What is a melody? On the relationship between pitch and brightness of timbre.

Marion Cousineau, Samuele Carcagno, Laurent Demany, Daniel Pressnitzer
Front. Syst. Neurosci.. 2014-01-01; 7:
DOI: 10.3389/fnsys.2013.00127

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1. Front Syst Neurosci. 2014 Jan 17;7:127. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2013.00127.
eCollection 2013.

What is a melody? On the relationship between pitch and brightness of timbre.

Cousineau M(1), Carcagno S(2), Demany L(2), Pressnitzer D(3).

Author information:
(1)International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS),
Department of Psychology, University of Montreal Montreal, QC, Canada.
(2)CNRS and Université de Bordeaux Bordeaux, France.
(3)Laboratoire des Systèmes Perceptifs, CNRS UMR 8248 Paris, France ; Département
d’études cognitives, École normale supérieure Paris, France.

Previous studies showed that the perceptual processing of sound sequences is more
efficient when the sounds vary in pitch than when they vary in loudness. We show
here that sequences of sounds varying in brightness of timbre are processed with
the same efficiency as pitch sequences. The sounds used consisted of two
simultaneous pure tones one octave apart, and the listeners’ task was to make
same/different judgments on pairs of sequences varying in length (one, two, or
four sounds). In one condition, brightness of timbre was varied within the
sequences by changing the relative level of the two pure tones. In other
conditions, pitch was varied by changing fundamental frequency, or loudness was
varied by changing the overall level. In all conditions, only two possible sounds
could be used in a given sequence, and these two sounds were equally
discriminable. When sequence length increased from one to four, discrimination
performance decreased substantially for loudness sequences, but to a smaller
extent for brightness sequences and pitch sequences. In the latter two
conditions, sequence length had a similar effect on performance. These results
suggest that the processes dedicated to pitch and brightness analysis, when
probed with a sequence-discrimination task, share unexpected similarities.

DOI: 10.3389/fnsys.2013.00127
PMCID: PMC3894522
PMID: 24478638

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