Previous research on melody recognition indicates that listeners can recognize contour information when melodies are retained for brief intervals and can recognize interval information of melodies held in longterm memory. However, past research has failed to control for the diatonicism and familiarity of the melodies. In three experiments, the relative contributions of contour and interval information during the abstraction of novel diatonic and nondiatonic sequences are examined. Listeners recognize the melodic contours of melodies held over an extended retention interval. Additionally, listeners use the diatonic context to recognize both the contour and interval information. In nondiatonic contexts, listeners rely predominantly on the contour information. In addition, musically experienced listeners can recognize both the contour and interval information, whereas musically inexperienced listeners rely predominantly on the contour information. Recognition of melodic contour remained relatively accurate during a 24-hr retention interval. Thus, the results indicate that the diatonic scale mediates the abstraction of interval information. Listeners seem to acquire a musical schema for diatonic melodies.

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