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Re: sometimes behave so strangely
Dear Diana and all,
I'm glad to have been reading this discussion, which has caused me to
revise some of my view of what happens in this phenomenon.
It seems to me that the critical distinction between "music" and
"singing" is not well enough understood. We miss this point because
there is so much overlap between the two concepts. But the way I imagine
the distinction right now, today, is this: singing is perceived as such
when particular vocal qualities are heard within a framework perceived
as musical. Now that's very fluid: the particular vocal qualities, as
well as the very notion of music, vary greatly across cultures. So I
imagined that one could find people with no experience of Western
harmony and see if the illusion worked with them. The problem would be
they might not recognize the vocal quality as singing either, so it
would still be hard to know why the illusion did or didn't work. The
seemingly basic concepts of music and singing are actually composed of
many components networked together (and networked with each other) in
ways that are difficult to tease apart. Among the elements of singing
are heightened awareness of sound features such as pitch, duration, and
timbre that are important but usually not attended to in speech.
So let me try a speculative analysis of why the demonstration works for
me. One component is your vocal quality in the excerpt. I can't accept
that you "actually are singing" as Eliot Handelman put it, but your
vocal quality is consistent with what I can recognize as singing.
The looping may weaken the perception that the passage is spoken, or it
may draw attention to sound features.
Then there is the part that most needs to be described as "musical": the
pitches and durations. Your rhythmic transcription is obviously fairly
approximate in regards to the syncopation at its beginning, but
nevertheless it reflects the way I hear the fragment. I hear it that
way, I believe, because it conforms to a well-ingrained schema
representing a rhythm that has been ubiquitous in American and European
popular music (and other music) at least since the late 19th century.
The pitches also seem to be heard according to common tonal-harmony
schemas: your transcription outlines the tonic in the first measure
(with a C# passing tone) and the dominant in the second. I'm one who
hears the last note a semitone lower--as an E#, which means I hear the
first measure as IV of F# and the second measure as V. That hearing was
so obvious to me -- including the E#, which I would have spelled
F-natural had I not been hearing it within a tonal schema -- that I was
certain I was right about the notes, and I still can't hear it any other
way, so I'm interested to know that others hear it differently or
All the best,
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