The relationship of music to language has been a topic of renewed debate in recent years. Many orientations and methodologies have been applied to musico-linguistic studies, from Chomsky's generative grammar to semiotics. Many writers have felt that such linguistic approaches have been at best limited in their applicability to music, although some recent studies of syntax have generated interest. This article will advance a rationale for the study of music theoretical and perception issues in the light of contemporary advances in the area of linguistic prosody. While some issues in linguistics have been widely discussed in the music psychology and perception literature, much research in prosody has not been addressed. In order to understand the position adopted herein, the reader may find it helpful to review some previous avenues of exploration in the comparison of music and language. While Chomsky has recently rethought his theories of deep structure in language, applications of this theory to music have held a fascinating lure for musicians and theorists, from Bernstein's Schenkerian speculations to Lerdahl and Jackendoff's Generative Theory of Tonal Music (hereinafter GTTM). One of GTTM's main contributions is a systematized version of the hierarchical structure of meter, incorporating the linguistic studies of Liberman & Prince. (Liberman 249-336) Referencing transformational grammars, GTTM places a good deal of emphasis on the deep structure in composition, particularly in regard to metrical hierarchies and tonality. Lerdahl & Jackendoff are less interested in the 'surface' structure of a piece, which is generally defined to include melody, rhythmic patterns (as opposed to meter), dynamics, timbre, register, etc.
In an effort to empirically demonstrate the theories contained in GTTM, many cognitive scholars gave designed experiments to measure performance variables. Often, these experimental performances are judged on their ability to reflect and/or communicate to listeners the deep harmonic structure of a composition. (Deliege 325-60)
Contrary to expectation, research in music cognition has faltered when it has attempted to verify musical response in the context of the deep structure of transformational linguistics. Sloboda and Cooke, among others, have found that emotional response occurs in very short fragments of music and in a very short space of time. (Cooke 64-95) Such response is not relevant to the large-scale structural hierarchy of the composition. Factors such as repetition, changes of texture, register or dynamics are much more important in perceptual grouping than such tonal factors as modulations, cadence points, or tonal closure. (Clarke 352-8)
Rosner and Meyer have attempted to experimentally document Meyer's theory of melodic processes. (Meyer 1-40) Meyer distinguishes between structural and ornamental melodic notes (much in the manner of Schenker). Wishing to prove that the underlying structure of the melody is more perceptually important to the listener than low-level structures such as contour, the authors instead find a greater perceptual effect for melodic process. They also discover a much more important role for melodic contour than they had predicted. The idea of top-down processing of musical hierarchies been widely verified experimentally, (Narmour 1-26) yet from the standpoint of music theory, the level of surface has been subject to unwarranted neglect.
If deep structure is significant in both music theory and language, why can its effects not be verified in music perception research In part, the attention paid to deep structure by scholars of music perception has come about through some confusion of purpose. The aims of theorists are not necessarily those of perception researchers. Theoretical analysis tends to be highly reductive in nature, insofar as ...
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