A comparison of music majors' and nonmajors' perceptions of tension for two selections of jazz music

William E. Fredrickson, John C. Coggiola

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The present study allowed music majors (n = 40) and nonmajors (n = 30) to record their perceptions of tension in two selections of jazz music using the Continuous Response Digital Interface (CRDI). Both musical stimuli were recorded versions of "St. Louis Blues" by W. C. Handy. The first was a popular, stylized version sung by Nat King Cole, and the second, which included an extensive improvisatory section, was performed by Ella Fitzgerald. In comparing these results to earlier studies dealing with music majors' and nonmajors' perceived tension and aesthetic response, there are certain factors that remain constant. Music majors' responses did not seem to differ markedly in overall contour from nonmusic majors' responses, which is consistent with previous research. Graphs of perceived tension responses are much more highly differentiated than are graphs of perceived aesthetic response. These graphs produce a pattern that is unique to that musical selection (or in this case, a highly stylized performance). Subjects had no trouble performing the task or using an existing internal definition of musical tension. This existing internal definition is probably applied to a variety of musical styles, including jazz. This study also seemed to indicate a definite order effect in the presentation of the stimuli, which may relate to the way listeners put what they hear into a musical context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Music Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Music


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