[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Pitch in a non-animate world

Hi all

as a musical instrument designer exploring the possibilities of tuned
percussion instruments that produce largely inharmonic complex tones I
have made a similar observation.

Bells were one of the first things people made with bronze, and much of
their psychological/religious power may be due to peoples' surprise
about an inanimate object producing a resonant tone - although not
harmonic - given the rarity of objects capable of sustaining resonance
in this time. Complex inharmonic timbres can also produce ambiguous
pitch perceptions which change over time as various partials beat and
decay - perhaps giving rise to the idea of a mysterious inner voice in
the bell.

A famous Buddhist bell in Korea (can't remember its name offhand) is
said to contain the voice of a young girl crying "mother" -in the local
dialect of course.

>>> Brian Gygi <bgygi@xxxxxxxxx> 03/03/05 12:48 pm >>>
Al's and Christian's observations are strongly in agreement with data
have on similarity ratings of environmental sounds which indicate
that our major partitioning of sounds in the world is between pitched
non-pitched sounds.  Pitched sounds included not just animal
but also human-generated communicative sounds such as whistles and
sirens.  Indeed, the salience of pitched sounds for communicative
may lie in their ability to perceived above a largely non-harmonic

At 02:00 PM 3/2/2005, Al Bregman wrote:
>Dear Christian and list,
>I completely agree with you.  Like you, I have noticed the fact that
in the
>natural environment in which our ancestors evolved (no machines or
>human artifacts), almost all periodic sounds are from animals.  The
>exception might be wind whistling through tree branches, or the
>you cited.
>I also agree with you that it is likely that many of the behaviors
>produce such sounds co-evolved with communication and served that
>from early on -- I am thinking, for example, of the mating calls of
>crickets.   Of course, this evolution for sonic communication went
>with the evolution of visual communication (e.g., the color patterns
>squids, or the mating displays of birds and possibly of earlier
>or the displays of mammals such as the size of the antlers of deer),
>chemical communication  (insects, scents of mammals in heat), and
>communication (e.g., in the communication between a mammalian mother
>her nursing infants).
>Auditory communication has a number of advantages over these other
>As opposed to visual communication, it passes around interposed
>such as trees or rocks, retaining most of the important information
>(except, sometimes, for place of origin).  At low frequencies, such
>those used by elephants, it can be heard very far away.  As opposed
>tactile communication, it works even when the animals aren't in
>As opposed to chemical communication carried by scent, it is capable
>forming rapidly changing temporal patterns.  These unique capabilities
>sound have probably affected the way in which its use has evolved.
>The advantage of the use of pitch in communication is the very fact
that it
>is not likely to have arisen accidentally from non-communicative
events; so
>a pitch implies a communicative event -- not necessarily one involving
>own species.  So recognition processes would have to sort them out.
>course, for any animal of even modest intelligence, the recognition
>another species (predator or prey) is communicating close to you can
>have vital significance.
>Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor
>Psychology Dept., McGill University
>1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue
>Montreal, Quebec
>Canada  H3A 1B1
>      Voice: +1 (514) 398-6103
>      Fax:     +1 (514) 398-4896
>  ----- Original Message -----
>From: "Christian Kaernbach" <auditory@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
>To: <AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 1:08 PM
>Subject: Pitch in a non-animate world
> > Dear List,
> >
> > It recently came to my mind that nearly all experiences of pitch
> > related to animal communication soounds. Sure, there is something
> > edge pitch of broadband stimuli, maybe even echo pitch under
> > conditions, but clearly periodic sounds stemming from a
> > moving source would nearly always come from an animal (and most
often be
> > communication sounds... exception: humming of bees etc.). Is this
> > complete nonsense? Or could it be that pitch processing evolved in
> > parallel to communication capabilities?
> >
> > Best,
> > Christian Kaernbach
> >
> >