We explored the functional organization of semantic memory for music by comparing priming across familiar songs both within modalities (Experiment 1, tune to tune; Experiment 3, category label to lyrics) and across modalities (Experiment 2, category label to tune; Experiment 4, tune to lyrics). Participants judged whether or not the target tune or lyrics were real (akin to lexical decision tasks). We found significant priming, analogous to linguistic associative-priming effects, in reaction times for related primes as compared to unrelated primes, but primarily for within-modality comparisons. Reaction times to tunes (e.g., "Silent Night") were faster following related tunes ("Deck the Hall") than following unrelated tunes ("God Bless America"). However, a category label (e.g., Christmas) did not prime tunes from within that category. Lyrics were primed by a related category label, but not by a related tune. These results support the conceptual organization of music in semantic memory, but with potentially weaker associations across modalities.
Memory & Cognition
Johnson, Sarah K. and Halpern, Andrea R.. "Semantic Priming of Familiar Songs." Memory & Cognition (2012) : 579-593.