THIS STUDY PRESENTS AND TESTS a theory of tonal tension (Lerdahl, 2001). The model has four components: prolongational structure, a pitch-space model, a surfacetension model, and an attraction model. These components combine to predict the rise and fall in tension in the course of listening to a tonal passage or piece. We first apply the theory to predict tension patterns in Classical diatonic music and then extend the theory to chromatic tonal music. In the experimental tasks, listeners record their experience of tension for the excerpts. Comparisons between predictions and data point to alternative analyses within the constraints of the theory. We conclude with a discussion of the underlying perceptual and cognitive principles engaged by the theory's components.
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