The field of music psychology aims to better understand our relationship with music, and we’ve come to learn a lot about how music affects us and the general neural functions that are engaged in producing or perceiving music. However, there is little that we know about the communicative function of music and how one may construct music from pitches and rhythm. The present study discusses a number of comparisons between music and language, and in so doing, proposes a manner of understanding music modelled after our understanding of language and semantics. Specifically, we postulated that music is, to some extent, perceived based on musical semantic features consisting of sounded notes and their relations to a perceived tonal center. We tested this by comparing participants’ abilities to encode melodies that were accompanied either by consonant or dissonant bass drones, the latter of which was intended to disrupt melody encoding by disrupting the perception of a tonal center, and hypothesized that participants would perform better on consonant trials. Although experiment results did not support our hypothesis, we discuss a number of possibilities that could supplement further study into this approach towards understanding music cognition.


Neuhoff, John



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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