Melodic contour, or the pattern of rises and falls in pitch, is a critical component of melodic structure, and has an important impact on listeners' perceptions of, and memory for, music. Despite its centrality, few formal models of contour structure exist. One recent exception involves characterizing contour by the relative degrees of strength of its cyclic information, quantified via a Fourier analysis of the pitch code of the contour. Three experiments explored the applicability of this approach, demonstrating that listeners' similarity ratings for pairs of melodies were predictable from Fourier analysis quantifications of rhythmically complex (Experiment 1) and rhythmically simple (Experiment 2) melodies, as well as for derived similarity measures based on melodic complexity judgments (Experiment 3). These findings indicate that Fourier analysis is an effective model of melodic contour, and that it can predict perceived melodic similarity.
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