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Popescu, Tudor, Widdess, Richard and Rohrmeier, Martin (2021) 'Western listeners detect boundary hierarchy in Indian music: a segmentation study.' Scientific Reports, 11. p. 3112.

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How are listeners able to follow and enjoy complex pieces of music? Several theoretical frameworks suggest links between the process of listening and the formal structure of music, involving a division of the musical surface into structural units at multiple hierarchical levels. Whether boundaries between structural units are perceivable to listeners unfamiliar with the style, and are identified congruently between naïve listeners and experts, remains unclear. Here, we focused on the case of Indian music, and asked 65 Western listeners (of mixed levels of musical training; most unfamiliar with Indian music) to intuitively segment into phrases a recording of sitar ālāp of two different rāga-modes. Each recording was also segmented by two experts, who identified boundary regions at section and phrase levels. Participant- and region-wise scores were computed on the basis of "clicks" inside or outside boundary regions (hits/false alarms), inserted earlier or later within those regions (high/low "promptness"). We found substantial agreement—expressed as hit rates and click densities—among participants, and between participants’ and experts’ segmentations. The agreement and promptness scores differed between participants, levels, and recordings. We found no effect of musical training, but detected real-time awareness of grouping completion and boundary hierarchy. The findings may potentially be explained by underlying general bottom-up processes, implicit learning of structural relationships, cross-cultural musical similarities, or universal cognitive capacities

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: music segmentation, grouping perception, hierarchy, cultural familiarity, analysis of world music, Indian music, musical training
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Q Science > Q Science (General)
ISSN: 20452322
Copyright Statement: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2021 17:57

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