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'Quintina' in Sardinian polyphonic songs: virtual voices or DPOAEs?

Dear list members,

In the realm of ethnomusicology it is well known that the polyphonic songs performed by the Sardinian Brother-hoods during Holy Week contain a virtual voice. There are always four voices. They produce one extra line above the four melodies. This fifth note is called the 'Quintina' in the vernacular.

The Quintina is produced with remarkable precision on top of several chords. But it become most clear when the four singers produce a harmony known as a major triad in root position.

It is interesting to compare this effect to Tartini's tone and Helmholtz?s combination tones. Hermann von Helmholtz mentioned that combination tones were most perceivable when two sopranos sing in major/minor thirds. The fact that the frequency ratios of the major and minor thirds are 1:1.25 and 1:1.2 suggests a correlation to DPOAEs.

The Quintina in Sardinian polyphonic songs may be more interesting than Tartini's tone and Helmholtz's combination tones. I have searched medical papers with keywords 'Sardinian & hearing' and found a hereditary disease in the Sardinian population: Alport syndrome. It is associated with sensorineural hearing loss.

Is it possible that Alport syndrome affects DPOAEs and plays a role in the perception of Quintina in Sardinian polyphonic songs?

I am not audiologist and my hypothesis may sound crazy. Any comment is much appreciated.

Tsai, Chen-Gia
Post-doc. fellow 
Institute of Applied Mechanics, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
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