While previous research has raised doubts about the ability of listeners to perceive large-scale musical form, we hypothesize that untrained and unfamiliar listeners can, indeed, recognize structure when cognitive form judgments (coherence and predictability) are differentiated from enjoyment ratings (pleasantness, interest, and desire to hear again). In a between-groups experiment, listeners (n = 125) were randomly assigned to hear one of four versions of Bach’s Prelude in C minor from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier: 1) the original; 2) a mildly scrambled one in which two larger sections were switched; 3) a highly scrambled one; and 4) a randomized one. Significant differences were observed between versions in ratings of coherence and predictability, but not in ratings of pleasantness, interest, or desire to hear again. Individuals who had played the piece before could also explicitly identify structural intervention. It was assumed that relative incoherence would result in higher complexity and, thus, be reflected in longer retrospective duration estimates; however, estimates did not differ between stimuli. These results suggest that untrained listeners can evaluate global form, independently of their level of familiarity with a musical piece, while also suggesting that awareness of incoherence does not always correspond with decreased enjoyment.
Appreciation of Form in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier: Effects of Structural Interventions on Perceived Coherence, Pleasantness, and Retrospective Duration Estimates
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Geoffrey McDonald, Clemens Wöllner; Appreciation of Form in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier: Effects of Structural Interventions on Perceived Coherence, Pleasantness, and Retrospective Duration Estimates. Music Perception 1 December 2022; 40 (2): 150–167. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2022.40.2.150
Download citation file: