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09-05-2019 | Original Article

Tonal and textural influences on musical sight-reading

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research
Auteurs:
Olivia Podolak Lewandowska, Mark A. Schmuckler
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Abstract

Two experiments investigated the impact of two structural factors—musical tonality and musical texture—on pianists’ ability to play by sight without prior preparation, known as musical sight-reading. Tonality refers to the cognitive organization of tones around a central reference pitch, whereas texture refers to the organization of music in terms of the simultaneous versus successive onsets of tones as well as the number of hands (unimanual versus bimanual) involved in performance. Both experiments demonstrated that tonality and texture influenced sight-reading. For tonality, both studies found that errors in performance increased for passages with lesser perceived psychological stability (i.e., minor and atonal passages) relative to greater perceived stability (i.e., major passages). For texture, both studies found that errors in performance increased for passages that were more texturally complex, requiring two-handed versus one-handed performance, with some additional evidence that the relative simultaneity of note onsets (primarily simultaneous versus primarily successive) also influenced errors. These experiments are interpreted within a perception–action framework of music performance, highlighting influences of both top-down cognitive factors and bottom-up motoric processes on sight-reading behavior.

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