Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The role of segmentation and expectation in the perception of closure
by Peebles, Crystal, Ph.D., The Florida State University, 2011, 234; 3502879
Abstract (Summary)

In the musicological discourse, "closure" can refer to a variety of musical phenomena, but the language describing closure usually involves at least one of two common metaphors: closure is the completion of a musical process, or closure is the segmentation of musical experience. Along with these two descriptions of closure, musicians also recognize that closure's markers vary between musical styles and that some moments of closure are stronger than others, articulating a composition's hierarchical construction. These four characteristics of closure, gleaned from the musicological literature, inform my definition of closure: an anticipated end to a musical segment.

This dissertation will empirically investigate the role of expectation in the perception of closure. I hypothesize that closure is not something intrinsic to a piece of music; rather, it relies on an individual's previous musical encounters. This previous experience gives rise to musical expectations, and closure is experienced when a listener is accurately able to anticipate the end of a musical segment, on any hierarchical level. The degree of perceived closure correlates with a listener's ability to predict an ending, coupled with relatively weak expectations for what will occur next. This perspective is informed by recent research in Event Segmentation Theory (EST), a theory from the field of cognitive psychology that investigates the segmentation of everyday non-musical events.

Three experimental studies test this hypothesis. The first study determines whether listeners segment music according to the predictions made by EST. The results from this study corroborate previous research: listeners consistently use musical features to segment an ongoing composition, and the fine segmentation results are nested within the coarse segmentation results. The learning task in the second study ascertains whether exposure to an unfamiliar musical style will change a listener's perception of closure in that style. While the data do not entirely confirm this hypothesis, results from this study suggest the importance of previous experience in the perception of closure. The third study finds a correlation between predicted endings in a familiar style and the rating of a listener's perceived strength of closure. Results from all three studies support an expectation-based model of musical segmentation and the perception of closure.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rogers, Nancy
Commitee: Kaschak, Michael, Mathes, James, Shaftel, Matthew
School: The Florida State University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 73/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Closure, Expectation, Music cognition, Segmentation
Publication Number: 3502879
ISBN: 9781267262530
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