A perceptual study investigated the ability of scale degrees to evoke qualia, and the impact of harmonic context in shaping a scale degree’s qualia. In addition, the following questions were addressed: What role does music training have in shaping qualia? Are listeners consistent in their descriptions? Are experiences similar across participants, or are they individual and subjective? Listeners with or without music-theoretic training were asked to rate the qualia of scale degrees following various chord progressions, each ending with a different final harmony. Scale degrees were found to exhibit relatively consistent musical qualia; however, the local chord context was found to significantly influence qualia ratings. In general, both groups of listeners were found to be fairly consistent in their ratings of scale-degree qualia; however, as expected, musician listeners were more consistent than nonmusician listeners. Finally, a subset of the musical qualia ratings were compared against Krumhansl and Kessler’s (1982) scale-degree “profiles.” While profiles created from the present data, overall, were correlated with the K&K profiles, their claim that tonal stability accounts for the high ratings ascribed to tonic triad members was found to be better explained by the effect of the local chord context.
Probabilistic models have proved remarkably successful in modeling melodic organization (e.g., Huron, 2006a; Pearce, 2005; Temperley, 2008). However, the majority of these models rely on pitch information taken from melody alone. Given the prevalence of homophonic music in Western culture, however, surprisingly little attention has been directed at exploring the predictive power of harmonic accompaniment in models of melodic organization. The research presented here uses a combination of the three main approaches to empirical musicology—exploratory analysis, modeling, and hypothesis testing—to investigate the influence of harmony on melodic behavior. In this study a comparison is made between models that use only melodic information and models that consider the melodic information along with the underlying harmonic accompaniment to predict melodic continuations. A test of overall performance shows a significant improvement using a melodic-harmonic model. When individual scale degrees are examined, the major diatonic scale degrees are shown to have unique probability distributions for each of their most common harmonic settings. That is, the results suggest a robust effect of harmony on melodic organization. Perceptual implications and directions for future research are discussed.