The Science behind a Musical Art
An accessible scientific explanation for the traditional rules of voice leading, including an account of why listeners find some musical textures more pleasing than others.
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.
Hardcover$38.00 X ISBN: 9780262034852 272 pp. | 9 in x 6 in 52 b&w illus.
Huron has written a brilliant and eminently readable synthesis of decades of empirical work on the cognitive and auditory principles that underlie polyphonic compositional techniques. This book is an ideal entry point for musicians interested in the field of music cognition, as Huron carefully leads the reader through the process of investigating musical knowledge through scientific experiments.
Professor of Music, Yale University
In this captivating book, David Huron provides a compelling account of the extraordinary capabilities and intricacies of the human auditory system, and how they are artfully navigated and exploited in the practice of multipart music composition. Drawing on over a half a century of interdisciplinary research on human audition, Huron demystifies and expands upon the traditional rules of voice leading, linking them to perceptual and cognitive principles freighted with rich aesthetic and evolutionary significance. This book is a revelation.
William Forde Thompson
Director, Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise, and Training, Macquarie University; author of Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music