Memory for musical intervals: Cognitive differences for consonance and dissonance

Susan E. Rogers, Daniel J. Levitin


A short-term memory (STM) paradigm has been used to examine the influence of frequency separation versus frequency ratio on the processing of pure-tone dyads presented outside of a musical (tonal) context. The physical interaction produces a sensation termed beating when the frequency separation between a dyad's two tones is less than a single critical bandwidth. Models of sensory consonance/dissonance (C/D) predicted that all pure-tone dyads with frequency differences greater than a critical bandwidth should be considered to be constant. The representation of musical C/D typically reflects an integration of the sensory properties of a complex-tone signal, the musical context, and the listener's exposure to intervals. Nonmusicians displayed more accurate memory for large-integer compared with small-integer ratio dyads.


Bandwidth; Mathematical models; Storage allocation (computer); Musical context; Short-term memory (STM); Small-integer ratio dyads

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