Does the change of a melody's meter affect tonal pattern perception?
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The interplay between motivic structure and metrical structure is thought to be a critical component of music perception. Alignment of melodic pattern with temporal presentation facilitates recognition of tonal patterns (Deutsch, 1980). However, the effects of meter and melody have never been systematically demonstrated. We report a study that explored whether matched metrical and motivic structures facilitate the recognition of alterations to pitch patterns. Eight tonal melodies were composed with binary (four-note) or ternary (three-note) repeated patterns. A simple meter (implied from the binary patterns) or a compound meter (implied from the ternary patterns) was imposed during each trial through a metronome and a harmonic progression played prior to each trial. Melodies, thus, consisted of motivic structures and metrical structures that were crossed factorially and could match or mismatch. Three experiments were performed. Despite differences in repetitions needed for familiarization of melodies, both groups of subjects seem to be affected by a meter and motive interaction: matching structures lead to higher accuracy of recognition versus mismatching structure. The current results show possible influences of higher-order aspects of structure on the perception of local events (i.e. pitch class).