Musically puzzling i: Sensitivity to overall structure in the sonata form?

Roni Y. Granot, Nori Jacoby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Previous studies have suggested that listeners are not sensitive to the overall tonal structure of musical pieces. This assumption is reexamined in the current study in an active musical puzzle task, with no time constraints, focusing on the presumably most directional musical form - the sonata form. In our first study (reported here, and referred to as "the Mozart study"), participants with varying levels of musical training were presented with disordered sections of Mozart's piano sonata K. 570/I in B flat major and asked to rearrange the ten sections into a musically logical coherent whole. A second study (to be reported in Musicae Scientiae issue 16[1]) replicated the task in a different group of participants who listened to Haydn's piano sonata, Hob: XVI-34/I in E minor. In contrast with previous studies, we do not focus on listeners' ability to recover the original sonatas. Rather, we explore emergent patterns in their responses using new types of analysis. Our results indicate that listeners show: (1) Some sensitivity to the overall structure of A-B-A' around the non-stable B section; (2) Non- trivial sensitivity to overall "directionality" through a new type of analysis ("distance score"); (3) Correct grouping and placement of developmental sections possibly related to listener's sensitivity to musical tension; (4) Sensitivity to opening and closing gestures, thematic similarity and surface cues and; (5) No sensitivity to global harmonic structure.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)365-386
Number of pages22
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Hebrew University’s Authority for Research and Development grant to the first author.


  • concatenationism
  • global structure
  • local processing
  • musical puzzle
  • order effects
  • sonata form
  • structural coherence


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