Saturday morning, November 14, 10–10:50 CST

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Pedagogy and Cognition Poster Session

Jenine Brown (Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University), Chair

The Making of a Theorist: On the Cognition of Music-Theoretic Expertise

Sarah Gates (Northwestern University)


Scholars across a wide spectrum of musical disciplines have discussed how active music-theoretic understanding can affect one’s experience of music. Modern pedagogues often refer to this as the powerful bond between thinking and listening, whereby some form of active reflection about music—its components, its structure, and/or its meaning—greatly expands not only conceptual understanding of music, but the experience of it. This connection is believed to operate bi-directionally as an iterative feedback loop: active reflection about music changes how we hear, and how we hear changes our process of active reflection.

In this project, I create a cognitive account of the iterative feedback loop between thinking and listening by combining several cognitive frameworks to explain how it operates. These include expertise acquisition and long-term working memory (LTWM) developed by Anders Ericsson and Walter Kintsch, and Dual-Coding Theory (DCT) developed by Allan Paivio. I position music-theoretic expertise as a form of skilled memory performance (LTWM) where theorists actively build and connect composite multisensory mental representations of theoretical concepts through dual-coding in both verbal and imagistic representational systems (DCT). Dual-coding involves the cooperative activity of language and nonverbal cognitive systems to enhance memory, facilitating growth in knowledge. As the strength and quantity of connections increases within the expanding body of mental representations, so does the fluency and ease with which the theorist can actively recall and engage with them during thinking and listening activities.

The Effect of Vertical Pitch Structures, Timbre, and Duration on Memory for Chords

Ivan Jimenez (Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki)

Ivan Jimenez is a music theorist and composer who has been working as a researcher at the Sibelius Academy, Finland since 2016. His research focuses on investigating how musicians and non-musicians remember tonal chord progressions. He has published his research in international peer-reviewed journals, served as reviewer for music psychology journals, and presented at numerous music theory and music cognition conferences.

Tuire Kuusi (Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki)

Tuire Kuusi is the Vice Dean responsible for research and doctoral education and a Professor of Music Research at Sibelius Academy, Finland. Professor Kuusi has extensive experience as a researcher studying the way musicians and non-musicians process harmonic structures. Prof. Kuusi has published her research in numerous specialized peer-reviewed journals including: Psychology of Music; Music Perception’ Journal of New Music Research; Musicae Scientiae; Music Theory Online; Medical Problems of Performing Artists.

Isabella Czedik-Eysenberg (University of Vienna)

Isabella Czedik-Eysenberg is a university assistant completing her doctorate in the field of Systematic Musicology at the Musicological Department of the University of Vienna. She studied Musicology at the University of Vienna, Austria, and additionally studies Media Informatics at the Vienna University of Technology. She previously worked in a software engineering company in the field of data analysis and data warehousing. Her research interests include the connection between audio signal processing and psychoacoustics, musical acoustics and music psychology, especially focusing on timbre and music perception, as well as the applications of machine learning and other computational techniques in musicological research.

Christoph Reuter (University of Vienna)

Christoph Reuter has been a professor for Systematic Musicology at the University of Vienna since 2008 and head of the institute since 2016. His research interests include timbre perception, musical acoustics, room acoustics and psychoacoustics, music psychology, sound analysis/synthesis and acoustical signal analysis/music information retrieval, as well as music-related internet and software projects.


A chord can be thought of as an idealized set of pitch relationships that do not depend on timbre, register, duration, etc. A chord can also be thought of as an actual, sounding event in the world, where it inevitably possesses characteristics that pertain to “extra-harmonic” parameters such as timbre, register, and duration. Although thinking of chords in that abstract way facilitates our structuring, memorizing, and understanding music, chords as actual sounding events are also likely to play an important role in our experiencing of music. The present study investigates chords as actual sounding events by testing the ability to identify popular songs from single chords taken from well-known recordings. Although it is currently believed that timbre plays a primary role in the identification of songs from very brief excerpts of music, it is possible that vertical pitch structures may also play a role in that type of rapid identification. As expected, our results showed that chords timbral brightness and, to a lesser extent, their attack time, chord-type commonness, duration, and the song’s year of release contributed to the song’s rapid recognition. This study shows that memory for chords as actual sounding events can be detailed enough to allow listeners with and without musical training to identify songs from a single piano chord. Results also suggest that both harmonic and extra-harmonic characteristics of single chords are encoded in auditory long-term memory and contribute to the rapid identification of songs from single chords.

Using Principles of Crossmodal Perception to Promote Accessibility and Diversity in the Classroom

Sarah Louden (New York University Steinhardt)

Sarah Louden is a Visiting Assistant Professor at New York University Steinhardt. Her research focuses on the intersection of music, cognitive neuroscience, and multisensory perception. She studies the influence of sensory perception on a broad range of musical topics, including multimedia and contemporary music analysis, music theory pedagogy, classroom accessibility, performance, and digital technology. She holds a PhD in Music Theory from the University at Buffalo SUNY.


Approximately 1 in 5 college students report having some type of disability (U.S. Department of Education 2019). Only about 30% of these students register for assistance in college, and only 17% of those with learning disabilities register (Krupnick 2014). This statistic is troubling when you consider that only about 34% of students with disabilities finish a four-year degree (Mader & Butrymowicz 2017).

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational theory that seeks to create an inclusive, accessible learning environment that enhances the learning of all students and reduces the need for individual accommodations. One of the basic principles of UDL is teaching through multiple means (CAST 2018), a strategy promoted by authors like Straus (2011) and Quaglia (2015) as a way of implementing UDL into the college music curriculum. This poster looks at the benefits of applying research in multisensory perception and crossmodal association to strengthen these approaches and make the music classroom more inclusive.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that multimodal teaching can significantly improve the learning outcome for students with varying types of disabilities (Escobedo et al 2014; Obaid 2013; Guyer 1989), and it has been commonly incorporated into assistive technology (Vélez-Coto et al 2017; Proulx 2014). This poster outlines relevant cognitive literature on crossmodal association and approaches to multimodal strategies in disability studies, then looks at how principles of crossmodal association can be used as design guidelines for creating and strengthening current teaching approaches, and offers example applications for incorporating these strategies into the college music classroom.

Spaced Learning, Screen Names, and Speed: Fluent Fundamentals in Fifty Minutes Per Week

Jennifer Shafer (University of Delaware)

Jennifer Shafer is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Delaware. Her two main research interests are mathematics and computation in music and music theory pedagogy. She has presented her work at regional and national music theory conferences, national music theory pedagogy conferences, and a national computer science education conference. Jennifer has also published in and served on the editorial board of Engaging Students and has a co-authored publication in the proceedings of the 2020 Technical Symposium of the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education.


Many incoming music majors are under-equipped for their first written theory courses. This situation presents significant pedagogical challenges for instructors and can cause students to struggle intensely if they enter a course that they are not prepared for. Weaker students may develop an undue lack of confidence if they compare themselves to their peers, and stronger students can become disillusioned if they do not feel sufficiently challenged.

This poster presents a fundamentals course which works through all three of Michael Rogers’ (2004) stages of foundational fundamentals—understanding, developing accuracy, and developing speed—within one fifty-minute meeting per week (35). A flipped classroom model teaches content from note reading to triads through video lectures and interactive handouts that scaffold the learning experience (Shafer 2018), and concepts of spaced practice and retrieval practice (Lang 2016; Miller 2014) and interleaving (Callahan 2019) are used to design homework. Practice is gamified through screen names, leader boards, and a “token” which forgives missing homework grades.

This structure allows students with little or no background to achieve a strong grasp of fundamentals within a one-credit course, and allows stronger students to complete course requirements early if they are ready to do so. These methods create a classroom experience that welcomes all students, regardless of background, and equips them with both the basic tools and the confidence that they will need to succeed in their coursework.

Don't Count Your Cadences Before They Hatch: Advocating for Discussions of Closure in Pedagogical Contexts

Brian Edward Jarvis (University of Texas at El Paso)

Brian Jarvis is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Texas at El Paso. His research interests include issues of phrase structure & form in musical middles; large-scale music analysis in films by Joel & Ethan Coen; static film cues in P.T. Anderson’s large-ensemble films; and using computers pedagogically to build advanced music-related skills.

John Peterson (James Madison University)

John Peterson is Associate Professor of Music Theory at James Madison University. He’s interested in form and phrase structure, music theory pedagogy, musical meaning, and musical theater. He has presented his work at regional and national conferences, and he has published co-authored work with Brian Jarvis in Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, and SMT-V.


abstract: In a survey of textbook definitions of phrase and cadence, Ann Blombach (1987) finds what she calls a “fatal logical flaw: phrase and cadence are being defined circularly.” Prompted by this flaw, Blombach calls for more precise definitions of these two terms. Later, Caplin (2004) takes up Blombach’s plea by asking the musicological community to “take seriously the idea of perceiving closure in a wide variety of ways….” Despite these calls, recent textbook definitions of phrase and cadence maintain this sense of circularity. This poster responds to Caplin by reframing the phrase/cadence issue and its implications in formal analysis into a broader discussion of the perception of closure that relies on recent work on cadence. We consider the perception of closure as having three primary components—boundary detection, process conclusion, and confirmation— and we show how these three aspects of closure are at play in a variety of examples.