Average Pitch (?) (KEVIN AUSTIN )

Subject: Average Pitch (?)
Date:    Sat, 16 Sep 2000 08:25:24 -0400

>From: Paul von Hippel -- Ohio State <pvh(at)CCRMA.STANFORD.EDU> asked about >Subject: average pitch used in music stating >A couple of years ago, someone reported an attempt to measure the >distribution of pitch heights used in Western music, and wanted >to know what else had been done in this area. >I'd be interested to know what that inquiry turned up -- or what >other list members know about the question. The studies I'm aware >of are E.J. Miller's thesis on the Masses of Palestrina, and an >unpublished study by Huron & Parncutt, using a greater variety of >music. Both studies report a mean pitch slightly above middle C. Sorry, I'm not sure what you're looking for ... the average, the distribution or the mean. The word 'pitch' is for me also not clear. Did the Palestrina Mass study deal with the notation or the frequencies? (fundamental or spectral). For the other question, is the study about 'composition', or usage?, for while it is interesting to note (sic) that there are more notes in a Palestrina Mass, I would think that The Star Spangled Banner would have had a few more performances than (say) Missa L'Homme arme and Missa Papae Marcelli combined. Palestrina (most likely sung with trained voices) has (according to Jeppesen) a range of an octave and a major sixth per voice, with the notes common to all four voices being middle C and D. Instrumental music changes this, shifting things progressively higher over the centuries. (17th century violins seldom went above 5th position, limiting the top note to about F above double high C. This is [just about] the highest note in the Brandenbergs.) In Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, Mozart wrote (variously) a whole note for the viola, and eight eight-notes (repeated) for the same instrument. Do the studies measure the duration of the notes, or the frequency of attack? This would shift the 'average pitch' up in the late-nineteenth century with Strauss (R) writing pages of sixty-fourth note tremolandos in 17th position on the violin (sic). The introduction of a tambourine and piccolo (Salome's Dance) shifts the 'avaerage base [bass]' frequency. In Ravel's Bolero, would one measure the notated pitches or the 'created fundamentals'. (In the passages of parallel dominant seventh and ninth chords, segregating the clarinet playing the melody at the 3rd (or sixth) partial (perfect 12th) is possible, and even following most of the piccolo at the 5 (or 10th?) partial (double octave and major third) can be done with a good recording, but whether this level is segregation and streaming is possible for the avaerage listener is another matter -- but would shift the 'average', and possibly the 'mean' pitch. This does not enter the world of electroacoustics / sound art. In the 80s, in much disco, the 'bass drum' disappeared and was replaced by the (term) 'kick drum', as the beat was emphasized by a "click-complex" that while having a fair amount of low-frequency energy, segregated and streamed itself by having more energy in freqeuncies over 2kHz. Frequently (from my listening) its average and mean frequencies would not be the same. Best Kevin kaustin(at)vax2.concordia.ca There's meat and there's music hear said the fox as he ate the bagpipes. red flashes in maples bushy squirrels store black walnuts Montreal autumn

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DAn Ellis <dpwe@ee.columbia.edu>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University