Aural and visual perception of melody in tonal and atonal musical environments by Robert W. Sherman and Robert E. Hill jr

(Final Report, Project no 2413, US Dept of Health, Education and Welfare.) Ball State University, Indiana.


This is a paperbound reproduction of a typescript report on a research project in aural training by modern laboratory methods (eg stereo tape recorders with head sets and insulated booths). The curriculum included specially composed tests of ability to recognize intervals and melodies accompaniments varying widely in pitch, timbre, texture, style, and idiom. The research techniques as such are brilliant and assured. Their results “imply rather clearly” (with probabilities calculated to 50 pages of decimals) that “musical instruction in atonal idioms is not detrimental to students, even with respect to tonal idioms”. But who could ever have doubted it? The vital inference, that music should generally be taught in atonal idiom, is not accessible to electronic or statistical techniques; and it does not follow. Indeed, it precedes: the authors assume it and announce it in their introduction (a novel principle of research). In their words: “The desired intent of individual or corporate subsidies will never be reached until music steps wholly into the 20th century and creates a public desirous of the artistic products of its own culture”. In other words get value for money! move with the times! it pays to advertise!


The Musical Times, Oct. 1967 (p. 911) © the estate of eric sams