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Quantifying duration of musical notes

Auditory List,
I am almost finished with a project exploring sensory integration in musical contexts, which shows that musicians can use visual (gesture) information to alter the perception of note length.  As part of my findings, I would like to discuss differences the actual (acoustic) lengths of the notes used.  It is very clear from looking at basic plots of the sound energy over time that certain notes are acoustically longer than other notes.  These (currently unquantified) intuitions are closely reflected in the perceptual ratings I obtained from subjects in my experiment.  However I would like to have some way of analyzing the acoustic information to lend credibility to my discuss of the discrepancies between acoustic and perceptual duration ratings.
The problem breaks down to this:  I have 3 categories of pitches (high, medium, and low pitches).  Within each category of pitches I have 3 types of notes (long, medium, and short).  I would like to be able to examine the acoustic differences between the 3 notes within each pitch level in order to conclude which (if any) notes are longer.  I have a data file with the RMS Amplitude from note onset to note decay, sampled every 10 milliseconds.
Originally, I envisioned this experiment to examine only the perceptual aspects of note duration, however given my results I think it would be much better to also include a brief section on the acoustic analysis of note duration.

My background is in perceptual research rather than acoustics, so I would greatly appreciate any thoughts on the proper way of pursuing this issue.


Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz

University of Virginia

B045 Gilmer Hall

(434) 243-5534