Cultural Distance: A Computational Approach to Exploring Cultural Influences on Music Cognition

Michael H. Thaut (Editor), Donald A. Hodges (Editor), Steven J. Morrison, Steven M. Demorest, Marcus T. Pearce

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although music is a universal phenomenon, the structural features that characterize specific music traditions reflect the unique cultures in which those traditions reside. Consequently, encounters with music from other cultures can present difficulties if the structures and patterns of that music are too different from those of one’s home culture. This chapter proposes cultural distance as a way to conceptualize the cognitive dimension of cross-cultural music interactions. It hypothesizes that an individual’s efficacy at processing a particular culture’s music depends on the degree to which the statistical patterns of pitch and rhythm in that tradition resemble those of one’s own music. The chapter employs a computational model (IDyOM) to determine the intervallic and rhythmic patterns within culture-specific music corpora and the extent of difference between cultures and between specific pieces within a culture. This computational approach offers a more fine-grained correlational means for modeling similarities and differences in cross-cultural music cognition research.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Music and the Brain
EditorsMichael H. Thaut, Donald A. Hodges
PublisherOxford University Press.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)978-0198804123
StatePublished - Oct 9 2018


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