Statistical characteristics of tonal harmony: A corpus study of Beethoven’s string quartets

Tonal harmony is one of the central organization systems of Western music. This article characterizes the statistical foundations of tonal harmony based on the computational analysis of expert annotations in a large corpus. Using resampling methods, this study shows that 1) the rank-frequency distribution of chords resembles a power law, i.e. few chords govern a large proportion of the data; 2) chord transitions are referential and chord predictability is significantly affected by distinguished chord features; 3) tonal harmony conveys directedness in time; and 4) tonal harmony operates differently at the hierarchical levels of chords and keys. These results serve to characterize tonal harmony on empirical grounds and advance the methodological state-of-the-art in digital musicology.


Published in:
PLoS One, 14, 6, e0217242
Year:
Jun 06 2019
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 Record created 2019-06-11, last modified 2019-06-28

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