THIS EXPLORATIVE STUDY INVESTIGATES THE PERCEPTION of clash of keys in music. It is a replication and extension of an earlier study by Wolpert (2000) on the perception of a harmonic (bitonal) manipulation of a melody and accompaniment. We investigated (a) how reliable results were, (b) how results would change if listeners' attention changed from nondirected (NDL) to directed listening (DL), and (c) whether the perception of clash of keys is influenced by the musical style of the particular composition. Participants included 101 expert listeners and 147 nonexpert listeners who evaluated music of four different styles in two versions each (original and with a pitch difference of 200 cents between melody and accompaniment). On the whole, expert listeners noticed the clash of keys significantly more often than did nonexperts (NDL: 49.30% vs. 9.30%; DL: 78.00% vs. 46.90%). For NDL, the perception of clash of keys differed between musical styles and decreased from classical to rock 'n' roll and from pop to jazz. Differences in responses are mainly explained by acculturation effects (listening expertise, attention, musical style, and familiarity with the particular piece).
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