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Voice Leading

The Science behind a Musical Art

David Huron

Publication Year: 2016

Voice leading is the musical art of combining sounds over time. In this book, David Huron offers an accessible account of the cognitive and perceptual foundations for this practice. Drawing on decades of scientific research, including his own award-winning work, Huron offers explanations for many practices and phenomena, including the perceptual dominance of the highest voice, chordal-tone doubling, direct octaves, embellishing tones, and the musical feeling of sounds “leading” somewhere. Huron shows how traditional rules of voice leading align almost perfectly with modern scientific accounts of auditory perception. He also reviews pertinent research establishing the role of learning and enculturation in auditory and musical perception. Voice leading has long been taught with reference to Baroque chorale-style part-writing, yet there exist many more musical styles and practices. The traditional emphasis on Baroque part-writing understandably leaves many musicians wondering why they are taught such an archaic and narrow practice in an age of stylistic diversity. Huron explains how and why Baroque voice leading continues to warrant its central pedagogical status. Expanding beyond choral-style writing, Huron shows how established perceptual principles can be used to compose, analyze, and critically understand any kind of acoustical texture from tune-and-accompaniment songs and symphonic orchestration to jazz combo arranging and abstract electroacoustic music. Finally, he offers a psychological explanation for why certain kinds of musical textures are more likely to be experienced by listeners as pleasing.

Published by: The MIT Press

Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-viii

In normal conversation, people take turns so that only one person speaks at a time. Listeners are often baffled when two people speak simultaneously. In music, by contrast, polite turn taking is the exception: musicians seem perfectly happy to all “talk” at once. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-8

Knowledge of voice leading has been widely viewed as one of the essential foundations in the training of musicians. Voice leading has been variously defined, but one simple definition is that it is the art of combining concurrent musical lines or melodies. ...

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2. The Canon

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pp. 9-12

For more than twenty years, Anna Magdalena Bach (Johann Sebastian’s second wife) kept a handsome gold-edged hard-covered notebook containing short handwritten compositions. Some were composed by her husband, and a few musical ditties were offered by visitors to the Bach household. ...

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3. Sources and Images

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pp. 13-26

Sounds are caused by mechanical movements that disturb the surrounding air. The sound may be caused by a brief burst of energy (such as an object falling on the ground) or a more sustained energy source (such as two objects rubbing against each other). ...

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4. Principles of Image Formation

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pp. 27-40

In the previous chapter, we introduced the concept of an auditory image and the process of auditory scene analysis. Experimental research has identified a number of factors that contribute to this process. In this and the next two chapters, we will identify several perceptual principles that influence image formation and discuss how these principles relate to music. ...

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5. Auditory Masking

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pp. 41-62

Standing in the shower, you pause momentarily and listen: Is that my telephone ringing? In noisy environments, otherwise easily heard sounds can become difficult or impossible to detect. This interference is called masking. Masking is an auditory phenomenon, not an acoustic phenomenon; in the real world, sounds rarely obscure each other.1 ...

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6. Connecting the Dots

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pp. 63-86

In chapter 3 we introduced the concept of an auditory stream, the subjective sense of sonic line or singular sound activity continuing over time. As we saw, streams can arise even when the sound events are intermittent. For example, we hear a continuous ticking clock even though the individual ticks are physically isolated. ...

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7. Preference Rules

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pp. 87-96

For musicians trained in the Western musical tradition, the research described in the previous chapters is highly suggestive about the origins of part-writing rules. Rather than relying on an impressionistic sense of the kinship between the perceptual principles and part-writing rules, let’s make this relationship explicit. ...

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8. Types of Part-Writing

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pp. 97-120

We are not quite finished discussing the core of voice-leading rules. The six perceptual principles described in the previous chapters are not the only ones that influence the formation of auditory streams. In this chapter we consider four additional principles; ...

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9. Embellishing Tones

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pp. 121-128

Four-part harmony sometimes consists of just a succession of block chords, such as found in many hymns. But even with the most lumbering harmonic passages, it is common for composers to spice things up by adding embellishing tones. ...

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10. The Feeling of Leading

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pp. 129-148

In his classic book on auditory scene analysis, Albert Bregman distinguished two approaches that brains use to assemble auditory scenes: bottom-up and top-down.1 The bottom-up approach groups partials together according to shared features (like onset synchrony and harmonicity). ...

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11 Chordal-Tone Doubling

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pp. 149-156

No discussion of part-writing would be complete without addressing the issue of chordal-tone doubling. ..

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12. Direct Intervals Revisited

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pp. 157-162

Perhaps the most peculiar of the traditional rules of voice leading is the direct octaves rule (also known as hidden octaves or exposed octaves). In chapter 7 we showed how three perceptual principles (harmonic fusion, pitch co-modulation, and pitch proximity) led to the following preference rule: ...

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13. Hierarchical Streams

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pp. 163-172

When I was about twelve years old, my father was driving me home from a piano lesson one day when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: the car horn in our 1965 Plymouth consisted of two pitches, tuned a major third apart. Before, I’d always heard the horn as a single sound, but now I could hear that there were actually two horns. ...

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14. Scene Setting

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pp. 173-184

Perhaps the most common musical texture is tune-and-accompaniment. Examples of tune-and-accompaniment include a singer with guitar, a solo instrument with piano accompaniment, and a solo piano work in which a melody line is accompanied by, say, an Alberti bass figure. ...

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15. The Cultural Connection

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pp. 185-194

What is a sound? Philosophers will recognize this question as a specialized form of the more general question: What is a thing? As we saw in chapter 13, a “thing” depends on the scope of our gaze. A “sound” like a car horn might entail more than one physical sound source, and each source might exhibit many partials. ...

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16. Ear Teasers

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pp. 195-206

After the passage of some four centuries, composers today still rely on traditional part-writing rules when creating at least some of their music. Why have so many composers done this? What is gained by clarifying the auditory scene? In particular, why is multipart music compelling to musicians and listeners alike? ...

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17. Conclusion

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pp. 207-218

Music is an art whose basic building blocks are sounds and silences. Even the seemingly simple sound of a single flute tone turns out to be far from simple. Sound sources vibrate in several simultaneous modes, each of which produces a distinct partial. ...

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Afterword

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pp. 219-220

Educators make a helpful distinction between two ways of knowing something: procedural knowledge (knowing how) contributes directly to the exercise of a skill; declarative knowledge (knowing that) entails conscious understanding, such as knowing what makes a skill effective. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 221-222

My interest in the perceptual foundations of voice leading began on July 15, 1981, when I heard a presentation given by McGill University psychologist Al Bregman. His presentation was at a small conference on music and psychology organized by Lola Cuddy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. ...

Notes

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pp. 223-236

References

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pp. 237-254

Index

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pp. 255-263


E-ISBN-13: 9780262335447
E-ISBN-10: 0262335441
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262034852
Print-ISBN-10: 0262034859

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 52 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2016

OCLC Number: 957590578
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Voice Leading