What makes a melody: The perceptual singularity of pitch sequences.

Marion Cousineau, Laurent Demany, Daniel Pressnitzer
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2009-12-01; 126(6): 3179-3187
DOI: 10.1121/1.3257206

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1. J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 Dec;126(6):3179-87. doi: 10.1121/1.3257206.

What makes a melody: The perceptual singularity of pitch sequences.

Cousineau M(1), Demany L, Pressnitzer D.

Author information:
(1)Laboratoire de Psychologie de la Perception (UMR CNRS 8158), Universite
Paris-Descartes, F-75230 Paris Cedex 05, France.

Erratum in
J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Mar;127(3):1690.

This study investigated the ability of normal-hearing listeners to process random
sequences of tones varying in either pitch or loudness. Same/different judgments
were collected for pairs of sequences with a variable length (up to eight
elements) and built from only two different elements, which were 200-ms harmonic
complex tones. The two possible elements of all sequences had a fixed level of
discriminability, corresponding to a d(‘) value of about 2, irrespective of the
auditory dimension (pitch or loudness) along which they differed. This made it
possible to assess sequence processing per se, independent of the accuracy of
sound encoding. Pitch sequences were found to be processed more effectively than
loudness sequences. However, that was the case only when the sequence elements
included low-rank harmonics, which could be at least partially resolved in the
auditory periphery. The effect of roving and transposition was also investigated.
These manipulations reduced overall performance, especially transposition, but an
advantage for pitch sequences was still observed. These results suggest that
automatic frequency-shift detectors, available for pitch sequences but not
loudness sequences, participate in the effective encoding of melodies.

DOI: 10.1121/1.3257206
PMID: 20000931 [Indexed for MEDLINE]


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