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StartNeuroscienceFrontiers | Atonal Music as a Mannequin for Investigating Exploratory Habits

Frontiers | Atonal Music as a Mannequin for Investigating Exploratory Habits


Western artwork music from the 20th and the twenty-first centuries is thought to be the continuation of the sooner classic-romantic Western artwork music custom and has been characterised by transformation and innovation since its origins in Europe round 1910. The continual invention of novel compositional strategies and practices has in the end led to the pluralism of music types and idioms seen immediately (Taruskin, 2010). One widespread ingredient of twentieth/twenty-first century Western artwork music is its aesthetic premise of making and presenting one thing fully novel if not merely experimental (Maletz, 2011; Hiekel, 2016; Mencke et al., 2019). The truth is, these aesthetic premises resemble the motivations for participating with Western artwork music: one among our research confirmed that skilled listener’s expectations revolve across the want to expertise each novelty and shock (Mencke et al., 2022) and equally, the viewers of up to date artwork has been discovered to hunt for experiences wherein they’re introduced with novelty and are capable of have interaction with difficult and obscure supplies (Gross and Pitts, 2016).

Basic Traits of Atonal Music

Regardless of the super number of compositional creation within the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the main focus of this text pertains to two particular traits of this era of music. First, we concentrate on atonal music (Griffiths, 2001) which we outline as music that clearly lacks a tonal middle and that suspends tonal hierarchical relations between scale levels (Bigand and Poulin-Charronnat, 2016). Sometimes, all 12 tones of the chromatic scale are handled as equal, resulting in an summary and non-hierarchical tonal construction. Atonal music is used right here as a style-independent time period as it’s a description of a sure function of the music that appeared (and nonetheless seems) in numerous epochs of the 20th and twenty-first centuries. Nonetheless, an exemplary compositional fashion is serialism. It originated within the 12-tone method developed by Arnold Schoenberg within the early Twenties, and was additional developed within the Fifties by composers equivalent to Karel Goeyvaerts, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, and Luigi Nono (Dibelius, 1998; Taruskin, 2010). Whereas a lot of items composed in a serial method are strictly atonal, non-serial music that’s atonal has been composed all through the 20th and twenty-first centuries till immediately making Atonality a important function of many compositions (Kostka and Santa, 2018).

Second, we concentrate on music that lacks a transparent metrical construction. In post-tonal music, perceived rhythms are sometimes extremely complicated and diversified resulting in an a-metric construction (Kostka and Santa, 2018). Quite a lot of items composed throughout serialism can function examples, for the reason that deterministic ideas guiding pitch in 12-tone compositions was—amongst different options—transferred to notice length. Critically, the irregular rhythmic construction and free remedy of meter that outcomes from this compositional method (Grant, 2001; Kostka and Santa, 2018) in the end prevents listeners from simply following and entraining with the heard music (London, 2004).

Certainly, each atonal and ametrical musical buildings strongly decrease the predictability of the music (Kramer, 1989). Particularly, serial items are, in keeping with Lerdahl, “cognitively opaque,” by which he’s referring to the gap between the composed and heard construction (Lerdahl, 1992, p. 115; Lerdahl, 2019). Thus, regardless that compositions have been based mostly on a sure set of ideas (e.g., re-presenting a given row of tones reversed and/or turned the other way up) for a listener this underlying non-hierarchical group is barely perceivable. An exemplary collection of items that resemble or characterize each the atonal and the ametric facets that the present article is focusing on are the piano items I-IV by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed within the early Fifties (Stockhausen, 1954; Wörner, 1973). These fall below the class of pointillistic compositions, a method that has the tendency to “isolate the sounds into ‘factors’” (Kostka and Santa, 2018, p. 233) and that generate a “verticalize(d) […] sense of time” (Kramer, 1989, p. 202: for extra exemplary items see Mencke et al., 2019).

The Problem of Atonal Music

With the mind’s prioritization of auditory enter containing cognitive reference factors (Rosch, 1975) such because the tonic or the cadence in tonal music (Krumhansl and Cuddy, 2010), it’s no surprise that atonal music is well known as difficult (Utz, 2016). As early as within the daybreak of experimental psychology analysis, Wilhelm Wundt proposed an inverted U-shaped relationship between stimulus depth and pleasure, often known as the Wundt-curve (Wundt, 1896): a stimulus is appreciated till a sure degree of depth, but when depth additional will increase, pleasure will decay. This concept was prolonged by Daniel Berlyne, who proposed that every stimulus has a sure potential for physiological arousal: outlined as “arousal potential” and referring to the thrill of the nervous system in response to the stimulus (Berlyne, 1971). As a stimulus’ arousal potential is generally modulated by variables equivalent to complexity, shock, ambiguity and novelty, atonal music has a excessive arousal potential that’s doubtless going past the pleasure peak for many listeners (Berlyne, 1954, 1970; Marin et al., 2016; Marin, 2020). In flip, listeners with a desire for atonal music may significantly look for this complexity and subsequently doubtlessly have an elevated want to have interaction in cognitive duties (as might be measured by the Want for Cognition—Scale; Cacioppo and Petty, 1982; Cacioppo et al., 1996) along side a very excessive diploma of tolerance to ambiguity (McLain, 2009; for extra hypotheses relating to the correlation between preferences for atonal music and interindividual variations see Mencke et al., 2019).

Atonal music sometimes additionally has a excessive diploma of dissonance, a key issue underlying the problem it presents listeners. Dissonant intervals result in beating and roughness (Helmholtz, 1954) and are sometimes skilled as sensorily disagreeable (Brattico, 2015). It is very important observe that dissonance is a central element in maybe all types of music and within the context of tonal music, is a vital means to generate moments of rigidity and launch (Juslin, 2013; Brincker, 2015; Lehne and Koelsch, 2015; Brattico, 2021), each of that are skilled as pleasurable by many listeners. Nonetheless, works of atonal music usually are predominantly dissonant, which can be why listeners may discover this music much less interesting. Right here, the concept that tolerance towards destructive emotions or feelings will increase within the context of artwork notion and that such emotions or feelings are utilized by artists to strengthen the depth of an aesthetic expertise (Menninghaus et al., 2017) might clarify why listeners however select to have interaction with this music. Acceptance of excessive ranges of dissonance in atonal music parallels the truth that emotions of disappointment are significantly appreciated in music (Taruffi and Koelsch, 2014; Sachs et al., 2015; Brattico et al., 2016; Eerola et al., 2018).


Within the following, we’re involved with the interior states and cognitive processes that happen whereas listening to atonal music and argue that within the unsure surroundings it offers, neural and cognitive mechanisms related to exploratory habits might turn into engaged. Additional we recommend {that a} concentrate on this exploratory habits, could also be useful when contemplating the predictive processes and hedonic values underlying reception of atonal music. We first give a quick abstract of the perceptual and predictive mechanisms which have been recommended to play a key position in music processing and in music appreciation (part “Predictive Dynamics in Music”), earlier than summarizing empirical findings according to our proposal that atonal music affords exploratory habits (part “Neural and Behavioral Ranges of Predictive Processing Below Excessive Uncertainty”). In part “Constructing Predictions in Atonal Music,” we elaborate on how predictive fashions may emerge as a listener engages with atonal music and argue that these particular model-building processes could also be liable for a sustained exploratory inner state in a listener. Lastly, we current future analysis avenues addressing the position of exploration as a vital side of the engagement with atonal music, in addition to with respect to aesthetic expertise usually (part “Future Analysis Avenues”).

Predictive Dynamics in Music

Musical Expectancy: Backside-Up and High-Down

When listening to music, people continually generate expectations about future occasions and about how the music will evolve. The interaction between the violation and affirmation of those expectations is extensively accepted to be a key underlying mechanism for music-induced pleasure in tonal music (Meyer, 1956; Blood and Zatorre, 2001; Huron, 2006). Nonetheless, within the context of atonal music, the place expectations and predictions are tougher to ascertain, it appears related to have a more in-depth have a look at the interaction between bottom-up and top-down expectations and the way their weighting might differ in atonal music.

With regard to bottom-up expectations Gestalt ideas equivalent to pitch and temporal proximity (Deutsch, 1999), rhythmic grouping (Koelsch, 2012), and sound similarity (Bregman, 1990; Deutsch, 1999) have been proposed to be central. In response to Lerdahl, grouping desire guidelines can moreover be based mostly on modifications in depth and articulation (Lerdahl and Jackendoff, 1983; Clarke, 1999). In different phrases the grouping of notes or phrases into processable chunks might be carried out with regard to quite a lot of musical properties. Backside-up grouping is believed to occur in early processing levels, specifically in short-term reminiscence comprising a time span of 250 ms–8 s (Snyder, 2008). Moreover, grouping processes in music are associated to chunking which determines the memorability of sequences, whereby the higher a musical phrase might be chunked, each the higher it may be recalled (Lerdahl and Jackendoff, 1983; Bregman, 1990; Snyder, 2000) and the extra effectively it may be processed (Deutsch, 2013).

Whereas, on the one hand, our expectations are strongly formed by Gestalt-like ideas, due to bottom-up grouping, musical expectancy is equally modulated, alternatively, by top-down mechanisms which can be linked to statistical studying (Loui and Wessel, 2006; Pearce, 2018). Our mind is delicate to auditory regularities within the surroundings, internalizing and utilizing them to foretell future occasions (Friston, 2009; Clark, 2013). Within the case of music, because of this the predictive mannequin of the musical fashion(s) that we grew up with is the one which we internalize most (Kliuchko et al., 2019) and for which we now have the very best predictive mannequin. Processes underlying musical expectancy are usually not solely modulated by cultural background but in addition by style-specific experience and by piece-specific data (Huron, 2006).

These bottom-up and top-down expectations stemming from each Gestalt ideas and statistical studying have been proven to work in parallel and be important to the reception of tonal music (Morgan et al., 2019). In atonal music, nonetheless, as we are going to argue in later sections of the article, the problem of the listener to use clear top-down expectations might imply an upweighting of bottom-up grouping results.

Predictive Coding of Music

One concept that mixes bottom-up and top-down processes is the speculation of predictive coding and having proven nice success in accounting for a way we reply to tonal music, it’s related to contemplate it within the context of atonal music.

The predictive coding concept is predicated on the idea that the mind, as a prediction machine, repeatedly tries to foretell upcoming sensory enter via generative cognitive fashions on increased ranges. These prime–down predictions encounter bottom-up sensory enter and in instances the place the mannequin’s prediction is wrong, a prediction error sign happens to replace the mannequin (Friston and Kiebel, 2009; Clark, 2013). To measure this prediction error sign, usually instances the mismatch-negativity (MMN) is used, which is a mind response to deviating sounds in a daily sound surroundings (Näätänen et al., 2007). The MMN is usually recommended to index violations of predictions which can be arrange by the statistics of an unfolding melody (Denham and Winkler, 2006) and is subsequently thought to be a neural marker of prediction error in musical processing.

Critically, analysis reveals that the mind successfully adapts to the statistics of incoming enter and thereby to the extent of predictability of the sensory enter. In excessive uncertainty contexts, predictions subsequently turn into attenuated or imprecise and the error minimization course of is consequently decreased, if not nullified (Garrido et al., 2013; Sohoglu and Chait, 2016; Heilbron and Chait, 2018). Accordingly, it has been recommended that prime predictive uncertainty of a stimulus is mirrored in a weak predictive mannequin (Vuust and Frith, 2008; Ross and Hansen, 2016; Koelsch et al., 2019) and that in such high-uncertainty circumstances imprecise prediction errors have been recommended to be “successfully ignored” (Koelsch et al., 2019).

Not too long ago, the predictive coding framework has been used to account for the enjoyment that people derive from listening to music (Vuust and Kringelbach, 2010; Koelsch et al., 2019; Brattico, 2021). Particularly, it was put ahead that—since music performs with a listeners’ expectations and predictions—music offers the chance to continually resolve uncertainty (Koelsch et al., 2019). It has been recommended that the enjoyment of music stems from the interaction between ranges of predictability which can be typical for music, and the way these unfold over time. In some moments, music permits us to generate sturdy predictions, and at different moments, our predictions are extra unsure, with such modifications within the precision of predictions regarding a spread of various musical properties equivalent to to meter, melody, rhythm of harmonic progressions (Pearce and Wiggins, 2012; Koelsch et al., 2019).

In essence, the method of resolving uncertainty is proposed to be an interesting ingredient when listening to any music that has a point of regularity and crucially, resolving uncertainty is typical for states of exploration (Friston, 2010; Schwartenbeck et al., 2013). Nonetheless, the extent to which a drive to resolve uncertainty is necessary in atonal music has but to be totally explored.

Neural and Behavioral Ranges of Predictive Processing Below Excessive Uncertainty

Typically, atonal music has certainly lengthy been a fringe subject within the literature of music cognition, with Western tonal music being central to most research. The atonal music research that do exist make express listeners’ on a regular basis intuitions that atonal music is tougher to acknowledge and keep in mind than tonal music (see for example: Cuddy et al., 1981; Dibben, 1994; Dowling et al., 1995; Schulze et al., 2012). An fascinating query is what insights a predictive coding framework can supply the research of atonal music. Certainly, as predictive coding frameworks have predominantly handled Western tonal music, their software to atonal music would appear to current a selected problem: this each when contemplating predictive processes usually and when contemplating the position predictive dynamics may play in music-induced pleasure.

Prediction in Atonal Music

Only some research have targeted on the extent to which listeners make or don’t make predictions when listening. In a collection of experiments, Krumhansl et al. (1987) offered knowledge suggesting that tonal predictions are being made even when people (from Western tradition) take heed to atonal sequences. After listening to a 12-tone row, educated musicians anticipated that the next tone wouldn’t have been heard within the previous row and wouldn’t counsel any type of tonal middle. That is according to the interpretation of one other research (Ockelford and Sergeant, 2012) suggesting that listeners’ expectations in response to atonal music might observe an “anti-structure” and the declare that listeners of atonal music adapt to the unpredictability of the music by “count on(ing) the sudden” (Huron, 2006, p. 331). In any case, atonal contexts have been proven to behaviorally evoke weaker expectations than a major-minor tonal context with increased false alarm charges for recognizing atonal sudden goal notes (Vuvan et al., 2014). All the above accord with the concept that atonal contexts present a extra important problem to a listener than a major-minor tonal context regardless that research might present proof {that a} listener is implicitly internalizing different regularities than pitch as for example with regard to timbre (Tillmann and McAdams, 2004). In current work, we requested how high-uncertainty musical contexts have an effect on mind exercise, particularly the precision of routinely generated predictions (Quiroga-Martinez et al., 2019; Haumann et al., 2021). In step with analysis exhibiting that early evoked responses are dampened in unpredictable contexts (Garrido et al., 2013; Hsu et al., 2015; Sohoglu and Chait, 2016; Southwell and Chait, 2018), we offered proof that contextual uncertainty can attenuate a pre-attentive neural response to deviating sounds often known as the mismatch-negativity (MMN) (Quiroga-Martinez et al., 2020a,b). Nonetheless, in a but more moderen research, we demonstrated that contextual uncertainty might not at all times fully eradicate sensory sensitivity to deviating occasions (Mencke et al., 2021). In distinction to earlier research that largely used musical stimuli composed in keeping with Western tonal guidelines, we created atonal melodies based mostly on authentic 12-tone rows by Arnold Schoenberg after which measured how the mind responded to deviants utilizing the MMN (Näätänen et al., 2007). In 20 non-musicians measured with magnetoencephalography (MEG) and different 39 non-musicians examined behaviorally, we discovered that, whereas the MMN response to 4 kinds of deviants (pitch, timbre, depth, location) didn’t differ between tonal and atonal sequences, the behavioral accuracy and confidence in pitch deviance detection have been however considerably decrease in atonal sequences (Mencke et al., 2021).

Taken collectively, our outcomes present that subjective rankings, which replicate processing levels wherein aware consciousness is engaged, are strongly affected by the atonal construction of the stimuli even when earlier sensory processing levels addressed by the MMN might stay comparatively unaffected. We regard this as proof of a dissociation between sensory and cognitive musical expectations, whereby the latter could also be most affected within the context of excessive uncertainty stimuli (see additionally: Neuloh and Curio, 2004). An fascinating risk is that the shortage of accuracy and confidence that accompanies listening to atonal music enhances the adoption of looking out or exploratory listening behaviors in pre-disposed listeners.

The Phenomenal Stage: Listening Consultants and the Experiential Dimension

Earlier work reveals that listeners’ predictions are weaker for tonal than atonal music (Vuvan et al., 2014). Our current knowledge additional show that processes wherein aware consciousness is concerned could also be significantly affected by the shortage of a tonal hierarchy (Mencke et al., 2021). Nonetheless, comparatively little is understood concerning the phenomenal expertise of atonal music. Particularly, characterizations of the character of aesthetic experiences of atonal music, the important thing affective dimensions underlying engagement with this music, and the sources of enjoyment reported when listening to it, all stay largely absent.

To fill this hole, a collection of interviews with consultants specialised in atonal music and, by the use of comparability, listening consultants from the sector of classic-romantic music, have been performed by the primary creator (Mencke et al., 2022). The intention of the research was to research a wide range of experiential dimensions underlying an aesthetic expertise with atonal music in addition to to discover hedonic values, appreciation and pleasurable experiences with this music. Sixteen interviews have been performed with 8 consultants in every group and the interview information (for each teams) comprised questions on a number of facets of a listening expertise with the corresponding fashion of experience. Physiological, cognitive and affective dimensions have been lined. After the transcription of audio-recorded interviews, the textual materials was analyzed qualitatively each following a deductive and an inductive step (Mayring, 2014).

The evaluation revealed putting variations between the skilled teams relating to how they described engagement in addition to pleasurable experiences with music from their fashion of experience. Within the following we elaborate on a number of findings of the evaluation of the stories of the atonal music group that have been most incessantly talked about.

First, the notion of exploration was distinguished in most of the ensuing themes of the qualitative evaluation. Contributors from the atonal music group repeatedly reported on their adoption of an exploratory angle and on the truth that they loved the lively exploration of a bit of music. With regard to the latter, they emphasised their appreciation of the chance to repeatedly search new methods of participating with a bit of music by “probing it by way of listening.”

Second, the outcomes confirmed that sample recognition, i.e., the notion of a memorable musical motive or phrase, could also be a big supply of delight when listening to atonal music. Particularly, when probed relating to experiences of magnificence and pleasure throughout listening, contributors reported the enjoyment skilled when discovering a sure sample within the music (“pleasure of discovery”) and the excessive valuation of such moments of perceptual perception. One participant known as this perception a “listening information,” one thing that leads one by way of a bit of atonal music. In response to the participant’s descriptions, such patterns have been, for example, associated to a sure rhythmic construction that re-occurred occasionally. Thus, pleasurable moments have been proven to emerge from recognition of an underlying sample or construction within the music. One other discovering supporting this notion are stories that growing coherence in addition to the affirmation of 1’s personal expectations was skilled as extremely constructive.

Third, contributors from the atonal group emphasised their adoption of an open stance and of their emergent emotions of curiosity. Right here you will need to observe that, whereas it has incessantly been recommended that the curiosity and openness at a trait degree correlate with a desire for (significantly complicated) artwork (Feist and Brady, 2004; Silvia, 2008; Nusbaum and Silvia, 2011; Omigie, 2015), the relevance of state curiosity and openness throughout engagement with music has acquired solely little or no consideration in empirical analysis. In a single research using a steady score methodology, it was proven that the notion of change whereas listening to music can result in will increase in emotions of curiosity as to how the music will unfold (Omigie and Ricci, 2021). Curiously, in one other current research (Omigie and Ricci, 2022) a distinction in the way in which state curiosity emerges in high- vs. low-uncertainty contexts was demonstrated, whereby whereas in low uncertainty contexts, excessive info content material notes tended to induce curiosity, in excessive uncertainty contexts, each high and low info content material occasions have been capable of drive curiosity. Whereas that research didn’t concentrate on listeners which can be consultants in atonal music, it’s fascinating to contemplate the way it aligns with the concept that the sensation of discovering a sample (encountering a predictable occasion in a excessive entropy context) can lead particularly engaged (atonal music) listeners to really feel larger curiosity and additional inclinations to discover the heard music because it unfolds.

Taken collectively, current empirical knowledge counsel that the complexity in atonal music might make listeners want each coherence and a lower in complexity, a phenomenon that’s clearly in step with Berlyne’s arousal concept proposing an inverted U-shaped relationship between hedonic worth and the complexity of a stimulus (Wundt, 1896; Berlyne, 1970, 1971) and is additional supported by different neuroscientific and behavioral research within the context of empirical music analysis (Cheung et al., 2019; Gold et al., 2019). Critically, opposite to what was reported by the atonal music consultants within the interview research (Mencke et al., 2022), a key position for sample discovery was at no level talked about by the classical music group. Reasonably, these listeners as an alternative reported having fun with the clear construction of classical music, an fascinating concord or rhythm, and the “thrill of an unfamiliar interpretation” of a well-known piece (stories on your complete knowledge see Mencke et al., 2022).

In sum, we argue that the next interrelated processes could also be important to the aesthetic expertise of atonal music: The exploratory stance, by selling the identification of sensory and perceptual options conveying coherence, might permit state curiosity to emerge. In flip, state curiosity by encouraging additional engagement will increase the chance for moments of structural insights to emerge (Brattico, 2015). This oscillation between exploring and moments of structural insights might characterize the expertise of atonal music.

Constructing Predictions in Atonal Music

Having thought of the proof for an exploratory stance throughout atonal music listening, the present part elaborates on the mechanisms underlying the interaction between this stance and momentary phases of structural perception and on how predictive processes might give rise to constructive hedonic values throughout on-line processing of atonal music.

Grouping and Gestalt Processes

As described above, memorable patterns can emerge in atonal music, for example, when a repetitive construction arises in a bit based mostly on pitch, rhythm, timbre, pitch, or loudness similarities. Critically, the popularity of memorable patterns, which constitutes moments of perception or a “listening information,” might point out the cognitive course of by which a Gestalt or a grouping—and subsequently a momentary predictive mannequin—has been developed.

Certainly, it’s doubtless that model-building processes within the context of atonal music are strongly associated to grouping ideas and Gestalt heuristics (Bregman, 1990; Deutsch, 1999). That low-level predictive fashions are certainly current in an atonal context (Mencke et al., 2021) helps the idea that low-level musical options could also be used to provide these moments of structural perception, even when they don’t attain aware consciousness. A listener of an atonal music work—greater than a listener of tonal music—might need to depend on such bottom-up and implicit perceptual ideas associated to pitch proximity, rhythmic grouping or sound similarity (Bregman, 1990; Deutsch, 1999; Koelsch, 2012), in addition to neural processes equivalent to stimulus particular adaptation and ahead masking. Sound similarity, for example, would supply the listener a chance to understand a sure instrumental group in an ensemble piece as a single Gestalt or, when it comes to auditory scene evaluation, as one sound stream. One other instance—for example, contemplating one of many early piano items by Stockhausen (1954)—can be a number of subsequent notes which can be performed within the excessive register whereas being preceded and succeeded by melodies in a really low register: right here a piece or a Gestalt can be perceived based mostly on pitch proximity. When and the way Gestalts or chunks emerge and are acknowledged is modulated by a listener’s musical and cultural background, their style-specific experience, their piece-specific data, and by cognitive skills equivalent to working reminiscence capability (Snyder, 2000; Tillmann and McAdams, 2004; Huron, 2006). By influencing the methods wherein Gestalts, and thereby low-level and sensory predictions, are generated, all of those could also be anticipated to modulate the expertise of atonal music.

In sum, regardless that Gestalt components are sometimes prevented in atonal music, rising proof means that Gestalt-related processes of sample identification and recognition must be taken under consideration when contemplating how atonal music is acquired. The dearth of clear, acquainted Gestalts in atonal music, and the complicated surroundings that it presents to a listener, ends in consideration being enhanced in these moments within the music when regularity will increase (Jones, 2019) or when sound occasions are significantly salient.

Buildings of Saliency

Gestalt-related processes could also be linked to so-called salient occasions within the context of listening to atonal music (Lerdahl, 1989). Lerdahl argued that listeners of atonal music “seize on to what they will: relative salience turns into structurally necessary” (Lerdahl, 1989, p. 84) and certainly, the relative salience of musical occasions (indexing structural significance) has been proven to be extra related for listeners of atonal music than for these of tonal music (Deliège and Mélen, 1997; Dibben, 1999).

It has been recommended that such salient musical options operate as cues, serving as “reminiscence triggers” in conditions wherein they’re repeated (Daynes, 2011). Curiously, listeners have additionally been proven to recollect and localize sure excerpts in atonal items if they will relate them to a particular cue (Deliège, 1989). Thus, salient cues that elicit a rise in consideration and consciousness might be the idea for constructing a reminiscence hint of an atonal piece due to the chance they supply for the listener to kind a perceptual chunk (Jones, 2015).

Salience might be generated in several methods (for example by rhythmic, timbral or dynamic means). These buildings of saliency might kind so-called “occasion hierarchies” (Bharucha, 1984; Deutsch, 1984) and should conspicuously differ all through a single work of music in order that solely provisional musical hierarchies might be generated (Imberty, 1993; Ordoñana and Laucirica, 2017). Such momentary hierarchies might solely be relevant to sure phrases or elements inside a bit and are subsequently “extraordinarily fluid for the hearer” (Imberty, 1993, p. 331) inasmuch as they don’t have a hard and fast or a particular construction. Solely briefly legitimate predictive fashions might be constructed: one chunk that was in-built a sure phrase of a musical work and that offered a momentary stability and a momentary predictive mannequin won’t be relevant within the subsequent phrase of a piece.

We subsequently suspect that the technology of predictive fashions within the context of listening to atonal music is a extremely transitory and fluid course of, characterised by solely momentary stability and momentary moments of elevated predictability. It requires a excessive diploma of adaptability of the listener and thus prompts the continual exploratory habits that’s typical for an aesthetic expertise with atonal music.

Exploration in Atonal Music

Considering the stories from devoted {and professional} atonal music listening consultants concerning the adoption of an exploratory state even after a few years of publicity (Mencke et al., 2022), and contemplating the deliberate purpose of avoiding predictability, significantly in serialist compositions (Stockhausen, 1963; Boulez, 1972; Kramer, 1989; Lerdahl, 1992; Hiekel, 2016), we recommend that atonal music is a creative language that, greater than different musical types, affords its listeners an exploratory angle.

Exploratory habits is crucial in environments which can be novel, have shocking components, and are complicated (van Lieshout et al., 2020). People intrinsically search data (Berlyne, 1954; Perlovsky, 2010), have a drive for curiosity (Jepma et al., 2012), and actively have interaction with novel environments (Kidd and Hayden, 2015). Exploratory habits might be seen as ensuing from a want to scale back uncertainty, a mechanism that every one organic brokers share (Friston, 2010; Schwartenbeck et al., 2013). Some research and theoretical proposals counsel that uncertainty discount is linked to constructive have an effect on and argue that it permits an agent to both verify or replace their present predictive fashions (Van de Cruys, 2017; Koelsch et al., 2019; Kraus, 2020). Within the case of atonal music, this can be significantly related since elevated regularity in these unsure environments are reported to be significantly nice (Mencke et al., 2022). A current research utilizing musical stimuli has proven that this mannequin replace is linked to exercise within the nucleus accumbens (Gold et al., 2019), a central a part of the dopaminergic mesolimbic reward pathway (Koelsch, 2014) and identified to index pleasurable emotional peak experiences (Salimpoor et al., 2011). The hedonic worth underlying atonal music is likely to be intently linked to the constructive have an effect on stemming from a momentary discount of uncertainty.

Whereas exploration might be outlined as “studying concerning the properties of an unsure surroundings” (Gazzaniga et al., 2010, p. 1,065), a complementary habits termed “exploitation” refers to a state wherein a person advantages from a well-known surroundings wherein they know the place rewards might be obtained (Kidd and Hayden, 2015). Arguably, Western tonality, with its inherent tonal and metrical hierarchy, presents a (Western) listener the chance for rapid exploitation (Meyer, 1956; Huron, 2006; Vuust and Frith, 2008; Rohrmeier and Koelsch, 2012; Salimpoor et al., 2015; Koelsch et al., 2019). In distinction, for atonal music, which lacks such a basic predictability there isn’t a construction to be gleaned —particularly after we first hear—, and accordingly no rapid exploitation to be afforded.

Reasonably, we argue, atonal music, by being minimally predictable, affords a mode of exploration that enables temporary pleasurable moments of perception to emerge however these insights might disappear as shortly as they emerge. This exploratory state is more likely to be extremely related for quite a lot of differing types of engagements with artwork, from summary portray and up to date dance to modernist poetry (Saklofske, 1975; Cupchik and Gebotys, 1990). It’d moreover be related for a lot of different genres from twentieth to twenty-first century artwork music that current listeners with unconventional musical buildings. Accordingly, the minority of people who’re keen to have interaction in atonal music are doubtless additionally keen to have interaction with these sorts of inventive languages (Mencke et al., 2019). Lastly, an exploratory state may also be adopted if a listener engages with music from an unfamiliar tradition as for example when Western listeners encounter music based mostly on the pentatonic scale.

Future Analysis Avenues

The fixed technology of recent predictive fashions facilitated by atonal music might present distinctive insights, not solely with respect to how a psychological state of listening to atonal music might be characterised, but in addition with respect to aesthetic experiences extra typically.

A primary problem pertains to the position of sample discovery in music and different cross-modal aesthetic domains and its relation to the hedonic worth. The cognitive mechanism associated to the profitable recognition of a musical sample might be thought to be the auditory analog of the “Aesthetic Aha” within the visible (artwork) area, which refers to a pleasurable second stemming from sample recognition (Muth and Carbon, 2013; Graf and Landwehr, 2017; Muth et al., 2018). It has been argued that the pleasurable impact originates within the sudden enhance of processing fluency (Topolinski and Reber, 2010), a cognitive course of that has been related to liking (Reber et al., 2004). This impact is corroborated by research exhibiting that moments of perception evoke intense constructive emotions (Shen et al., 2016; Webb et al., 2018). With regard to downside fixing or verbal comprehension, the cognitive strategy of perception is thought to be an sudden answer for an issue (Subramaniam et al., 2009) and a second of sudden comprehension (Bowden et al., 2005; Kounios and Beeman, 2009). In a single research investigating verbal problem-solving, perception moments have been proven to be mirrored in a rise in synchronous gamma-band oscillatory mind exercise in the precise anterior superior temporal gyrus, that was preceded by a rise in alpha-band exercise on the proper occipital cortex (Jung-Beeman et al., 2004). The authors recommended that these electrophysiological signatures level to the transition from a pre-attentive to an attentive state and replicate the “aware availability of an answer” (Jung-Beeman et al., 2004, p. 506). In a more moderen research that used auditory sequences, it was proven that the shift from a random to a daily sequence was accompanied by a sustained enhance within the amplitude of neural indicators (Barascud et al., 2016; Sohoglu and Chait, 2016; Southwell et al., 2017).

For that reason, it could be fascinating to check whether or not such moments of perception equally emerge within the context of music listening, significantly within the context of high-uncertainty music equivalent to atonal music. Right here, such moments may doubtlessly emerge when an auditory object is perceived (Winkler et al., 2009), which might result in a rise in aware auditory notion or auditory consciousness (Gutschalk et al., 2008; Dykstra et al., 2017). To be able to research this, a collection of musical stimuli might be created wherein the complexity is regularly modified, both with regard to pitch or meter. Whereas easier stimuli would supply some ways to kind chunks, the extra complicated stimuli would hamper the formation of chunks or auditory objects. Utilizing magneto- or electroencephalography (MEG/EEG), mind responses might be analyzed with the intention to see whether or not neural exercise evolves in comparable patterns equivalent to these discovered for verbal moments of perception. Complementary knowledge assortment of rankings addressing (a spread of) questions associated to liking or preferences would make clear any relationships to hedonic values.

Second, the predominance of exploration afforded by atonal music opens up the chance to check results that stem from an aesthetic angle—a way of thinking that, in keeping with philosophical aesthetics, “is entered into, voluntarily and consciously, by a person, making that particular person receptive to having an aesthetic expertise” (Fenner, 1998, p. 1954) and thereby includes a sure intentional stance of the listener (Fenner, 1996, 1998; Kemp, 1999; Levinson, 2009; Brattico and Pearce, 2013; Hodges, 2016). Some students conceptualize this stance as an attentional concentrate on the formal and perceptual properties of an object within the context of an aesthetic expertise (Levinson, 2009; Juslin and Isaksson, 2014). That is in step with the conceptualization of an aesthetic expertise as an individual’s phenomenal state whereas consciously immersing and interacting with the music and wherein the eye is directed to the music’s perceptual and formal properties in addition to its cognitive and affective interpretations (Brattico and Pearce, 2013; Wald-Fuhrmann et al., 2021). It has been proposed that an aesthetic angle entails a concentrate on “sensory impressions, based mostly on low-level options of the music” (Juslin, 2013, p. 248), i.e., options of the music that doubtlessly function necessary cues in an effort to construct Gestalts. Reybrouck (2015) proposes that artwork contexts drive a person to discover the content material of an art work, which can, in flip, trigger this concentrate on sensory or perceptual properties. One conception and operationalization of the aesthetic angle may subsequently be that it evokes a selected attentional concentrate on sensory and perceptual properties of the music.

The empirical findings summarized in chapter three certainly assist the concept that a concentrate on perceptual properties is afforded by atonal music, and thereby corroborates the proposal that “some items of music will “invite” an aesthetic angle to a larger extent than different items (due to sure formal options)” (Juslin, 2013, p. 247). Atonal music may subsequently be useful when learning behavioral and neural correlates of an aesthetic angle. In an experiment, one might make the most of completely different musical stimuli with various levels of predictability and complexity (for example, classical music vs. jazz music vs. atonal music). To be able to examine whether or not the attentional focus shifts as a operate of complexity, contributors’ responses to questions regarding quite a lot of completely different low-, medium-, and high-level options of the music might be collected. Primarily based on what introduced above, we might predict a constructive correlation between diploma of complexity and attentional concentrate on low-level properties of the music. Against this, in music that gives a sure construction and clear anchor factors, equivalent to a tonal hierarchy, the attentional concentrate on sensory properties would stay within the background, i.e., such primary properties would stay unconscious.

Right here it’s value noting an fascinating various technique for coping with uncertainty that was described by the interviewed contributors: specifically, the adoption of an angle wherein they tried to keep away from an analytic and structured listening mode and as an alternative switched to a extra free, open-ended listening mode. One respondent mentioned: “When you go in with none expectation of understanding and simply let your self be affected, then you find yourself understanding greater than should you had gone in already anticipating to accumulate data.” Thus, the acceptance or consciousness of not having the ability to totally predict and in the end to use the music for an open-ended exploratory listening expertise is likely to be one other, complementary technique of the way to cope with the perceptual problem current on this music. This may result in the technology of subjective that means that goes past the constructive expertise of efficiently producing or refining predictive fashions. Thus, how this explicit facet of “guidedness” might be conceptualized, what it underlies and which results it has, and in the end how this mode of open-ended exploration interacts with a mode of lively exploration, characterize one other novel potential analysis avenue.


On this article we aimed to supply a novel perspective on how an aesthetic expertise with atonal music might be characterised. With regards to neural and behavioral proof, we emphasised that an exploratory state is necessary and sometimes adopted provided that it facilitates the invention of novel reference factors. Importantly, this state turns into significantly essential in relation to the poor prospects of exploitation. Future analysis that goals to check the exploratory state within the context of an aesthetic expertise ought to subsequently embody atonal music of their analysis paradigms.

Writer Contributions

IM generated the concept and speculation for this text and wrote the primary draft of the manuscript. All authors equally contributed to the additional growth and refinement of the argumentation and to writing and revising the article.


The Heart for Music within the Mind was funded by the Danish Nationwide Analysis Basis (DNRF 117).

Battle of Curiosity

The authors declare that the analysis was performed within the absence of any business or monetary relationships that might be construed as a possible battle of curiosity.

Writer’s Notice

All claims expressed on this article are solely these of the authors and don’t essentially characterize these of their affiliated organizations, or these of the writer, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that could be evaluated on this article, or declare that could be made by its producer, is just not assured or endorsed by the writer.


We thank the reviewers for extremely invaluable feedback on earlier variations of the manuscript.



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