Should certain negative results cause music theory to abandon its dependence on perception studies for the corroboration of its key principles? Recent experiments in music perception that have failed to confirm certain important principles of music theory are reviewed from the perspective of musical communities. A musical community is defined to be those listeners for whom a given musical perception is real and useful. It is argued that (1) the significance of experimental results should be interpreted not only according to traditional criteria of statistical significance but also according to the status of relevant musical communities; (2) a perceptual object that is real for only a small minority of listeners may yet be deemed significant if that minority performs some crucial activity in the musical culture; (3) important perceptual objects can be explicitly taught by advanced musical communities; (4) although this perspective calls into question the objectivity of theoretical principles, music theory must continue to incorporate the results of experiments in music perception.

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