The Perception of Accents in Pop Music Melodies

Müllensiefen, Daniel; Pfleiderer, Martin and Frieler, Klaus. 2009. The Perception of Accents in Pop Music Melodies. Journal of New Music Research, 38(1), pp. 19-44. ISSN 0929-8215 [Article]

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We examine several theoretical and empirical approaches to melodic accent perception and propose a heuristic classification system of formalized accent rules. To evaluate the validity of the accent rules a listening experiment was carried out. 29 participants had to rate every note of 15 pop music melodies presented as audio excerpts and as monophonic MIDI renditions for their perceived accent strength on a rating scale. The ratings were compared to accent predictions from 38 formalized, mainly binary accent rules. Two statistical procedures (logistic regression, and regression trees) were subsequently used in a data mining approach to determine a model consisting of an optimally weighted combination of smaller rule subset to predict the accents votes of the participants. Model evaluation on a set of unseen melodies indicates a very good predictive performance of both statistical models for the participants' votes obtained for the MIDI renditions. The two models derived for the audio data perform less well but still at an acceptable level. An analysis of the model components shows that Gestalt rules covering several different aspects of a monophonic melody are of importance for human accent perception. Among the aspects covered by both models are pitch interval structure, pitch contour, note duration, metrical position, as well as the position of a note within a phrase. In contrast, both audio models incorporate mainly rules relating to metre and syncopations. Potential applications of the presented accent models in automatic music analysis as well as options for future research following this computational approach are discussed.

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Date Deposited:

28 Mar 2011 09:43

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 10:17

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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