5aMU4. The concept of stability and expectation in tonal music.

Session: Friday Morning, June 20

Author: Rene Van Egmond
Location: School of Music, The Ohio State Univ., 1866 N. College Rd., Columbus, OH 43210


There are two important aspects when listening to Western tonal music: the recognition of structures and the way expectations in music are evoked. Although these two aspects are not independent it can be argued that the first aspect relates to the listener's sense of coherence in a piece, whereas the second aspect relates to the listener's sense of a dynamic flow. Both aspects are dependent on the underlying feature of tonality, which has its fundamentals in the acoustical properties of sounds (overtone series) and the set theoretical properties of ``musical scales.'' The primary focus will be on the expectations of listeners given a certain key (i.e., tonal expectations). In literature it is assumed that these expectations rely on the ``mental stability'' associated with tones in a certain key (represented by the so-called tonal hierarchy). It is often argued that the difference in stability relates to a tonal expectation for a listener. Problems with this approach are discussed, considering music theoretical literature and data from experimental literature, especially emphasizing the difference between the function of individual tones and the harmonic related functions. Furthermore, data will be presented from newly performed experiments that test expectations in tonal music.

ASA 133rd meeting - Penn State, June 1997