Hopital de la Salpetriere, Paris, France
Robert J. Zatorre
Montreal Neurolog. Inst., 3801 Univ. St., Montreal, PQ H3A 2B4, Canada
James O. Ramsay
McGill Univ., Montreal, PQ H3G 2B4, Canada
The perceptual correlates of the acoustic parameters involved in musical timbre have not yet been clearly established. To investigate this issue, perception of single tones and melodies were examined using nine hybrid synthetic sounds, derived from crossing three levels of spectral and temporal changes (number of harmonics and rise time, respectively). Multidimensional scaling analysis was carried out on the pairwise dissimilarity judgments of 15 subjects, using an 8-point rating scale. The configuration resulting from the analysis was best fit by a three-dimensional model, but the first two were most important, and accounted for 44% and 38% of the variance, respectively. The perceptual space derived from the analysis indicates that these two orthogonal dimensions corresponded closely to the spectral and temporal differences inherent to the stimuli. Similar results were obtained with melodies as with single tones. Thus, it appears that even musically unselected subjects are sensitive to spectral and temporal information in a tone, and are able to use them independently in making perceptual judgments of musical timbre.