Perceptual Organization of Tonal Melody

Tones in a melody possess perceptual qualities that are absent in tones heard in isolation. They are felt to be under the influence of prevailing key and harmony, with certain tones perceived as stable points toward which other, less stable tones are "attracted". At the same time, melodic tones, through their intervallic pattern and motion, establish key and harmony. In this project, we study how the pattern of melodic surface establishes underlying tonal/harmonic structures and how these structures, once established, influence the perceptual organization of subsequent tones. We model this two-way relationship as a dynamic interaction between stimulus-driven (exogenous) neural activities and ongoing (endogenous) activities in pitch memory. The dynamical model of pitch memory explains temporal-order effects found for melodic sequences and provides a psychological basis for traditional music-theoretical concepts and compositional procedures concerning tonal melody. We are also developing an automatic chord estimation system based on the dynamics of pitch memory.
  • Kim, J. C., & Large, E. W. (under revision). Establishing tonal stability in time: The dynamics of melodic steps and leaps.
  • Kim, J. C. (2017). A dynamical model of pitch memory provides an improved basis for implied harmony estimation. Frontiers in Psychology, 8:666. [link]
  • Kim, J. C. (2014). Pitch dynamics in tonal melody: The role of melodic step and leap in establishing tonal stability. The 18th Annual Meeting of American Musicological Society and the 37th Annual Meeting of Society for Music Theory, Milwaukee, WI. [poster]

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Implied harmony in pitch memory model (SMT 2014 poster)