Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The purpose of this thesis was to conduct three experiments in order to ascertain a perceptual account of Schenker's analysis of a Handel Aria and to test Lerdahl's premise that listeners experienced in Western tonal music perceive tension globally rather than locally. Data were obtained by recording perceptual judgements of tension, phrase structure, and pitch space at 83 stopping points across the Aria and three Schenkerian levels of analysis (background, middleground, and foreground). Of particular interest is viewing this data in the light of Schenker's organicism philosophy. Listeners in all three experiments are experienced musicians and university music students. In experiment 1, tension ratings correlate among listeners at all levels of analysis and perceived tension varies with stopping point. Thus, the experience of tension and relaxation requires minimal harmonic and melodic information. The phrase structure data obtained from experiment 2 demonstrates that more surface material is required in order to make judgements of phrase structure. Experiment 3, using Krumhansl's probe tone method, shows that even with the minimal information of Schenker's background level, listeners experienced in Western tonal music consistently perceive a hierarchical pitch space similar to Krumhansl's probe tone profile. The application of Lerdahl's Tonal Pitch Space Theory demonstrates a reliance of the experienced listener on local tension rather than on inherited tension in this short, completely diatonic piece.
Henry, Deborah, "Music Theory and Perception: An Experimental Comparison" (2005). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6648.
McMaster University Library