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Re: Pitch learning

I have played two types of Balinese gamelan: gamelan gong kebyar and gamelan angklung.  Both ensembles contain sets of instruments that are tuned an octave apart and play identical material in parallel octaves.  It's quite clear that the concept of octave equivalence is built into the instrumentation and musical structure.  (As Martin points out, there is also intentional mistuning to create beats.)  On the other hand, I don't recall any other intervals, such as the fifth, having any special prominence.

Within the octave, it's true that each ensemble has its own scale.  The instruments that make up a gamelan are built and tuned as a group and are designed to be kept together; you can't mix instruments from different ensembles.  I occasionally had the experience of learning a piece on one ensemble and then performing it on a different ensemble.  As a Westerner, I found the suddenly altered scale to be quite disorienting at first -- enough to cause me to hit wrong notes until I adjusted.

Dan Freed
Senior Engineer, Hearing Aid Research Lab
House Ear Institute
2100 W. Third St.
Los Angeles, CA  90057  USA
Phone: +1-213-353-7084
Fax: +1-213-413-0950
Email: dfreed@xxxxxxx

-----Original Message-----
From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception [mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Martin Braun
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2007 10:24 AM
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Pitch learning

Dear Pierre and others,

> During my studies some time ago I read in a respected source that there 
> are gamelans in which even the octave is missing.

There must have been a misunderstanding in this. A gamelan ensemble without 
the octave as the backbone of all tuning is a red herring. What occurs are 
deviations from the mathematically exact octave, up to about +/- 30 Cent. In 
some gamelan cultures, such as in Bali, octave deviations are tuned on 
purpose to reach a shimmering sound caused by the "beats" resulting from 
this tuning practice.

We should also note that all gamelan scales that have ever been found are 
fairly well understood in terms of physics and hearing physiology. Not much 
mystery here.


Martin Braun
Neuroscience of Music
S-671 95 Klässbol
web site: http://w1.570.telia.com/~u57011259/index.htm

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Pierre Divenyi" <pdivenyi@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2007 6:49 AM
Subject: Re: Pitch learning

>I think that the most challenging instrument to any pitch theories is the 
>gamelan ensemble: partials produced by each metal bloc are inharmonic and 
>the (supposed) fundamental frequencies of the bloc series define an 
>inharmonic scale that varies from gamelan to gamelan, except that they 
>never include simple harmonic ratios. During my studies some time ago I 
>read in a respected source that there are gamelans in which even the octave 
>is missing.
> Pierre