This paper presents a theoretical and empirical investigation into the ways in which different listeners perceive similarity relationships in different kinds of music. We first extend the current understanding of similarity relations in music by drawing together theory and evidence from general cognitive psychology, cognitive psychology of music, and music theory. In the empirical study, trained musicians and nonmusicians rated the similarity of pairs of extracts from piano pieces by Beethoven (Sonata op. 10, no. 1, first movement) and Schoenberg (Klavierstüück op. 33a) and provided adjective ratings for each extract. Similarity judgments were found to be context-specific and roughly equivalent for both types of listener, and were primarily based on more "surface" features such as dynamics, articulation, texture, and contour rather than on "deeper" features such as motivic or harmonic relationships. The implications for music-theoretic views of similarity are discussed.
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