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The cognitive organisation of musical pitch

Cross, I. (1989). The cognitive organisation of musical pitch. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This thesis takes as its initial Premise the idea that the rationales for the forms of pitch organisation employed within tonal music which have been adopted by music theorists have strongly affected those theorists` conceptions of music, and that it is of critical importance to music theory to investigate the potential origination of such rationales within the human sciences. Recent studies of musical pitch perception and cognition are examined, and an attempt is made to assess their capacity to provide sustainable rationales for pitch organisation in tonal music. Theoretical and experimental studies that focus on sensory processes are critically reviewed, and it is suggested that these do not adequately characterise important aspects of musical pitch organisation. Studies that examine more central cognitive constraints are discussed, and a detailed critique is made of recent cognitive-structural approaches to the representation of musical pitch. It is proposed that a significant aspect of tonal pitch organisation, diatonic structure, is neither adequately investigated nor provided with any compelling rationale by these studies. Three series of experiments on the perception and representation of diatonic structure are presented: it is suggested that the sensitivity to properties of diatonic structure shown by listeners in these and in other experiments implies that a representation of diatonicinterval structure constitutes an important component of the cognitive organisation of musical pitch. A possible basis fort his sensitivity is further explored, and a group-theoretic rationale for the musical use of diatonicism is proposed. The nature of the cognitive representation of diatonic interval structure is discussed. and relationships between diatonic structure. other western scale forms. tonality and (briefly) atonality are outlined.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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