Research in Music Theory, Perception, and Cognition

Below are summaries of a selection of my current research projects.

Click here for a complete CV.

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Identifying the Perceptual Dimensions of Musical Instrument Timbre Qualia

Authors: Lindsey Reymore & David Huron

The first aim of this project is to build a timbre model based on qualia judgments from experienced musicians or music listeners by identifying intersubjectively consistent verbalized descriptions of musical instrument timbres. The second aim is to create timbre trait profiles (TTPs) for the most common Western musical instruments. Our aim is that these timbre trait profiles may ultimately prove useful in the analysis of orchestration in individual musical works or passages.

Received the Early Career Researcher Award from the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM). Posters at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in Graz, Austria (July 25, 2018); Timbre 2018 in Montreal, Canada (July 6, 2018); presentation at the Interdisciplinary Methods Festival in Columbus, OH (July 21, 2017).


Color and Tone Color: Audio-visual Crossmodal Correspondences with Musical Instrument Timbre

Authors: Lindsey Reymore & Delwin Lindsey

Cross-modal correspondences, or widely-shared preferences for matching experiences across senses, manifest in both literary and vernacular language: for example, sounds may be bright (visual), sweet (olfactory), or sharp (tactile). The purpose of this series of experiments is to disentangle widely-recognized crossmodal correspondences between musical instrument timbres and colors, by using perceptual ratings of sound descriptors to predict participants’ choices when they are asked to match the sound to colors.

Funded by the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Ohio State through the 2018 Summer Research Award. Presentations at the national conference of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (August 5, 2019), Autumn retreat for the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences (September 15, 2018); the Florida State University Music Theory Forum (January 19, 2019). 1st prize presentation in the Arts at the Hayes Graduate Forum, 2019.


Neural Bases of Auditory and Visual Brightness and Darkness

Authors: Lindsey Reymore, Matthew Heard, Yune Lee, & Delwin Lindsey

Our previous research on crossmodal correspondences revealed a strong general association between perceived auditory and visual brightness. In this fMRI study, we look for similar patterns of neural activation between bright sounds and bright colors, with the goal of localizing the modality-independent concept of brightness.

Funded by the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Ohio State through the 2019 Summer Research Award. Data collection is currently underway. To participate in this experiment, email Lindsey at

Photo by Tony Newell

Photo by Tony Newell

Instrument-Specific Absolute Pitch

Authors: Lindsey Reymore & Niels Christian Hansen

Absolute Pitch (AP), or the ability to name or produce pitches without reference, is rare even amongst expert musicians. While many AP possessors can label pitches globally across timbres–spanning from musical instruments to car horns and lawn mowers–anecdotal evidence suggests that some musicians without global AP perform better when identifying pitches played on their native instrument. Our case study results validate the presence of this phenomenon but indicate that not all musicians have an advantage for their primary instrument. Our ongoing study tests for instrument-specific absolute pitch in a wider population of oboists. We further test the underlying mechanisms of this timbre selectivity, hypothesizing that timbral cues and articulatory motor-planning contribute to instrument-specific advantages in identifying pitches on a primary instrument.

Posters presented at the International Symposium on Performance Science (July 29, 2019) and the conference for the Society of Music Perception and Cognition (August 7, 2019).


Multimodal Emotion Associations in Music and Dance

Authors: Lindsay Warrenburg, Lindsey Reymore, & Daniel Shanahan

Both music and dance are known to communicate a variety of emotions. This study focuses on the expressions of melancholy, grief, and fear in music and dance, both as perceived by the audience and as experienced by the dancers. Specifically, we ask whether grief is associated with more prosociality than melancholy and whether this potential difference is modulated by the presence of music.

Presented at the conference for the Society of Music Perception and Cognition (August 7, 2019).


Mode and Triad in 17th Century Germany

Author: Lindsey Reymore

This paper explores differences between the theoretical treatment of modes and their manifestation in practice during the seventeenth century by comparing the music-theoretical writing and chorale compilations of Johann Crüger (1598–1662). Based on Crüger’s theoretical approach to mode and triad in his Synopsis Musica (1630 and 1654), I analyze the chorale collection titled Geistliche Kirchen-Melodien (1649), finding that—in contrast to the egalitarian presentation of the modes in Crüger’s treatise—certain modes in the collection are strongly favored, and harmonic practices blur the distinctions between modes. I observe that the triadic vocabularies of each mode were expanded by specific practices of chromatic alteration, with the consequence that the lexicons of the individual modes overlapped and converged into two main clusters, approximating major and minor.

Presentations at the 18th Biennial International Conference for Baroque Music in Cremona, Italy (July 13, 2018); conference for the Music Theory Society of New York State in New York, NY (April 15, 2018).


Orchestrated Sadness: When Instrumentation Conveys Emotion

Authors: Niels Christian Hansen, Lindsey Reymore, & David Orvek

While recent research has refined the scientific understanding of how musical features convey affect, the impact of orchestration techniques on emotion remains understudied (McAdams, 2013). Countering claims that orchestration cannot be taught (Rimsky-Korsakov, 1912/1964) and that doing so kills creativity (Piston, 1969), this study systematically investigates solo and offstage instrumentation. Potentially, orchestral solos may prove suitable for expressing individuality, vulnerability, and loneliness (Rimsky-Korsakov, 1912/1964), thus evoking sadness in listeners. Offstage instrumentation may metaphorically represent distance or separation, also traditionally associated with sadness (Bowlby, 1980). If so, sadness-related musical features—e.g., quiet dynamics, slow tempo, legato, minor mode, low pitch, narrow pitch range, smooth rhythms, and dark-timbre instruments (Hansen, 2013)—should be more prevalent in solo and offstage passages.

Presentation at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in Graz, Austria (July 25, 2018).

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Musical Expression and Embodiment: Fear, Threat, and Danger in the Music of The Lord of the Rings

Author: Lindsey Reymore

Research in music perception suggests various ways in which music might portray, express, or evoke fear and threat (e.g. Huron, 2015, Juslin & Laukka, 2003), but how closely do these findings reflect musical practice? Do composers actually use these techniques when aiming to express fear and threat? First, I reviewed recent research in music perception, speech prosody, and animal ethology to create a list of musical techniques that might communicate fear and threat. I compared music from fear-centered with non-fear-centered scenes from The Lord of the Rings; far more of the proposed cues are employed in fear scenes than their length-matched non-fear counterparts, supporting a probabilistic model for fear-related affective musical cues. The analyses demonstrate high consistency between the ways in which recent perceptual research suggests that fear and threat are expressed through music and fear-related music in the context of the soundtrack to The Fellowship of the Ring.

3rd prize for presentation at The Hayes Graduate Research Forum in Columbus, OH (March 2, 2018) and poster presentation at the International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition in Graz, Austria (July 26, 2018).