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Tonal Attraction

Stemming from Matthew Woolhouse’s Ph.D. work at the Centre for Music & Science at the University of Cambridge, this research is developing a formal model of music perception. Lying at the core of the model, a hypothesized cognitive grouping process, referred to as “interval-cycle proximity”, enables the perceived tonal attraction between successive harmonies to be calculated. (Tonal attraction can be thought of as the music’s ‘ebb and flow’.) To date, the model has given rise to considerable debate within the fields of music theory and cognition.

Representative Publications*

*bolding indicates lab students 

Swierczek, K., Spyra, J., & Woolhouse, M.H. (2018). The functional nature of theoretically decorative common-tone chords (PDF). In Parncutt, R., & Sattmann, S. (Eds.) Proceedings of ICMPC15/ESCOM10, 442-446. Graz, Austria: Centre for Systematic Musicology, University of Graz.

Woolhouse, M. H. (2012). Wagner in the round: Using interval cycles to model chromatic harmony (PDF)Proceedings of the 12th ICMPC – ESCOM Conference on Music Perception & Cognition, 1142-1145. Thessaloniki, Greece.

Woolhouse, M. H. & Cross, I. (2011). A response to Ian Quinn (PDF). Music Theory Spectrum, 33/1: 99-105.

Woolhouse, M. H. (2010). Modes on the move: Interval cycles and the emergence of major-minor tonality (PDF)Empirical Musicology Review, 5/3: 62-83

Woolhouse, M. H. & Cross, I. (2010). Tonal implications of dyadic harmony. In J. Sloboda (Ed.), ‘Understanding musical structure and form: Papers in honour of Irene Deliege.Musicae Scientiae14 no. 2 suppl 49-70. DOI: 10.1177/10298649100140S205.

Woolhouse, M. H. & Cross, I. (2010). Using interval cycles to model Krumhansl’s tonal hierarchies. Music Theory Spectrum, 32/1: 60-78

Woolhouse, M. H. (2009). Modelling tonal attraction between adjacent musical elementsJournal of New Music Research, 38/4: 357-379.