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December 2022

Harmonic and melodic octave templates

Author(s): Semal, C.

Journal/Book: J Acoust Soc Am. 1990; 88: 2126-35.

Abstract: For normal-hearing adult listeners, two simultaneous pure tones with a frequency ratio close to 2/1 may perceptually fuse into a single sound, which shows that such listeners are sensitive to "octave harmony." Many adult listeners are also able to consistently adjust two successive pure tones "one octave apart," which shows that they possess melodic octave templates. According to Terhardt [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 55, 1061-1069 (1974)], melodic octave templates and the perception of octave harmony originate from a common learning process taking place in early life. In the two experiments reported here, subjects performed repeated octave adjustments for pairs of simultaneous and successive tone bursts. Both tones were presented monaurally, at 45 or 65 dB SPL. The frequency of the lower tone (fref) was an independent variable, while the frequency of the higher tone was adjustable within a 500-cent range. In some conditions, when the two tones were presented simultaneously, they were sinusoidally frequency modulated in a coherent manner, at a rate of 2 or 4 Hz; the aim of this frequency modulation was to force the subjects to adopt a synthetic listening strategy, i.e., to base their adjustments on perceived harmony. For fref values ranging from 270-2000 Hz, subjects performed consistent adjustments when the tones were presented successively: fref had little effect on the adjustments' variability. However, in the same frequency range, the variability of the harmonic adjustments markedly increased with fref; for the highest fref values, it was much greater than the variability of the melodic adjustments. The results suggest that, in adult listeners, the perception of octave harmony disappears at frequencies for which melodic octaves are still accurately perceived.

Keyword(s): Adult ; Auditory Threshold; Loudness Perception; Psychoacoustics Attention ; Music ; Pitch Discrimination Human; Support, Non U.S. Gov't

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