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Perception as memory ...

From my reading, I am now far into semantics with this. In my view, greatly simplified, perception is memory, but I'm a slow learner in this matter too.

In the training and development of [sonic] ear-training skills, my experience is that perception is memory (neither term here am I defining ... sorry). If 'perception' can be developed, I feel that this development is a matter of memory development, and the associated aspects of memory that relate to categorization. If the listener has only one 'word' (category) for noise, then I have found that the individual may note "different" noises, but not have a way of categorizing them. Their category 'grid' is too large to respond with identification.

For example, say, in musical ear-training, a student regularly confuses the perfect fourth and the perfect fifth. When played one after another, they note that they are different, but cannot 'remember' which is which.

For just over a year I have been working at the millisecond and almost the sample level in editing sounds. Now some 20,000 or more edits later at the sample / ms level, I speak of my hearing being "faster"; I require much less time to pick up repetition (even non-patterned repetition), and patterns, than I did before my many hundreds of hours of (self-imposed) micro-editing training.

Has my 'perception' improved; is my perceptual 'grid' much finer, and with more experience, does my memory now have a greater number of categories -- greater precision, accessed much faster. The model I currently use is that it is "all memory". If the stimulus does not tap into memory, it is 'invisible'.

One way I demonstrate this with groups is to play a 10 note chord (*) on a piano, which is heard as an integrated whole by most of those who hear it. I play the third note from bottom note (a D in this case), and ask if it was in the chord. Most people can't tell -- they can't remember (or perhaps cannot 'perceive' -- segregate it from the complex).

I repeat the D a few times, and play the chord again. Some people may report hearing it. Most don't.

The next step is to the play the D very loud (ff), and one second later, play the rest of the chord very quietly (pp), for 2 seconds. I lift my hands from the other notes of the chord, and the D continues to sound. This I repeat a few times. Most report being able to 'hold onto' the D through the sounding chord.

Following this, the time between the D and the chord shortens, and the "rest of the chord" is played louder and louder. The D is slowly being placed into the integrated mass of the chord -- the listeners' memories (for the D and its segregation from the chord) is being improved.

After about 2 minutes, I return to playing the 10 note chord, and ask if they are able to hear (segregate) the D from the integrated structure. Many (many) more report being able to do so.

Has the(ir) perception improved? Will they be able to do this with other sounds? My interpretation of my experience here is that they have learned a technique for the refinement of their memory, but in the colloquial, I refer to an improvement in their perceptual ability.



(*) The chord is, ascending: G Bb D F# A C E G# B C# , the first 10 notes of the row of the Alban Berg Violin Concerto.

Date:    Sat, 22 Aug 2009 11:33:12 +0200
From:    Christian Kaernbach <auditorylist@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: Infrapitch

Dear List,

... In my view, it has more the characteristics of memory than of pitch perception.

... The introspective sensation when doing so is definitively that of "remembering", not of "perception".

... It is true that periodicities around 2 Hz (0.5 s) evoke a "perception" that is different from that of non-repeating noise. I believe that it is memory that helps to detect some statistical fluctuations in that noise that otherwise would pass unnoticed. In other words, memory is altering perception.