Re: Pitch & fundamental frequency

Subject: Re: Pitch & fundamental frequency
From: Kenneth Newby (
Date: Tue Sep 06 2005 - 13:04:03 EDT

A related situation is the stretched or compressed octaves typical of
many gamelan orchestras in Java and Bali. In those cases you hear an
octave but they are, in fact, not the "text-book" 2:1 octaves of the
science of sound and sound a lot better for that fact too!!! Again,
this is more acceptable to the ear given that the ensembles being tuned
in this way are composed of almost all inharmonic timbres based on
vibrating bronze.

The ear is curiously flexible, or perhaps adaptable is a better term,
in the relationships it constructs between the partials presented in a
sound complex and what is rendered as perception. Larry Polansky wrote
an interesting paper in CMJ a few years back on this paratactical
nature of tuning systems and pitch perception with references to the
way the seemingly limited pitch gamut of the five-tone gamelan can
actually perceptually render a much more complex set of intervallic
relationships. I can verify this for anyone who'd like to hear it on
my own set of gender wayang from Bali. Perception of certain dyads are
influenced by the presence of a lower pitch and are perceived as either
being major secondish or minor thirdish to the ear. Fascinating stuff
to the ear still looking for what can be done with pitch-classes!


On 6-Sep-05, at 8:08 AM, Greg Eustace wrote:

> I have heard of cases where the pitch of a pitched sound is not
> characterized
> by
> the fundamental frequency. To reiterate, I am concerned only with
> those sounds
> having a discernable pitch which is not in obvious one-to-one
> correspondence
> with the fundamental. Can anyone elaborate on this, as it seems
> counterintuitive
> to me? It is quite possible that I misunderstood the statement being
> made.
> Thanks for any insights.
Kenneth Newby, Assistant Professor
Computational Poetics
School for Interactive Art & Technology, SFU Surrey
Integrated Media, ECI Vancouver

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