Shape and Motion in the Microstructure of Song

Robert O. Gjerdingen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The early hopes for the Seeger melograph, a device for recording the pitch and intensity of vocal performances, have not been realized because musicologists found the graphic traces of pitch and intensity too difficult to interpret. In this article, proposals are advanced for redesigning the melograph to provide researchers with more symbolically meaningful information. This involves abandoning the notion of fully separable parameters, relaxing the constraint that representations be culturally neutral, and developing ways to represent musical motion qua motion. The discussion is illustrated with redesigned melograms drawn from analyses of a particularly florid excerpt of South-Indian singing. Comparisons between the performances of a South-Indian singer and the performances of two of her students suggest ways in which cultural conditioning can affect vocal performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-64
Number of pages30
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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