(David Huron - Conrad Grebel )

From:    David Huron - Conrad Grebel  <dhuron(at)WATSERV1.UWATERLOO.CA>
Date:    Tue, 2 Nov 1993 23:26:48 -0500

Like Richard Parncutt, I too have a certain appreciation for Ernst Terhardt's model of pitch perception. Terhardt, Stoll & Seewann (1982) provides a remarkably succinct and successful predictor for a lot of experimental phenomena. Anyone who has spoken to Terhardt knows he is pretty dismissive about the reactions to the tritone paradox -- since his model solidly predicts it. Diana Deutsch's article in Scientific American last year makes the whole phenomenon sound like an unaccountable mystery -- and then cites Terhardt without showing any understanding of his model. Regrettably, Terhardt himself is much too aloof, and missed his opportunity to clarity things by writing a letter to the Sci-Am editors. On the other hand, I think Bruno has expressed some important concerns. TSS is an *algorithm* rather than an *explanation* of the perceptual mechanics. It would be nice to know better why this algorithm works so well. To my knowledge no one has ever tested the "early-childhood exposure" notion -- so integral to Terhardt's theory of the acquisition of pitch abilities. In my view, the most important repercussion of the tritone paradox is that it provides an effective experimental probe for understanding whether (and how) pitch perception is learned -- as Terhardt claims. Incidentally, since there is nothing paradoxical about the "tritone paradox," perhaps we should use a different term. David Huron

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Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University