Re: What is music ... = spirals ?

Subject: Re: What is music ... = spirals ?
From: Kenneth Newby (
Date: Sun Nov 20 2005 - 20:40:31 EST

The most interesting thing about your example Kevin is the variety of
responses. The third one is the most problematic for me. Not that I
deny the theory of (or practice using) critical bandwidth, but that one
would ignore one's perception in the light of theory?

The second one, "Wow! They sound like octaves!" is the most interesting
in that it touches on the relative/contextual nature of our pitch
perception. You can really hear this when you do experiments like this
with non-harmonic timbres, in which the presence of different reference
pitches in a lower register influence the perception of a dyad in an
upper register. The Indonesian gamelan orchestras of Java and Bali are
full of these lovely ambiguities. My own set of Balinese genders
exhibit this quite clearly as the perceived interval of the top two
pitches varies with the presence of one or another of two lower pitch
on the same instrument. This begs the question, of course, as to how
much of this is due to our own culturally warped cognitive ear. I've
yet to be able to sit down with a Balinese musician and check this out,
(too busy trying to learn to play!) but I suspect that the same
experience occurs, only with culturally variant nomenclature to
describe it.


On 20-Nov-05, at 4:43 PM, Kevin Austin wrote:

> This is one of the bases of western music theory, and seems to have
> evolved at a time when range was restricted to the human voice.
> Find a piano. In the bottom octave of the piano you will play the note
> pattern D E F E F E D. In the very top octave of the piano you will
> play Eb F Gb F Gb F Eb. Play them together. Do you hear them as being
> pitch class equivalents?
> One response is: "No, I hear minor ninths miles apart." Another
> response is: "Wow! They sound like octaves!". A third response is:
> "Er, the notes are too far apart for me to judge them as a unit."
> (beyond the critical bandwidth).
> Best
> Kevin
> At 18:10 -0500 2005/11/20, Michael Gogins wrote:
>> Pitch is a linear space, pitch-class is a quotient of that linear
>> space and thus a circle. That is, pitch without respect to octave is
>> a circle.
>> Regards,
>> Mike
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Kenneth Newby <>
>> Sent: Nov 20, 2005 4:36 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Re: What is music ... = spirals
>> Hmmm... I wonder if we're conflating objective features with
>> subjective 
>> (perceptual) here? Color and pitch are both percepts and both have a 
>> "circular" nature: the circular nature of perceived color and the 
>> circular nature of octave equivalence. Both color and pitch can be 
>> represented as frequencies but neither of these frequency 
>> representations imply circularity.
>> Kenneth.

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