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An interesting thread, and I propose something like the following
'Vocal grid' to model the area.
Voice has two sources, oscillation and noise, (x axis) running from
unvoiced (noise), through 'mixed' to (the psychometric ideas of):
fuzzy, droning speech, speech, clear speech, intoned speech, melodic
speech, bathtub singing, untrained voice, blues and Dylan, choral
singing, solo voice, operatic.
Spectral content (y axis -- intensity of vowel production) runs as:
mumbled, clear, articulate, BBC news reader, church choir, chorus,
operatic, harmonic choir, Tuvan singing. There is another dimension
here related to the relative intensity / clarity of the formation
(clarity, precision) of formant frequencies, and the number of
formants, Tuvan singing putting most of the acoustical energy into a
A highly trained (and skilled) singer will be able to move around
much of the grid with relative ease, a public speaker will have
control over a smaller area. The grid may work in quantized time,
with a window size of (say) 40 - 70ms (14 - 25 Hz).
As a listener, I may have 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (or more) identifiable
classifications on the x axis, and 3, 4 (or more) on the y axis, tone
deaf having fewer, and 'golden ear' having more. The boundaries will
(likely) differ from individual to individual dependent upon 'native
skill', focus (through intention or training) context, and cultural
differences, among other things.
For the non-tone deaf individual, somewhere along the x axis, aspects
of "music' begin to appear. For someone trained in a traditional
musical tradition, there may be a larger (or smaller) area of 'music
sound', as distinct from 'speech sound'. For some people, this may be
a contextual variable. (The repetition of the phrase has changed the
context and the mind may shift its classification from speech to
This idea posits that the 'musicality' of the phrase is not an
inherent feature of the physical aspect of the sound, but is
[entirely?] psychoacoustic in nature (although I am informed that I
shouldn't use that term when I mean perception / cognition).
As far as I know, North Indian tabla players use syllables to
represent different kinds (?) of rhythmic [metric] values, and in
order to play, the drummer first 'sings'.
There is a rather unique extension of this idea in the music of
Pandit Kamalash Maitra, the master of the Tabla Tarang
there are four very short clips (which I hear phonetically ...)
I don't actually get an 'illusion' or a 'paradox' in Diana's
examples, but I was listening to Reich's Come Out
http://www.last.fm/music/Steve+Reich/_/Come+Out and It's Gonna Rain,
while decoding Lucier's I am Sitting in a Room (clip found at
almost 40 years ago, so my senses and perception were corrupted long
Best wishes for the holidays.