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      Consonance Preferences Within an Unconventional Tuning System

      1 , 1 , 2 , 1
      Music Perception
      University of California Press

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          Abstract

          Recently, Bowling, Purves, and Gill (2018a), found that individuals perceive chords with spectra resembling a harmonic series as more consonant. This is consistent with their vocal similarity hypothesis (VSH), the notion that the experience of consonance is based on an evolved preference for sounds that resemble human vocalizations. To rule out confounding between harmonicity and familiarity, we extended Bowling et al.’s (2018a) procedure to chords from the unconventional Bohlen-Pierce chromatic just (BPCJ) scale. We also assessed whether the association between harmonicity and consonance was moderated by timbre by presenting chords generated from either piano or clarinet samples. Results failed to straightforwardly replicate this association; however, evidence of a positive correlation between harmonicity and consonance did emerge across timbres following post hoc exclusion of chords containing intervals that were particularly similar to conventional equal-tempered dyads. Supplementary regression analyses using a more comprehensive measure of harmonicity confirmed its positive association with consonance ratings of BPCJ chords, yet also showed that spectral interference independently contributed to these ratings. In sum, our results are consistent with the VSH; however, they also suggest that a composite model, incorporating both harmonicity as well as spectral interference as predictors, would best account for variance in consonance judgments.

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          Most cited references42

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          Indifference to dissonance in native Amazonians reveals cultural variation in music perception.

          by biology remains debated. One widely discussed phenomenon is that some combinations of notes are perceived by Westerners as pleasant, or consonant, whereas others are perceived as unpleasant,or dissonant. The contrast between consonance and dissonance is central to Western music and its origins have fascinated scholars since the ancient Greeks. Aesthetic responses to consonance are commonly assumed by scientists to have biological roots, and thus to be universally present in humans. Ethnomusicologists and composers, in contrast, have argued that consonance is a creation of Western musical culture. The issue has remained unresolved, partly because little is known about the extent of cross-cultural variation in consonance preferences. Here we report experiments with the Tsimane'--a native Amazonian society with minimal exposure to Western culture--and comparison populations in Bolivia and the United States that varied in exposure to Western music. Participants rated the pleasantness of sounds. Despite exhibiting Western-like discrimination abilities and Western-like aesthetic responses to familiar sounds and acoustic roughness, the Tsimane' rated consonant and dissonant chords and vocal harmonies as equally pleasant. By contrast, Bolivian city- and town-dwellers exhibited significant preferences for consonance,albeit to a lesser degree than US residents. The results indicate that consonance preferences can be absent in cultures sufficiently isolated from Western music, and are thus unlikely to reflect innate biases or exposure to harmonic natural sounds. The observed variation in preferences is presumably determined by exposure to musical harmony, suggesting that culture has a dominant role in shaping aesthetic responses to music.
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            Individual differences reveal the basis of consonance.

            Some combinations of musical notes are consonant (pleasant), whereas others are dissonant (unpleasant), a distinction central to music. Explanations of consonance in terms of acoustics, auditory neuroscience, and enculturation have been debated for centuries. We utilized individual differences to distinguish the candidate theories. We measured preferences for musical chords as well as nonmusical sounds that isolated particular acoustic factors--specifically, the beating and the harmonic relationships between frequency components, two factors that have long been thought to potentially underlie consonance. Listeners preferred stimuli without beats and with harmonic spectra, but across more than 250 subjects, only the preference for harmonic spectra was consistently correlated with preferences for consonant over dissonant chords. Harmonicity preferences were also correlated with the number of years subjects had spent playing a musical instrument, suggesting that exposure to music amplifies preferences for harmonic frequencies because of their musical importance. Harmonic spectra are prominent features of natural sounds, and our results indicate that they also underlie the perception of consonance. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Congenital amusia: A group study of adults afflicted with a music-specific disorder

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Music Perception
                University of California Press
                0730-7829
                1533-8312
                February 01 2021
                February 2021
                February 01 2021
                February 2021
                : 38
                : 3
                : 313-330
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University at Albany, State University of New York
                [2 ]Skidmore College
                Article
                10.1525/mp.2021.38.3.313
                c9055cd2-a5d5-4216-8f35-46273e438fb9
                © 2021
                History

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