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Measure of Musical Preference, A

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Music exists not to be parsed, categorized, or otherwise processed, but because it provides enjoyment. Thus methodologies that concentrate on the cognitive aspects of music alone omit what is essential about this aesthetic form. This paper provides an alternative approach by proposing a measure of musical preference. Specifically, it is argued that a musical passage will be preferred to the extent that it induces synchrony in those brain structures that are responsible for processing the passage. It is first shown that this conception is consistent with time-honored principle of unity in diversity. It is then argued that the synchrony measure follows from more recent results regarding a possible solution to the binding problem. The bulk of the paper, however, is concerned with verifying the measure via simulation. It is shown, in particular, that the measure applied to a network of interacting integrate and fire neurons responsible for the processing of musical stimuli produces results consistent with human musical preference. This was carried out in three areas in the context of Western classical and popular musical forms. First, the model was applied to the laws of voice leading and other principles developed in the period of common harmonic practice. Next, it was shown that the three most salient aspects of melody, the preponderance of stepwise transitions, the theme and variation nature of phrase development, and increased positive affect with exposure all follow directly from the model. Finally, it was demonstrated how a steady rhythm can increase neural synchrony and presumably positive affect. Additional simulations run on Turkish art songs show that the synchrony measure may have some applicability to non-Western musical forms. The paper concludes by arguing that the synchrony measure may, in certain cases, apply to non-musical aesthetic stimuli.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA., Email:

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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