A series of experiments investigated cognitive processes involved in listening to a piece of music, focusing in particular on the abstraction of surface features (here referred to as cues). Subjects listened to an unfamiliar piece in a familiar musical idiom, and their sensitivities to aspects of the just-heard piece were used to elucidate the nature of their representations of the piece in recent memory. The study also sought to assess the capacities of subjects to use any declarative knowledge of aspects of tonal structure that they possessed in organizing musical material. Three experiments made use of different procedures to address these issues, using either a single short tonal piece—Schubert's Valse sentimentale, D. 779, op. 50, no. 6—or a variant of this. The first two experiments used nonmusician subjects and examined (1) the cues abstracted in listening to the piece and (2) subjects' ability to identify the temporal location of segments of the piece after listening. The third experiment explored the constructional abilities of musician and nonmusician subjects, requiring them to create a coherent piece by ordering the segments that made up the original piece. The results of these experiments indicated that although the abilities of musicians differed from those of nonmusicians, both groups of subjects exhibited a weaker sensitivity to features of musical structure than to cues abstracted from the musical surface.

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