Perception of Leitmotives in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen

Baker, David J. and Müllensiefen, Daniel. 2017. Perception of Leitmotives in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 662. ISSN 1664-1078 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The music of Richard Wagner tends to generate very diverse judgments indicative of the complex relationship between listeners and the sophisticated musical structures in Wagner’s music. This paper presents findings from two listening experiments using the music from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen that explores musical as well as individual listener parameters to better understand how listeners are able to hear leitmotives, a compositional device closely associated with Wagner’s music. Results confirm findings from a previous experiment showing that specific expertise with Wagner’s music can account for a greater portion of the variance in an individual’s ability to recognize and remember musical material compared to measures of generic musical training. Results
also explore how acoustical distance of the leitmotives affects memory recognition using a chroma similarity measure. In addition, we show how characteristics of the compositional structure of the leitmotives contributes to their salience and memorability. A final model is then presented that accounts for the aforementioned individual differences factors, as well as parameters of musical surface and structure. Our results suggest that that future work in music perception may consider both individual differences variables beyond musical training, as well as symbolic features and audio commonly used in music information retrieval in order to build robust models of musical perception and cognition.

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musical memory, leitmotives, opera, symbolic notation, computational Modeling

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12 April 2017Accepted
4 May 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Jun 2017 14:23

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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