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Music Theory & Music Cognition

Psychology/Cognitive Science,
Michigan State University

The Timing, Attention, and Perception (TAP) Lab is directed by Dr. J. Devin McAuley. With a broad focus on the neural and cognitive bases of timing and rhythm in humans and other animals, it provides a supportive environment for research into how musical theories of rhythm and meter affect music cognition.

My current project in the TAP Lab is investigating tempo determination, or the process of actively determining an appropriate tempo for an unfamiliar musical excerpt. We are studying musical cues that may affect tempo determination, including melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic cues.

The first stage of this project investigated melodic characteristics such as contour changes, skips and leaps, and overall interval size, studying which of these characteristics affect tempo determination. Results from this study have been published in the 2018 ICMPC proceedings and are in preparation for submission to Music Perception.

The second stage of this project is currently investigating rhythmic characteristics affecting tempo determination. This study is being completed with the assistance of the TAP Lab and with support from the Professorial Assistant program from Michigan State University’s Honors College.

Music Theory/Music Cognition Lab

College of Music, Michigan State University

The Music Theory/Music Cognition Lab is directed by Dr. Leigh VanHandel, and consists of graduate and undergraduate students interested in the relationship between music theory and music cognition. Current research projects include the Tempo Project (in conjunction with the TAP Lab), research on polyrhythms and polymeter, and research on hypermetrical perception of highly syncopated rhythms. Previous research has included research into refinements of key-finding models and the use of keyboard-oriented mastery learning in the music theory curriculum.

Former students have studied topics such as variation and similarity, perception of polymodal harmonies, and voice-leading distance between tetrachords, and have presented at conferences such as the Society for Music Theory (SMT), Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC), and the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC). Students have gone on for Ph.D. programs at schools such as the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, Florida State University, and McGill University. 

Graduate Students

Zach Lloyd
Zach Lookenbill
Gerry Lopez
Samantha Waddell

Undergraduate Students

Adam Houston
Joel Kayser
Dominic Occhietti
Eric Saroian

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