N ote - to - note changes in brightness are able to influence the perception of interval size. Changes that are congruent with pitch tend to expand interval size, whereas changes that are incongruent tend to contract. In the case of singing, brightness of notes can vary as a function of vowel content. In the present study, we investigated whether note-to-note changes in brightness arising from vowel content influence perception of relative pitch. In Experiment 1, three-note sequences were synthesized so that they varied with regard to the brightness of vowels from note to note. As expected, brightness influenced judgments of interval size. Changes in brightness that were congruent with changes in pitch led to an expansion of perceived interval size. A follow-up experiment confirmed that the results of Experiment 1 were not due to pitch distortions. In Experiment 2, the final note of three-note sequences was removed, and participants were asked to make speeded judgments of the pitch contour. An analysis of response times revealed that brightness of vowels influenced contour judgments. Changes in brightness that were congruent with changes in pitch led to faster response times than did incongruent changes. These findings show that the brightness of vowels yields an extra-pitch influence on the perception of relative pitch in song.
Little empirical research has been conducted on prodigies, in no small part due to the fact that there exists no agreed-upon definition with which to identify them. The most widespread definition characterizes a prodigy as a child who, at a very young age (typically before 10) performs at an adult professional level (Feldman & Goldsmith, 1986). We tested this definition by asking musicians and nonmusicians to (1) judge whether audio clips were played by a prodigy or a professional, and (2) identify which of two clips of the same piece was played by a prodigy. Listeners performed above chance in both tasks but by a very modest margin, and musicians performed better than nonmusicians. Their low performance implies that prodigies perform well enough to be judged in terms of the most demanding criteria of performance in the field. Yet older prodigies (11 to 14) were harder to distinguish from professionals than younger prodigies (under 10), suggesting a protracted developmental trajectory for prodigy performance. Furthermore, the rate at which prodigies progressed in their playing appears higher than for regular students, suggesting that rate of progress might be used as an additional criterion for defining music prodigy.
one facet of tonality perception that has been fairly understudied in the years since Krumhansl and colleagues' groundbreaking work on tonality (Krumhansl & Kessler, 1982; Krumhansl & Shepard, 1979) is the music theoretical notion that the minor scale can have one of three distinct forms: natural, harmonic, or melodic. The experiment reported here fills this gap by testing if listeners form distinct mental representations of the minor tonal hierarchy based on the three forms of the minor scale. Listeners heard a musical context (a scale or a sequence of chords) consisting of one of the three minor types (natural, harmonic, or melodic) and rated a probe tone according to how well it belonged with the preceding context. Listeners' probe tone ratings corresponded well to the minor type that had been heard in the preceding context, regardless of whether the context was scalar or chordal. These data expand psychological research on the perception of tonality, and provide a convenient reference point for researchers investigating the mental representation of Western musical structure.