Invitation to criticize dissertation idea. (David Spondike )

Subject: Invitation to criticize dissertation idea.
From:    David Spondike  <Dspondike(at)AOL.COM>
Date:    Mon, 15 May 2000 19:35:06 EDT

Dear List: I am new to your cadre, so let me introduce myself and pose my question/request. I am a doctoral candidate and Kent State, working on dissertations in theory and composition. Though coming from a tradition of Schenker and Forte, I am convinced that a new path to musical analysis will be cut by a cognitive and perceptual tack. Here at Kent, there is not a group of music cognition researchers of any sort, so I ask those of you who would to send feedback; to blow holes in the plan as wide as a battleship if they are there to be torn apart. My theory advisor is interested in timbre, so as to be on the same wavelength, so to speak, I was thinking of doing some timbre research. So, here is the general plan. A variation of Diana Deutsch's scale illusion (a descending scale is played simultaneously with an ascending scale), when presented monaurally, seems to be a fairly robust condition of grouping by pitch proximity. In the literature that I have been able to find, as well as in some informal experiments that I have done using a desktop sound studio, the only other auditory cue that has a chance of competing for dominance (save for loudness) is timbre. Detuning the scales so that no pitches are exactly repeated, making the on-sets asynchronous, nor extreme tempi destroy the grouping by pitch proximity. Though, when the on-sets are asynchronous from about 33% to about 66% of the durational value, the "mirrored" streams become almost illusory, and a single stream of all on-sets forms as the primary perception. The dominance of grouping by pitch proximity is the same with pure tones, complex tones, and I would assume also with narrow band noise bursts. However, if the ascending and descending scales are significantly different enough in timbre, the scales will be heard as crossing each other in pitch-space. This design would seem not to be reliant on "capturing"; and also relatively free of subjective judgement of similarity, as many timbre experiments require. ****** Let me stop here and ask anyone to shoot away at the basic premise. Auditory cues supposedly operate in a competitive environment. Is this really an ideal ring for a knock-down, drag-out fight between pitch proximity and timbre for grouping cue dominance? ****** It would seem that using narrow band noise bursts, one could determine if bandwidth is strong enough of a timbral dimension to dominate pitch proximity as a grouping cue. One might compare inharmonic complex tones to determine if different inharmonic complexes segregate, or if they are perceived as timbres that are similar enough to be dominated by pitch proximity. One could compare different patterns of modulation or timbres of varying spectral centroids or spectral envelopes. Many may be familiar with the effect of sampling a spectral envelope of a real instrument and transposing that spectral envelope so as to form a musical scale. Within 4 or 5 notes (transpositions) the timbre sounds nothing like the original instrument. Well, if one scale used a sample of the top note and transposed down, and the other scale sampled the bottom not and transposed up, would a stream form generally around the "real" sounding note and another around the "synthesized" sounding notes? The possibilities seem endless. So, why won't it work? If it would work, I would be interested in personal responses as to where you think research is needed, and what might be a good topic for a doctoral dissertation. Please keep in mind that I am a musician, not a cognitive psychologist (though I did my minor in psych). Thanks to all of you who took the time to read this, and of course, to all of you who wish to respond. David Spondike Dspondike(at)

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