Subject: Tmbre -- origins and use of word (fwd)
From: Kevin Austin (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Oct 07 2004 - 10:02:02 EDT
Date: Thu, 07 Oct 2004 00:00:48 -0400
Sender: AUDITORY Research in Auditory Perception
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2004 14:04:17 -0300
From: Hugo de Paula <hugodepaula@GMX.NET>
Subject: Re: origin of 'timbre'
Sorry for the delayed answer.
Timbre definitions (history):
One says that the timbre is shrill not merely that the timbre of a
sound is shrill - Dictionairre de Trevoux.
Timbre functions to differentiate types of sounds - Diderot and =
Rousseau used descriptive adjectives for different types of timbre =
(shrill, soft, dull, bright) - Dictionnaire de Music
All sonorous bodies yield simultaneously an infinite number of sounds of
gradually decreasing intensity. The phenomena is similar to that which
obtains for the harmonics of strings; but the law for the series of
harmonics is different for bodies of different forms. May it not be this
difference which produced the particular character of sound called =
timbre, which distinguishes each form of body and which causes the sound of a
Your voice has another timbre than that hard, deep organ of Miss Mann's
- C. Bronte's Shirley.
Klangfarbe depends primarily on sound spectrum. Helmholz also mentions =
the beginning and end as well as wind noise and bow noise - Helmholz
Clang color, or timbre, refers to the different types of tones
(clangs) of musical instruments which mainly result from the varied
composition of the sounds or clangs - Rieman in Encyclopaedic Dictionary =
Timbre is the quality which differentiates sounds of the same pitch and =
the same intensity - Riemann in Dictionnaire de Musique.
Quality serves to distinguish between musical sound of the same pitch =
and intensity produced on different instruments - Barton
Quality, timbre, or tone-color depends on the form of the tone-producing
vibrations. The general motion to and fro is periodic, but the details
within the period are usually highly complex and this complexity =
persists in tones of a given character. Differences of quality are due to the =
varying unions of partial tones - Pratt
Timbre is frequently defined as that characteristic of the sensation =
which enables the listener to recognize the kind of musical instrument =
producing the tone, that is, whether it is a cornet, a flute, or a
depends principally upon the overtone structure, but large changes in =
the intensity and the frequency also produce changes in the timbre - =
One might use the other two characteristics (pitch and loudness) in such =
a definition and say that it is that characteristic which enables one to =
judge that two tones are dissimilar while still having the same loudness and =
By timbre is meant the distinguishing or characteristic quality of =
sound. It is by their timbre that we recognize an instrument, a voice, or the =
quality of an organ stop, regardless of the pitch or intensity of the
note that =
Timbre depends only on the relative energies of the various harmonics =
and not on their phase differences - Sir Jean James.
In general we may say that aside from accessory noises and inharmonic
elements, the timbre of a tone depends upon: (i) the number of harmonic
partials present, (ii) the relative location or locations of these =
partials in the range from the lowest to the highest, and (iii) the relative =
strength or dominance of each partial - Seashore in Psychology of Music
The characteristic tone quality of an instrument is due entirely to the
relationship among the fundamental upper partials which relationship is
supposed to remain unchanged no matter what the fundamental is -
Bartholomew's Harmonic Theory.
Tone quality depends largely on the degree of complexity of the =
vibration. The quality of even a musical tone must be considered usually as a =
complex of both harmonic and inharmonic components - Bartholomew.
The characteristic tone quality of an instrument is due to the relative
strengthening of whatever partial lies within a fixed or relatively =
fixed region of the musical scale - Bartholomew's Formant Theory.
Timbre may be said to be the characteristic which enables the listener =
to recognize the kind of musical instrument which produces the tone. There =
are six physical characteristics which determine the quality, namely: (i) =
the number of partials, (ii) the distribution of the partials, (iii) the
relative intensity of the partials, (iv) the inharmonic partials, (v) =
the fundamental tone, (vi) the total intensity - Olson.
Timbre is that characteristic of a tone which depends upon its harmonic
structure. The timbre of a tone is expressed in the number, intensity,
distribution, and phase relations of its components. Timbre, then, may =
be said to be the instantaneous cross section of the tone quality - Olson.
Timbre, an expression for quality of sound, especially in orchestration
- Groves Dictionary of Music.
Timbre is defined as a subjective quality of sound which makes that =
sound seem pleasant or unpleasant to the ear. Timbre is dependent on harmonics
as well as the nature of the attack and any formants which may be =
- Encyclopedia de la musique.
Timbre is that attribute of auditory sensation in terms of which a =
listener can judge two sounds similarly presented and having the same
and pitch are dissimilar - ASA.
Harmonic Structure Theory (classical theory) - the acoustic spectrum of =
a tone is the primary determinant of musical quality. The physical =
correlate of timbre lies in the cross-sectional analysis of a tone
represented by =
the momentary duration of one cycle - Saldanha and Corso.
Formant Theory - the characteristic tone quality of an instrument is due =
to the relative strengthening of whatever partial lies within a fixed or
relatively fixed region of the musical scale. In contrast with the =
classical theory that is based on a fixed spectrum of a tone, the
relies upon changes in the spectrum of a tone to produce constancy in
musical quality - Saldanha and Corso.
Although spectrum, transient, phenomena, and quasi steady-state =
modulation processes may be the most important dimensions, each of these is
characterized by a great many subparameters, and the definitions based =
upon Ohm\u2019s Law are inadequate for any definition of timbre which might =
be of musical value - Tenney.
Timbre may be not too much more than one of these leftovers from a dead
musical system - J.K. Randall.
I would hope that we could soon find whatever further excuse we still =
need to quite talking about mellow timbres and edgy timbres and timbres
altogether, in favor of contextual musical analysis of developing =
structures of vibrato, tremolo, spectral transformation, and all these various
dimensions of sound which need no longer languish as inmates of some
metaphor - J.K. Randall.
Now vibrato is just one of many potentially structurable aspects of
sound which have been too often written off as ingredients of something =
more vague - J.K. Randall.
In the broad sense, timbre depends upon several parameters of the
sound including the spectral envelope and its change in timbre,
periodic fluctuations of the amplitude, and whether the sound is
a tone or noise - Schouten in Aspects of Tone Sensation
The five major acoustic parameters of timbre: (i) the range between =
and noiselike character, (ii) the spectral envelope, (iii) the time =
in terms of rise, duration, and decay, (iv) the changes in spectral =
(formant-glide) and fundamental frequency (microintonation), and (v) the
prefix, the onset of a sound is quite dissimilar to the ensuing lasting
vibration - Schouten.
Helmholz showed that timbre depends principally upon the number and
rela-tive intensity of the sounding partials of the fundamental=20
Quality of tone - the characteristic of a tone that can distinguish it =
others of the same frequency and loudness. The harmonic structure of a =
is quite inadequate to specify its quality. It was implied in the theory =
quality outlined above that an instrument has a spectrum characterized =
particular harmonic structure, which would be the same for each note of
the instrument. The number and positions of the formants determine
the tone quality of =
an instrument - Formant Theory=20
The components of the harmonic content of sound which create its timbre: =
(i) the harmonic spectrum, (ii) which partials are present or absent, (iii)
their relative intensities, (iv) the pattern which those that are =
present form - Honegger in Dictionnaire de la Musique.
Timbre is tone quality -- coarse or smooth, ringing or more subtly
penetrating, scarlet like that of the trumpet, rich brown like that of =
the cello, or silver like that of the flute. The one and only factor is =
sound production which conditions timbre is the presence or absence, or =
relative strength or weakness, of overtone=20
- Scholes in the Oxford Companion to Music
Acoustical - one tries to associate the variation of timbre to physical
characteristics. Psychological - deals with descriptions proceeding
from the listeners
The classical theory of von Helmholz holds that differences in the =
timbre of tones depends on the presence and strength of partial tones and are
independent of the differences in phase under which these partial tones
unite. The individual character of a certain instrument is its acoustic =
spectrum. The purpose is to study the structure of the perception of
color, musical quality) and try to find physical correlates in the =
acoustic spectrum. The most importance correlates to these perceptual
factors may =
be found in the relative strength of the harmonic partial tones: (i) =
generally high level overtone richness, sonority, (ii) successively decreasing
intensity of the upper partials - overtone poorness, dullness, (iii) low
fundamental intensity and an increasing intensity of the first overtones =
The amount of work done toward specifying the physical qualities of =
timbre unfortunately has been much greater than the work done toward finding =
the corresponding psychological attributes.
Factor analysis methods have been used to reveal a cognitive =
classification of instrument types into woodwind, brass, and string and a =
classification of the sounds of these instruments into groups
determined by the relative
amplitudes of a sound\u2019s partials.
More recently, multidimensional scaling techniques have been developed =
by means of which judgements of similarity of stimuli can be interpreted as
cognitive distances between these stimuli=20
- Miller and Carterette.
The timbre or tone quality of a musical instrument has been used to =
denote that property which enables a listener to identify the instrument=20
The chief function of timbre in most Western concert music of the past =
has been that of carrier of melodic functions. The differences of timbre at
different pitches and in different registers of instruments has been =
treated as nuances.
The approach to timbre from acoustic searches for invariants taking the =
view that if we are able to recognize and identify a clarinet under =
conditions of changing pitch and loudness, in different environments,
and with =
different players, then, as David Luce says, the implication is that certain =
strong regularities in the acoustic waveform of the above instruments must =
exist which are invariant with respect to the above variables=20
Timbre perception is just a stage of the operation of tone source
recognition - in music the identification of the instrument=20
Timbre is multidimensional. There is not a unidirectional scale for
comparing the timbres of various sounds. The multidimensional nature of
timbre has a physical counterpart in the many degrees of freedom of a
Timbre refers to the color of quality of sounds and is typically =
divorced conceptually from pitch and loudness. Perceptual research on
dem-onstrated that the spectral energy distribution provided the =
acoustical determinants of our perception of sound quality - Wessel.
A term describing the tonal quality of a sound; a clarinet and an oboe
sounding the same note are said to produce different timbres. It is =
usually reserved for descriptions of steady state notes and therefore the =
physical quantity with which it is most closely associated in the harmonic =
mixture, or the formant, or the spectrum=20
Timbre is an attribute of the subjective experience of musical tones.
Timbre is coded as the function of the sound source or of the meaning of =
the sound. Sounds cannot be ordered on a single scale with respect to =
Timbre is a multidimensional attribute of the perception of sounds=20
Timbre is the miscellaneous category for describing the psychological
attributes of sound, gathering into one bundle whatever was left over =
after pitch, loudness, and duration had been accounted for. - Dowling and =
Timbre is the subjective correlate of all those sound properties that do =
no directly influence pitch or loudness: sounds spectral power =
distribution, it's temporal envelope, rate and depth of amplitude and frequency
modulation, and degree of its partials=20
Levels of timbre description include: (i) commonalities shared by all =
oboe tones, commonalities shared by all bowed tones, commonalities shared by
all timpani tones, (ii) expressive variation available to performing
musi-cians and(iii) broader family distinctions of method-of-production
distinc-tions (i.e., blown and bowed instruments whose behavior is
controlled continuously; percussive instruments whose behavior is determined =
completely at the instant when they are set into motion - Krumhansl.
Until such time as the dimensions of timbre are clarified it is better =
to drop the term timbre.
When we do find a characteristic of sound that can be obtained on =
different instruments, such as vibrato, the characteristic tends to
be given a =
label and no longer falls into the nameless wastebasket of timbre=20
Timbre or tone quality depends upon the frequency of a tone, it's time
enve-lope, it's duration, and the sound level at which it is heard=20
The character or quality of musical or vocal sound (distinct from its =
pitch and intensity) depending upon the particular voice or instrument =
producing it from sounds proceeding, from other sources; caused by
the proportion =
in which the fundamental is combined with the harmonics or overtones \u2013
Timbre is the subjective attribute of source (instrument) that is based =
on invariant properties that uniquely characterize the tones produced by =
the source. An adequate definition of timbre is both related to and =
dependent upon establishing which characteristics are important for
determining an instrument's distinctive sound quality=20
- Chi, Hall, and Pastore.
A timbre is a simple perceptual object. Adjectives for constellation of
overtones: bright, dark, mellow, hollow, pure. Noise content: raspy,
breathy, hoarse. Attack: smooth, abrupt, sharp, gentle, easing. We attempt to
categorize timbre mainly by relating what we hear to what we have seen =
and heard of other musical instruments. Timbre is the aggregate effect of =
the periodic and nonperiodic components of a sound and their envelopes=20
Timbre is the perceptual quality of objects and events; that is, what it
Due to the interactive nature of sound production, there are many stable =
and time-varying acoustic properties. Timbre is an emergent property that is
partly a function of the acoustic properties and partly a function of =
the perceptual process.
Timbre generally has a certain constancy over large changes in the
Timbre is perceived in terms of the actions required to generate the =
Timbre is perceived in terms of the acoustic properties and that the
connection between acoustic properties and object is learned by =
Timbre groups fall into categories that are constrained by the =
underlying physic of the sound-generating systems and that it is the
goal of the =
ear/brain system to discover such commonalities in the sounding world.
Parameters should be estimated in order to represent the articulatory =
aspect of timbre perception=20
- Casey et. al.
Timbre is not a thing. It is an abstraction.
Timbre is not an object. It does not exists in the real world as an =
object. Timbre is an attribute of a musical tone that is abstracted from the =
entity that we call a musical tone
Timbre is not even the only attribute of tone connected to tone quality:
consider volume and density.
Timbre does have a perceptual order \u2013 actually, as a =
multidimensional attribute, it has several. In general, instruments
are ordered first =
along impulse vs. continuant characteristics (relating to the rms amplitude =
attack and overall envelope) and secondly along nasality or brightness =
(relating to the spectral centroid) - John Hadja
Timbre is an emergent property of a stream \u2013 a grouping of the =
acoustic array influenced by acoustic context, and the attention and
learning of =
- Stephen Malloch's summary of Albert Bregman
Timbre can be defined as the primary aural information that is used in =
the perceptual task of assigning an identity to sound - Stephen Malloch
Electroacoustic musicians/composers and people doing analysis/synthesis
would tend to think of timbre as a gestalt that includes time =
variations. It is difficult to decide whether the whole thing is a
timbre or whether =
timbre itself is varying with time - James Beauchamp
Timbre becomes a rhetorical catch-all subsuming many diverse =
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