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Cultural impact in listeners' structural understanding of a Tunisian traditional modal improvisation, studied with the help of computational models






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Cultural impact in listeners' structural understanding of a Tunisian traditional modal improvisation, studied with the help of computational models


Lartillot, Olivier (auteur)
Ayari, Mondher (auteur)





Background in cognitive and computational research in music segmentation. Theoretical models have been developed with the view to describe how listeners segment music into small chunks. Methodical tests developed in experimental psychology enable us to validate the multiple factors involved in such processes and to estimate the weight of underlying parameters. Computational modelling offers a way to test and develop those models in a more intensive and extensive setting. In all these contexts, the impact of cultural knowledge on segmentation was not studied so far. Background in intercultural music cognition. Patterns activate learnt schemata, which affect, in turn, the dynamic process of segmentation through the activation of expectations. There is hence a complex interaction between bottom-up analysis of input data and top-down influence of cultural knowledge. Aims. This study aims to shed light on the complex interdependencies between cognitive mechanisms and cultural background in listeners' structural understanding of music, with the help of an extended computational model. Main contribution. Tunisian and European musicians analysed the segmentation structure of a traditional Tunisian modal improvisation (Istikhbâr) performed on the Nay flute by the late Tunisian master Mohamed Saâda. They signalled segmentation points while listening to a recording of the improvisation and verbally indicated the heuristics guiding their decisions at the same time. Listeners' segmentation decisions based on similar heuristics were clustered across participants. A computer implementation of low-level heuristics of local discontinuity and parallelism showed that strong segmentation points predicted by the algorithm were generally associated with consensual segmentation points proposed by listeners from both cultures. The impact of cultural knowledge on the segmentation behaviour was studied by modelling knowledge of Arabic modal structure. The model based on perceptual rules pointed out the most pronounced discontinuities that were consensually detected by most listeners. The integration of cultural knowledge revealed subtler articulation points in the discourse, while predicting more precisely at the same time the heuristics responsible for each of those points. Implications. The cultural knowledge that has been modelled is based on a set of general mechanisms, such as scales, sets of notes – whatever their specific actualisation in a given culture – and numeric “activation” values associated with each different candidate concept. Those general mechanisms can be used to describe culture specific building blocks that could be reused for the description of the musical knowledge of other cultures as well.


Article paru dans : Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies n°5


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Date de la notice

2012-02-08 01:00:00

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