Perception of timbral analogies.Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1992 Jun 29; 336(1278):383-9.PT
Recent studies have investigated the structure of perceptual relations among musical instrument timbres by multidimensional scaling (MDS) techniques. These studies have employed both acoustically produced tones and digitally synthesized imitations and hybrids of acoustic instrument tones. The analyses of dissimilarity ratings for all pairs of a set of tones are usually represented as geometrical structures in a two- or three-dimensional Euclidean space in which the shared 'perceptual' axes are shown to have a qualitative correspondence to acoustic properties such as spectral energy distribution, onset characteristics and degree of change in spectral distribution over the duration of the tone. The present study took as a point of departure a MDS analysis for complex, synthetic tones with the aim of testing whether musician and non-musician listeners used the relations defined by the perceptual space to perform an analogies task of the sort: timbre A is to timbre B as timbre C is to which of two possible timbres, D or D'? A parallelogram model was used to select the D timbres: if the relation between A and B is represented as a vector with both magnitude and direction components, then the appropriate D should form a vector with C having similar magnitude and direction in the timbre space. Aside from conceptual difficulties with the task for both non-musicians and composers, choices for both groups provide support for the parallelogram model indicating a capacity in listeners to perceive abstract relations among the timbres of complex sounds without specific training in such a task.