Hughes, Bryn

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    Probe tone paradigm reveals less differentiated tonal hierarchies in rock music
    (University of California Press, 2021) Vuvan, Dominique T.; Hughes, Bryn
    Krumhansl and Kessler’s (1982) pioneering experiments on tonal hierarchies in Western music have long been considered the gold standard for researchers interested in the mental representation of musical pitch structure. The current experiment used the probe tone technique to investigate the tonal hierarchy in classical and rock music. As predicted, the observed profiles for these two styles were structurally similar, reflecting a shared underlying Western tonal structure. Most interestingly, however, the rock profile was significantly less differentiated than the classical profile, reflecting theoretical work that describes pitch organization in rock music as more permissive and less hierarchical than in classical music. This line of research contradicts the idea that music from the common-practice era is representative of all Western musics, and challenges music cognition researchers to explore style-appropriate stimuli and models of pitch structure for their experiments.
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    Musical style affects the strength of harmonic expectancy
    (Sage, 2019) Vuvan, Dominique T.
    Research in music perception has typically focused on common-practice music (tonal music from the Western European tradition, ca. 1750–1900) as a model of Western musical structure. However, recent research indicates that different styles within Western tonal music may follow distinct harmonic syntaxes. The current study investigated whether listeners can adapt their harmonic expectations when listening to different musical styles. In two experiments, listeners were presented with short musical excerpts that primed either rock or classical music, followed by a timbre-matched cadence. Results from both experiments indicated that listeners prefer V-I cadences over bVII-I cadences within a classical context, but that this preference is significantly diminished in a rock context. Our findings provide empirical support for the idea that different musical styles do employ different harmonic syntaxes. Furthermore, listeners are not only sensitive to these differences, but are able to adapt their expectations depending on the listening context.