The function attributed to chords accompanying melodies depends on the theory of music perception adhered to. In a hierarchical model of music perception, chords can be viewed as local frames of reference that are used to code the tones of the melody they accompany. This view predicts that the recognition of a melody may be disturbed if the melody is presented with different chordal accompaniments. A less hierarchical conception of music perception may assume that the coding of the melodic line is relatively independent of the coding of the chords. This view leads to the prediction that melody recognition will not be influenced by the accompanying chords. These contrasting predictions were tested in an experiment in which subjects compared nine-tone melodies by using a standard-comparison paradigm. In different conditions, the standard and comparison melodies were presented with and without accompaniment, or with different accompaniments. Results show that melody recognition is unaffected by the variations in accompaniments, supporting the view that melody and accompaniment are processed relatively independently. Consequences for a model of music perception and, especially, for the perceptual function of chords are discussed.