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The construction and evaluation of statistical models of melodic structure in music perception and composition

Pearce, M.T. (2005). The construction and evaluation of statistical models of melodic structure in music perception and composition. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The prevalent approach to developing cognitive models of music perception and composition is to construct systems of symbolic rules and constraints on the basis of extensive music-theoretic and music-analytic knowledge. The thesis proposed in this dissertation is that statistical models which acquire knowledge through the induction of regularities in corpora of existing music can, if examined with appropriate methodologies, provide significant insights into the cognitive processing involved in music perception and composition. This claim is examined in three stages. First, a number of statistical modelling techniques drawn from the fields of data compression, statistical language modelling and machine learning are subjected to empirical evaluation in the context of sequential prediction of pitch structure in unseen melodies. This investigation results in a collection of modelling strategies which together yield significant performance improvements over existing methods. In the second stage, these statistical systems are used to examine observed patterns of expectation collected in previous psychological research on melody perception. In contrast to previous accounts of this data, the results demonstrate that these patterns of expectation can be accounted for in terms of the induction of statistical regularities acquired through exposure to music. In the final stage of the present research, the statistical systems developed in the first stage are used to examine the intrinsic computational demands of the task of composing a stylistically successful melody The results suggest that the systems lack the degree of expressive power needed to consistently meet the demands of the task. In contrast to previous research, however, the methodological framework developed for the evaluation of computational models of composition enables a detailed empirical examination and comparison of such models which facilitates the identification and resolution of their weaknesses.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: T Technology
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
Doctoral Theses
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
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