Ben Duane

​Assistant Professor of Theory and Composition
PhD, Northwestern University
research interests:
  • texture
  • form
  • music cognition
  • computational modeling
  • 18th & early 19th-century music

contact info:

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1032
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

In addition to the structure and perception of musical texture, Ben Duane's research involves music cognition more generally, computational modeling, form, music of the 18th and early 19th centuries, and intersections between music theory and probability theory. ​

Ben Duane earned his Ph.D. in Music Theory and Cognition at Northwestern University. His dissertation, advised by Robert Gjerdingen, was entitled Texture in First-Movement Expositions of Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century String-Quartet Expositions. In addition to the structure and perception of musical texture, his research involves music cognition more generally, computational modeling, form, music of the 18th and early 19th centuries, and intersections between music theory and probability theory. His research has appeared in the Journal of Music Theory and Music Perception, among other venues. He currently has three articles in the works: one on texture in Schubert's three-key expositions, another on the probabilistic structure of different types of musical lines, and a third on retransitions in the sonata forms of Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven. Before coming to Washington University, Professor Duane held a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Columbia University.

“Repetition and Prominence: The Probabilistic Structure of Melodic and Non-Melodic Lines”  Music Perception, 39/1

“Repetition and Prominence: The Probabilistic Structure of Melodic and Non-Melodic Lines” Music Perception, 39/1

This study examines the difference between prominent and non-prominent lines (e.g., melodies and accompaniments). After reviewing research suggesting that lines with few repeating patterns would readily capture attention, the hypothesis that prominent lines tend to be less repetitive is tested. Various probabilistic models are used to quantify the repetitiveness of lines from three musical corpora—two containing Classical string quartets, one including songs by the Beatles. The results suggest that notes from prominent lines tend to have lower probability. This trend, along with others found in the corpora, is consistent with the hypothesis that prominent lines are generally less repetitive.

“Thematic and Non-Thematic Textures in Schubert’s Three-Key Expositions”  Music Theory Spectrum, 34/2

“Thematic and Non-Thematic Textures in Schubert’s Three-Key Expositions” Music Theory Spectrum, 34/2

This article reexamines two common views of Schubert’s three-key expositions: one that contends the third key is presented in the context of thematic formal function, another that asserts this section’s function is non-thematic. Considering texture as an important determinant of formal function, these two views are assessed using a computational model of texture. Applying this model to a corpus of two-key expositions from the late eighteenth century, I demonstrate that certain textures tend to be associated with thematic function more than others. This model is then used to determine the presence of thematic and non-thematic textures in three of Schubert’s three-key expositions and the extent to which the two views of the formal function of the third key make sense.