"Adventures in Pitch and Melody Perception"

I will review recent work from my laboratory on the nature of the perception of auditory sequences, in most cases, musical melodies. Study 1 investigates the role of spectral-temporal properties of melody and reveals that people can be trained to have absolute memory for timbre. Study 2 investigates the role of rythmic cues, and melody identification when pitch is absent. Study 3 extends our earlier work on memory for pitch by degrading the pitch cues in a melody by replacing them with band-passed white noise. Band-passed white noise yields an indefinite pitch when played in isolation, yet two or more different noise bursts of this type reveal a strong sense of pitch. We argue this is because relative cues kick in to create a retrospective sense of pitch in a stimulus that is at first heard as ambiguous. As a demonstration of the effect, individual noise bursts are heard simply as noise, but sequences of them can be strung together to reveal familiar songs, played with "noise." The work has implications for theories of absolute versus relative memory and tonal recognition.

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Monday, January 26, 2004, 11:00pm to Tuesday, January 27, 2004 1:00am