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This paper considers the use of Contour Icons in the design and implementation of musical patterns, for the purposes of detection and recognition. Research work had endeavoured to deliver musical patterns that were both distinct and memorable, and to this end a set of basic melodic shapes were introduced using a Sonification application called TrioSon that had been designed for the purpose. Existing work in the field (such as that concerning Earcon design) has considered the mechanisms by which patterns may be made distinctive, but it is argued that separate consideration must be given to the method of making such patterns memorable. This work suggests that while segregation and detection can best be facilitated by the individuality of a patterns rhythm, the retention (and hence future recognition) of a musical pattern is concerned more with its melodic range and contour. The detection and comprehension of musical patterns based around basic shapes (known as Contour Icons) was tested, within Sonifications of simple data sets generated using TrioSon. A set of test patterns based on such factors as tonality and key was used for control purposes, with Contour Icons being introduced in the second set of tests. Results suggest that significant improvement was made due to the use of Contour Icons, with further work focusing on the many possibilities that such a design framework would suggest.
Cullen, C., Coyle, E.: Musical Pattern Design Using Contour Icons. ICMC: International Computer Music Conference. Louisiana, USA. 2006.