Listeners' ability to infer the mode (major vs. minor) of a piece of Western tonal music was examined. Twenty-four subjects, divided into two groups according to their level of musical expertise, evaluated 11 musical stimuli, selected from J. S. Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier". The stimuli included both unambiguous and ambiguous examples of the two modes, as well as one example of a modulation (from minor into major). The stimuli consisted of unaccompanied melodic openings of compositions, each containing 10 tones. Stimulus presentation and evaluation took place in nine progressively longer steps, starting with presentation of the first two tones, followed by their evaluation on a continuous scale, with 0 = "extremely minor" and 100 = "extremely major," and ending with evaluation of the complete stimulus. The results showed that mode inference followed the prescribed modes and tended to become more definite with increasing stimulus length. Experts were generally more definite in their inferences than were nonexperts. Surprisingly, the temporal structure of stimuli also appeared to affect mode inference. The degree of definiteness of mode judgments did not systematically differ between the two modes. It was concluded that listeners are able to infer the mode of a piece of music in the absence of explicit harmonic cues. The generalizability of the results with respect to music pieces of late periods in Western music history and the impact of different musical genres on mode inference are discussed. /// Onderwerp van onderzoek betrof het perceptuele onderscheid tussen majeur en mineur. Vierentwintig proefpersonen, verdeeld in twee groepen die verschilden in nivo van muzikale expertise, evalueerden 11 hen onbekende muziek stimuli, gekozen uit J. S. Bach's "Wohltemperierte Klavier". De stimuli bevatten zowel ondubbelzinnige als ambigue voorbeelden van de twee toonsoort geslachten, alsmede een voorbeeld van modulatie (in dit geval van mineur naar majeur). De stimuli bestonden uit ongeharmonizeerde melodische openingen van composities, elk 10 tonen lang. Stimulus aanbieding en (majeur/mineur) evaluatie vonden plaats in negen toenemend langere stappen, beginnend met de aanbieding van de eerste twee tonen van een stimulus, gevolgd door een evaluatie daarvan (op een continue schaal met 0 = "uitgesproken mineur" en 100 = "uitgesproken majeur"), en eindigend met de evaluatie van de complete stimulus. De resultaten lieten zien dat de evaluaties de profilering der voorgeschreven toonsoortgeslachten volgden en stelliger werden met toenemende stimulus lengte. De experts bleken doorgaans zekerder in hun kwalificaties dan de nonexperts. Verrassend genoeg bleek ook de temporele struktuur der stimuli de beoordeling te beïnvloeden. Geconcludeerd werd dat luisteraars in staat zijn om het geslacht van de toonsoort waarin een muziekstuk staat te identificeren in afwezigheid van expliciete harmonische informatie. De generalizeerbaarheid der resultaten met betrekking tot muziekstukken uit latere perioden in de Westerse tonale muziekgeschiedenis alswel de mogelijke invloed van verschillende muzikale genres op de majeur/mineur interpretatie werden ter discussie gesteld.

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