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Rohrmeier, Martin and Widdess, Richard (2017) 'Incidental Learning of Melodic Structure of North Indian Music.' Cognitive Science, 41 (5). pp. 1299-1327.

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Musical knowledge is largely implicit. It is acquired without awareness of its complex rules, through interaction with a large number of samples during musical enculturation. Whereas several studies explored implicit learning of mostly abstract and less ecologically valid features of Western music, very little work has been done with respect to ecologically valid stimuli as well as non-Western music. The present study investigated implicit learning of modal melodic features in traditional North Indian music in a realistic and ecologically valid way. It employed a cross-grammar design, using melodic materials from two rāgas that use the same scale, Toṛī and Multānī. Participants were trained on the ālāp section of either rāga and tested on novel excerpts from joṛ sections of both rāgas featuring 5 distinct melodic features and using binary familiarity and 6-point confidence judgments. Three of the five features were melodically distinctive of either rāga, whereas two were only distinctive based on characteristics other than mere pitch sequence features (for instance, emphasis). Findings indicated that Western participants unfamiliar with Indian music incidentally learned to identify distinctive features of either rāga. Confidence ratings suggest that participants’ performance was consistently correlated with confidence, indicating that they became aware of whether they were right in their responses, i.e. they possessed explicit judgment knowledge. Altogether our findings show incidental learning in a realistic ecologically valid context during only a very short exposure and thus provide evidence that incidental learning constitutes a powerful mechanism that plays a fundamental role in musical acquisition.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Music
ISSN: 03640213
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2015 10:01

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