Onset and Contiguity: Melodic Feature Reduction and Pattern Discovery

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Aaron Carter-Enyi
Gilad Rabinovitch


Onset (metric position) and contiguity (pitch adjacency and time proximity) are two melodic features that contribute to the salience of individual notes (core tones) in a monophonic voice or polyphonic texture. We argue that contextual features like onset and contiguity are linked to tonal hearing more than absolute pitch or duration. By awarding points to notes with certain syntagmatic features, our process selects core tones from melodic surfaces to produce a reduction. Through this reduction, a new form of musical pattern discovery is possible that has similarities to Gjerdingen’s schema-finding. Recurring n-grams (scale degree skeletons) are matched in an algorithmic approach that we have tested manually (with a printed score and pen and paper) and implemented computationally (with symbolic data and scripted algorithms in MATLAB). A relatively simple method successfully identifies the location of all statements of the subject in Bach’s C-minor Fugue (BWV 847) identified by Bruhn (1993) and the location of all instances of the Prinner and Meyer schemata in Mozart’s Sonata in C Major (K. 545/i) identified by Gjerdingen (2007). We also apply the method to Rabinovitch’s analysis (2019) of a flute sonata by Kirnberger. Analysts may use this flexible methodology for pattern discovery in reduced textures through software freely accessible at [web address redacted to ensure blind review].

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