Poster—ICMPC 2016: Do Melodic Intervals Evoke Distinctive Qualia?

Contributors:
  1. David Huron

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Description: Individual scale tones are known to evoke stable qualia for experienced listeners (Arthur, 2015; Huron, 2006). In this study, we ask whether melodic intervals evoke distinctive qualia, and whether these qualia are independent of the scale degree qualia of the constituent tones. The first study was an open-ended exploratory task in which musician listeners provided free association terms in response to ascending and descending melodic intervals in both tonal and atonal contexts. Content analysis was carried out on the resulting terms using independent assessors. In order to test the validity of the qualia dimensions, a second study asked independent participants to judge melodic intervals according to the dimensions arising from the content analysis from the first study. In particular, we tested for intersubjective reliability suggesting that interval qualia are stable experiences shared by Western-enculturated listeners. Even if the dimensions are shown to exhibit high reliability, a possible objection would be that listeners are actually responding to the qualia evoked by the constituent scale degrees rather than by the intervals per se. Accordingly, a third study was conducted in which participants again heard melodic intervals in both key contexts and atonal contexts. Intervals were judged using only those dimensions validated in Study 2. Two analyses were used to interpret the results of Study 3. First, do the qualia judgments for key-contextualized intervals converge with the qualia judgments for the a-contextualized intervals? That is, is there any evidence that intervals have stable qualia independent of key context? Second, can we predict the qualia of the contextualized intervals as some combination of the qualia of the constituent tones? For example, if the qualia of an interval is similar to the qualia of the final tone forming that interval, then the idea that intervals evoke independent qualia would be thrown into question.

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