Essen as a Corpus of Early Musical Experience


  • Niels J. Verosky New York University Abu Dhabi



music, corpus, Essen, children's songs, folk music


Statistics derived from the Essen Folksong Collection have widely been used as a proxy for general stylistic norms familiar to Western listeners. Since the specific facets of contemporary musical experience best modeled by a corpus of nineteenth-century European folksongs remain ambiguous, this study tests whether Essen-like music might be familiar to North American listeners through common children’s songs. Comparison with a corpus of 38 English-language children’s songs highly popular in North America finds that scale degrees from Essen and the children’s song corpus have near-perfect correlations in frequency profiles as well as high to very high correlations in tonal expectations and 4-grams. Profiles of scale degrees’ downbeat probabilities and average durations have moderate to high correlations for the diatonic but not the total chromatic. Overall, profiles of scale-degree behavior from the children’s song corpus match profiles from Essen more closely than do profiles from another corpus of music widely familiar to contemporary listeners (Billboard Hot 100 songs) and similarly closely as a corpus of nineteenth-century common-practice German vocal music (Schubert songs). For contemporary North American listeners, studies relying on Essen might plausibly be reinterpreted in terms of Essen acting as a corpus of early musical experience although the generalizability of Essen-derived statistics likely depends on the precise statistics being measured.




How to Cite

Verosky, N. J. (2023). Essen as a Corpus of Early Musical Experience. Empirical Musicology Review, 17(2), 154–164.