Expressive timing facilitates the neural processing of phrase boundaries in music: evidence from event-related potentials

Eva Istok, Anders Friberg, Minna Huotilainen, Mari Tervaniemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

The organization of sound into meaningful units is fundamental to the processing of auditory information such as speech and music. In expressive music performance, structural units or phrases may become particularly distinguishable through subtle timing variations highlighting musical phrase boundaries. As such, expressive timing may support the successful parsing of otherwise continuous musical material. By means of the event-related potential technique (ERP), we investigated whether expressive timing modulates the neural processing of musical phrases. Musicians and laymen listened to short atonal scale-like melodies that were presented either isochronously (deadpan) or with expressive timing cues emphasizing the melodies' two-phrase structure. Melodies were presented in an active and a passive condition. Expressive timing facilitated the processing of phrase boundaries as indicated by decreased N2b amplitude and enhanced P3a amplitude for target phrase boundaries and larger P2 amplitude for non-target boundaries. When timing cues were lacking, task demands increased especially for laymen as reflected by reduced P3a amplitude. In line, the N2b occurred earlier for musicians in both conditions indicating general faster target detection compared to laymen. Importantly, the elicitation of a P3a-like response to phrase boundaries marked by a pitch leap during passive exposure suggests that expressive timing information is automatically encoded and may lead to an involuntary allocation of attention towards significant events within a melody. We conclude that subtle timing variations in music performance prepare the listener for musical key events by directing and guiding attention towards their occurrences. That is, expressive timing facilitates the structuring and parsing of continuous musical material even when the auditory input is unattended. © 2013 Istok et al.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)Article Number: e55150
Number of pages11
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 515 Psychology

Cite this

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title = "Expressive timing facilitates the neural processing of phrase boundaries in music: evidence from event-related potentials",
abstract = "The organization of sound into meaningful units is fundamental to the processing of auditory information such as speech and music. In expressive music performance, structural units or phrases may become particularly distinguishable through subtle timing variations highlighting musical phrase boundaries. As such, expressive timing may support the successful parsing of otherwise continuous musical material. By means of the event-related potential technique (ERP), we investigated whether expressive timing modulates the neural processing of musical phrases. Musicians and laymen listened to short atonal scale-like melodies that were presented either isochronously (deadpan) or with expressive timing cues emphasizing the melodies' two-phrase structure. Melodies were presented in an active and a passive condition. Expressive timing facilitated the processing of phrase boundaries as indicated by decreased N2b amplitude and enhanced P3a amplitude for target phrase boundaries and larger P2 amplitude for non-target boundaries. When timing cues were lacking, task demands increased especially for laymen as reflected by reduced P3a amplitude. In line, the N2b occurred earlier for musicians in both conditions indicating general faster target detection compared to laymen. Importantly, the elicitation of a P3a-like response to phrase boundaries marked by a pitch leap during passive exposure suggests that expressive timing information is automatically encoded and may lead to an involuntary allocation of attention towards significant events within a melody. We conclude that subtle timing variations in music performance prepare the listener for musical key events by directing and guiding attention towards their occurrences. That is, expressive timing facilitates the structuring and parsing of continuous musical material even when the auditory input is unattended. {\circledC} 2013 Istok et al.",
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Expressive timing facilitates the neural processing of phrase boundaries in music: evidence from event-related potentials. / Istok, Eva; Friberg, Anders; Huotilainen, Minna; Tervaniemi, Mari.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 8, No. 1, 30.01.2013, p. Article Number: e55150.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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N2 - The organization of sound into meaningful units is fundamental to the processing of auditory information such as speech and music. In expressive music performance, structural units or phrases may become particularly distinguishable through subtle timing variations highlighting musical phrase boundaries. As such, expressive timing may support the successful parsing of otherwise continuous musical material. By means of the event-related potential technique (ERP), we investigated whether expressive timing modulates the neural processing of musical phrases. Musicians and laymen listened to short atonal scale-like melodies that were presented either isochronously (deadpan) or with expressive timing cues emphasizing the melodies' two-phrase structure. Melodies were presented in an active and a passive condition. Expressive timing facilitated the processing of phrase boundaries as indicated by decreased N2b amplitude and enhanced P3a amplitude for target phrase boundaries and larger P2 amplitude for non-target boundaries. When timing cues were lacking, task demands increased especially for laymen as reflected by reduced P3a amplitude. In line, the N2b occurred earlier for musicians in both conditions indicating general faster target detection compared to laymen. Importantly, the elicitation of a P3a-like response to phrase boundaries marked by a pitch leap during passive exposure suggests that expressive timing information is automatically encoded and may lead to an involuntary allocation of attention towards significant events within a melody. We conclude that subtle timing variations in music performance prepare the listener for musical key events by directing and guiding attention towards their occurrences. That is, expressive timing facilitates the structuring and parsing of continuous musical material even when the auditory input is unattended. © 2013 Istok et al.

AB - The organization of sound into meaningful units is fundamental to the processing of auditory information such as speech and music. In expressive music performance, structural units or phrases may become particularly distinguishable through subtle timing variations highlighting musical phrase boundaries. As such, expressive timing may support the successful parsing of otherwise continuous musical material. By means of the event-related potential technique (ERP), we investigated whether expressive timing modulates the neural processing of musical phrases. Musicians and laymen listened to short atonal scale-like melodies that were presented either isochronously (deadpan) or with expressive timing cues emphasizing the melodies' two-phrase structure. Melodies were presented in an active and a passive condition. Expressive timing facilitated the processing of phrase boundaries as indicated by decreased N2b amplitude and enhanced P3a amplitude for target phrase boundaries and larger P2 amplitude for non-target boundaries. When timing cues were lacking, task demands increased especially for laymen as reflected by reduced P3a amplitude. In line, the N2b occurred earlier for musicians in both conditions indicating general faster target detection compared to laymen. Importantly, the elicitation of a P3a-like response to phrase boundaries marked by a pitch leap during passive exposure suggests that expressive timing information is automatically encoded and may lead to an involuntary allocation of attention towards significant events within a melody. We conclude that subtle timing variations in music performance prepare the listener for musical key events by directing and guiding attention towards their occurrences. That is, expressive timing facilitates the structuring and parsing of continuous musical material even when the auditory input is unattended. © 2013 Istok et al.

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