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Brian Mathias, Peter Q Pfordresher, and Caroline Palmer (2015)

Context and meter enhance long-range planning in music performance

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8:1040.

Neural responses demonstrate evidence of resonance, or oscillation, during the production of periodic auditory events. Music contains periodic auditory events that give rise to a sense of beat, which in turn generates a sense of meter on the basis of multiple periodicities. Metrical hierarchies may aid memory for music by facilitating similarity-based associations among sequence events at different periodic distances that unfold in longer contexts. A fundamental question is how metrical associations arising from a musical context influence memory during music performance. Longer contexts may facilitate metrical associations at higher hierarchical levels more than shorter contexts, a prediction of the range model, a formal model of planning processes in music performance (Palmer and Pfordresher, 2003; Pfordresher et al., 2007). Serial ordering errors, in which intended sequence events are produced in incorrect sequence positions, were measured as skilled pianists performed musical pieces that contained excerpts embedded in long or short musical contexts. Pitch errors arose from metrically similar positions and further sequential distances more often when the excerpt was embedded in long contexts compared to short contexts. Musicians' keystroke intensities and error rates also revealed influences of metrical hierarchies, which differed for performances in long and short contexts. The range model accounted for contextual effects and provided better fits to empirical findings when metrical associations between sequence events were included. Longer sequence contexts may facilitate planning during sequence production by increasing conceptual similarity between hierarchically associated events. These findings are consistent with the notion that neural oscillations at multiple periodicities may strengthen metrical associations across sequence events during planning.

music performance, sequence production, meter, memory