4pPPb6. Perception of musical pitch.

Session: Thursday Afternoon, June 19

Author: Edward M. Burns
Location: Univ. of Washington, 1417 NE 42nd St., Seattle, WA 98105, pwa@u.washington.edu


Although most of Dix Ward's publications were concerned with the effects of noise on hearing, his first love was music perception. The publication derived from his doctoral dissertation, ``Subjective musical pitch'' [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 26, 369--380 (1954)], is one of the seminal works in the area, as is his treatise on absolute pitch [Sound 2(3), 14--21 (1963); 2(4), 33--41 (1963)]. In these publications, he proved that the performance of certain musicians on pitch tasks, such as ratio production and absolute identification, was an order of magnitude more precise than predicted by the then-current psychophysical ``laws,'' derived from research on ``normal-hearing'' subjects. Dix Ward's research in this area will be discussed, as will recent research which extends and complements his findings. Taken together, this body of work gives empirical evidence for something of which Dix himself was long aware: It is music perception which most closely utilizes the full capabilities of the auditory system; and it is music, rather than speech, which is in fact ``special.''

ASA 133rd meeting - Penn State, June 1997