accent patterns (as measured via a tapping task). In Experiment 1, participants heard patterns alternating tonally stable and unstable pitches, and it was found that tonal stability did not affect metric interpretations. In Experiments 2 and 3, listeners heard an atonal artificial hierarchy prefaced by an exposure session using music generated by this artificial hierarchy; exposure did not influence the subsequent tapping task. Flipping the paradigm, in Experiment 4, participants heard a metrically defined but tonally-ambiguous melody, and selected the most appropriate chord. The metrical context affected participants' harmonization choices. Although a tendency to align strong beats with chord tones accounted for some of the data, further analysis shows that changing the metrical context influenced chord choices, providing evidence for a joint tonal-metric hierarchy.




How to Cite

White, C. (2017). Relationships Between Tonal Stability and Metrical Accent in Monophonic Contexts. Empirical Musicology Review, 12(1-2), 19–37.