Dissertation Index

Author: Foulkes-Levy, Laurdella

Title: A Synthesis of Recent Theories of Tonal Melody, Contour, and the Diatonic Scale: Implications for Aural Perception and Cognition

Institution: SUNY Buffalo

Begun: January 1994

Completed: September 1996


This dissertation deals with the application of several recent theories of music to musicianship training. The theories concern: (1) the hierarchical nature of tonal melody, (2) reduction techniques which reveal common tonal patterns at various levels of structure, (3) the relationship of these common patterns to theories of the diatonic system, and (4) pedagogical concepts for developing musical skills. The theorists whose work most clearly represents each of these areas include Heinrich Schenker (tonal melody as hierarchical), Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff (rhythmic reduction), Robert Morris (contour reduction), John Clough (the diatonic system), and Erzsébet Hegyi (aural skills pedagogy). After a presentation of the theories, commonalities and correspondences among them become the basis of a synthesis, presented as a working theory. This working theory in turn serves as the basis for exercises and activities in aural skills training.

Musicianship training focuses primarily on features that are on the surface of the melody. Schenkeršs theories reveal the hierarchical nature of tonal music, but deal more thoroughly with middleground and background structures. Therefore, reduction techniques that concentrate on levels close to the surface of the melody are more important here. Two reduction techniques are advocated: one of these selects members of a higher level through regular rhythmic patterns, the other through contour pitches.

Patterns that are revealed at various structural levels are common tonal ones consisting of scales, scale segments, triads, seventh chords, neighbor note figures, sequences, and non scalar segments of 3­5 pitches. These patterns are referable to (ordered) diatonic segments as members of various segment classes. A theory is devised to accomodate various classes of pitch and pitch-class segments and unordered pitch-class sets. The patterns become the focus for aural training exercises and activities designed primarily to improve skills in ear training, sight singing, improvisation, and dictation.

Keywords: Tonal melody, contour, diatonic scale, perception, pedagogy, cognition, musicianship, solfege, reduction, hierarchy


Ch. 1. Introduction
Ch. 2. Review of the Literature
Ch. 3. A Synthesis of the Literature
Ch. 4. Pedagogical Applications
Ch. 5. Conclusion


Laurdella Foulkes-Levy
Department of Music
University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677
(601) 232-5116 (office)
(601) 232-7830 (FAX)

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