Lillian Hearne

Research Student

Research Program: Music Cognition and Action

Thesis Title

The Cognition of Harmonic Tonality in Microtonal Scales

Research Project

My research stems from music theory into psychology. I am interested in how tonal-harmonic music can communicate emotional meaning.

Harmonic tonality involves a 'tonic' (most stable and important) chord that functions as a reference point around which other chords form a hierarchy. Given that this hierarchy may be exploited to induce feelings of tension and resolution in the listener, in turn allowing the communication of emotional meaning, I will investigate which structural features (e.g. scale and tuning) and compositional practices in music enable harmonic tonality.

Novel, microtonal scales will be employed in the composition of stimuli for the experiments in order to both reduce unwanted effects of familiarity and enable investigation of scale and tuning.

By modelling how tonal-harmonic music may be constructed in novel scales, and in the composition of such music, I hope to extend possibilities for the communication of emotional meaning in music.


  • Bachelor of Music (Hons.) in Performance and Musicology, University of Western Australia
  • Bachelor of Science in Physics and Applied Mathematics, University of Western Australia

Contact Lillian
Phone+61 2 9772 6801
LocationWestern Sydney University Bankstown campus (Bullecourt Ave, Milperra)