Representing Melodic Relationships Using Network Science

50 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2022

See all articles by Hannah Merseal

Hannah Merseal

Pennsylvania State University

Roger E. Beaty

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Yoed N. Kenett

affiliation not provided to SSRN

James Lloyd-Cox

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Örjan de Manzano

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Martin Norgaard

Georgia State University

Abstract

Music is a complex system consisting of many dimensions and hierarchically organized information—the organization of which, to date, we do not fully understand. Network science provides a powerful approach to representing such complex systems, from the social networks of people to modelling the underlying network structures of different cognitive mechanisms. In the present research, we explored whether network science methodology can be extended to model the melodic patterns underlying expert improvised music. Using a large corpus of transcribed improvisations, we constructed a network model in which 5-pitch sequences were linked depending on consecutive occurrences, constituting 116,407 nodes (sequences) and 157,429 edges connecting them. We found that the network exhibited structural properties that resemble “scale-free” networks (i.e., networks with degree distribution following a power law). We then investigated whether mathematical graph modeling relates to musical characteristics in real-world listening situations via a behavioral experiment paralleling those used to construct semantic networks in language. We found that as distance within the network increased, participants judged melodic sequences as less related. Moreover, the relationship between distance and reaction time (RT) judgments was quadratic: participants slowed in RT up to distance four, then accelerated; a parallel finding to research in language networks. This study offers insights into the hidden network structure of improvised tonal music and suggests that humans are sensitive to the property of melodic distance in this network.

Keywords: music, network science, improvisation

Suggested Citation

Merseal, Hannah and Beaty, Roger E. and Kenett, Yoed N. and Lloyd-Cox, James and de Manzano, Örjan and Norgaard, Martin, Representing Melodic Relationships Using Network Science. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4124961 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4124961

Hannah Merseal (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Roger E. Beaty

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Yoed N. Kenett

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

James Lloyd-Cox

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Örjan De Manzano

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Martin Norgaard

Georgia State University ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

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