Two experiments were conducted to test Bartlett and Dowling's conclusion (1980) that the key of a tone sequence strongly influences recognition for short retention intervals, that the influence decreases with increasing retention time, and that the importance of the melodic interval information increases during the retention interval. Five different retention times were used (1,5,8,15, and 30 sec), together with standard tone sequences with a clear tonal scheme and two different contours (two or four directional contour changes). Subjects with moderate musical experience were able to discriminate tonal imitations and transpositions of the standards at all retention times; the number of contour changes did not influence the responses. It was concluded that interval information can be extracted from sequences with strong cues for a particular key within a very short period of time and that one of the major dimensions of tone sequences is not tonality or nontonality, but rather the degree of tonal clarity. This characteristic even may be superior to the number of contour changes.

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