Isomorphism of Pitch and Time

Other Titles



Humans listen to music in daily life through effortlessly processing rich and complex auditory stimuli. Music cognition research taps into underlying principles in perception by studying shared musical preferences across various training backgrounds. This dissertation focuses on the two most fundamental dimensions of music, pitch and time, and explores the isomorphism in their perceptual preferences through six experiments. Two sets of structurally isomorphic patterns are used. The first set is the standard rhythmic pattern and the diatonic scale pattern (Chapters 2-4). The second set is the bell rhythmic pattern and the pentatonic scale pattern (Chapters 5-7). Chapter 1 introduces basic musical concepts about pitch, time, and their interaction. Chapter 8 compares the two sets of patterns in terms of cognitive principles underlying experimental results and presents future directions. The seven standard rhythms and the seven diatonic scales have the surface structure of 2 2 1 2 2 2. Experiment 1 (Chapter 2) devised a novel probe accent technique to measure the rhythmic stability of each event in each standard rhythm. Experiment 2 (Chapter 3) used the probe tone technique to measure the tonal stability of each tone in each diatonic mode. Experiment 3 (Chapter 4) measured the fit judgment between each standard rhythm and each diatonic mode. Combinations were preferred in which tonally stable tones (governed by early occurrence, proximity to C on both the chroma circle and the circle of fifths, and tonality) occurred in temporal positions where accents were preferred (governed by subgrouping and a syncopation-shifted metrical hierarchy). Related to the first set of patterns, the five bell rhythms and the five pentatonic scales have the surface structure of 2 2 3 2 3. Experiments 4 (Chapter 5), 5 (Chapter 6), and 6 (chapter 7) used the same experimental designs to measure the rhythmic stability of each bell rhythm, the tonal stability of each pentatonic mode, and the fit judgement of rhythm-mode combinations, respectively. Similarly to the first set, combinations were preferred in which salient tones (governed by early occurrence, large interval size, and consonance) occurred in salient temporal positions (governed by early occurrence and long tone duration).

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue



Date Issued




Experimental psychology; Cognitive psychology; accent; hierarchy; mode; pitch; rhythm; Music theory; scale


Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Krumhansl, Carol Lynne

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Cutting, James Eric
Zayas, Vivian
Kinzler, Katherine Diane

Degree Discipline


Degree Name

Ph.D., Psychology

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record