Does formal musical structure affect perception of musical expressiveness?


Journal Article


Tillmann, B., Bigand, E.




Does formal musical structure affect perception of musical expressiveness?

Journal / Livre / Conférence

Psychology of Music


The aim of the study was to assess the effect of systematic modifcations in global musical structures on perceived expressiveness. Recorded performances of piano pieces of Bach, Mozart and Schönberg were segmented into short chunks of six seconds in average. These chunks were linked aither in a forward order (Original version) or in a backward order (Inverted version). In the inverted version, the formal global structure of the pieces was destroyed, but the superficial features and the local structures inside the chunks were unaltered. Forty non-musician subjects were required to rate the musical expressiveness of these pieces on 29 semantic scales. Half listened to the three original versions, the other half on the three inverted versions. For both groups there was a strong effect of musical pieces on expressiveness. However, the effect of the version, i.e., forward or backward ordering of the chunks, was small and that was found for the Schönberg piece. For the Bach and the Mozart pieces, playing the chunks in a forward or backward order affected neither the expressiveness, nor the feeling of coherence. These findings suggest that short chunks contain enough information to define expressiveness for non-musician listeners. These results agree with previous ones reported by Gottlieb and Konecni (1985), Cokk (1987), Karno and Konecni (1992), and raise the question of the psychological reality of global musical structures.






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