Continuous self-report engagement responses to the live performance of an atonal, post-serialist solo marimba work

Mary C. Broughton, Emery Schubert, Dominic G. Harvey, Catherine J. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Repetition of musical sections, tempo, and physical sound intensity associate strongly with listeners’ affective responses to tonal music in controlled laboratory studies. What contribution might repetition, temporal and acoustic variables make to observers’ responses where music lacks a diatonic tonal structure, an obvious beat, and is performed live? The present study investigates relationships between musical repetition (motivic cells and phrases), note density (sequentially occurring), and intensity with observers’ continuous self-report ratings of engagement with an unfamiliar, atonal post-serialist solo marimba work performed live. Following training, 19 audience members continuously self-reported engagement on a bi-polar, one-dimensional scale using the portable Audience Response Facility. Note density and intensity contributed significantly (or explained variance) to observer engagement with the performance. Contrary to expectation, the repetition variables did not contribute significantly. Controlling serial correlation using a new modelling approach based on Box–Jenkins ARIMA transfer modelling, density emerged as the prime contributor to observer engagement. A single performance appeared to provide observers with insufficient exposure to understand and respond to the structure of atonal music. Note density potentially enabled observers to segment the musical surface and develop some structural understanding, possibly underpinned by stimulus-driven entrainment processes shaping attentional behaviour and musical expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-131
Number of pages23
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


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