Melodic and Harmonic Foundations

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  • Pitch Sequences

    Horizontal Dimension

    Structure simultaneous pitches

    Vertical Dimension

    Pentatonic scale

    Consisting of five different tones (without half-steps)


    Pentatonic Scale in C

    Perceptual organization of melody

    A sequence of tones constitutes a melody when it is apprehended in terms of a unified and single response

    Previous experiences & laws of perceptual organization (gastalt)

    What two psychological factors influence an individual's perception and apprehension of sequence of tones as a melody?

    Law of proximity

    Grouping elements to make a figure is in accordance with the element's nearness or proximity to each other

    Law of similarity

    Objects or events with similar attributes (shape, color, timbre) will be grouped together

    Law of common direction

    Grouping on the basis of extrapolated completion

    Law of simplicity

    Perceptual preference for smoothness, regularity, and symmetry as compared with roughness, irregularity, and asymmetry. Making perceptual order out of chaos.

    Propinquity, repetition, finality

    Lundin's three attributes (based on Gestalt)


    Western melodies are propinquous or "close together" (Law of Proximity and Law of Simplicity)


    Certain notes repeated with considerable frequency (law of simplicity and somewhat law of proximity)


    Tendencies for melodies to end according to certain conventions of cadence (law of common direction - grouping on basic of extrpolated completion (closure); Law of simplicity - making perceptual order out of chaos)

    Harmonic expectations

    When harmony does not conform at least in a general way to harmonic practices with which a listener is familiar, it sounds strange or different. Expectations are unfulfilled

    Lundin's position

    Melody is a function of both the previous experience of a listener and certain characteristics of the tone series


    ___ is a cultural phenomenon and therefore is learned

    Information Theory

    A system for quantifying the amount of uncertainty involved in a sensory stimulus or message. Messages may be spatial or temporal. The greater the amount of information conveyed via the sensory message, THE GREATER THE UNCERTAINTY OF MEANING OR RESPONSE

    Perceptual redundancy

    Limits the amount of information received

    less meaning

    (Perceptual redundancy)
    Greater information = ________

    less information = more accurate expectations

    (Perceptual redundancy)
    Greater redundancy = _______

    greater information = decreased accuracy of expectations

    (Perceptual redundancy)
    Less redundancy = _______

    Leonard Meyer

    _______ _____ drew attention to the importance of expectation in the listener's experience of music

    Melodic discrimination skills

    General development of skills from infancy through about 8 years with a critical previous of development around 5 or 6 years

    Rhythmic skills

    Tend to increase with age

    Harmonic discrimination skills

    Develop later than melodic skills. Earliest awareness around 5 or 6 years with marked increase around 9 years


    Educational programming follows the hierarchy of development found by researchers: Nursery school through first grade


    Educational programming follows the hierarchy of development found by researchers: Grades 2-4


    Educational programming follows the hierarchy of development found by researchers: Grades 4-6

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