The Role of Long-Term Memory in Mental Transformations of Pitch
Most people can recognize and perform a musical piece under a variety of transformations such as altering the key or varying the tempo. However, we also know that other mental transformations of music can be difficult to generate and to recognize. Two factors that might affect this mental flexibility are the familiarity of the piece and musical ability of the listener, in this case singing accuracy. The current experiment addressed the accuracy and flexibility of representations of novel and traditional melodies among accurate, moderate, and inaccurate singers. Participants sang or recognized melodies in either their original form or as a transformation: a transposition, a shift of serial position, and a reversal of the melody. Participants showed an advantage for traditional melodies, but only when singing or recognizing tunes in their original form. Participants were similarly disrupted by mental transformations of traditional and novel tunes in both production and recognition tasks. Interestingly, we found that the only advantage for traditional melodies when singing repetitions of the melody occurred among the moderate singers, but all three groups showed an advantage for traditional melodies when recognizing exact repetitions.
Auditory Perception and Cognition
Greenspon, Emma B.; Pfordresher, Peter Q.; and Halpern, Andrea. "The Role of Long-Term Memory in Mental Transformations of Pitch." (2020) : 76-93.