Colloquium: Sensory Dissonance Models

The Colloquium for Interdisciplinary Music Research has started again. We have currently two sub-colloquia, one for empirical music research and another that focuses on music and emotion.

The Empirical Colloquium convened last Thursday to discuss Tuukka Tervo’s work on sensory dissonance models. Sensory dissonance is the sensation of roughness or discord that we can have when hearing two or more notes. The “sum”, or compound of the notes can sound unpleasant or tense, instead of pleasant and clear like in the opposite case of consonance. Traditionally, intervals such as octaves, fifths and fourths have been considered consonant, while sevenths, seconds and even thirds have been dissonant.

There are two aspects in this perception of dissonance, the cultural one (we are used to certain kinds of tone combinations and tuning systems, and judge those we find pleasurable as “consonant”, and those that we find tense or unfitting in the context as “dissonant”) and the sensory, psychoacoustical one. The latter, where the degree of dissonance can be measured from the acoustical components of the sound stimulus and the physical properties of our auditory perception system, was on the table last Thursday.

There are many models of how to calculate how dissonant a certain compound of notes, or a certain passage of music is. This is considered an important factor in how the piece of music would be perceived, remembered or categorised, and therefore an interesting topic for music research and for instance the applied field of music information retrieval.

Tuukka has tested various models of sensory dissonance by comparing their results with the judgements of dissonance made by music students. He used real musical material; chords, drone music and piano jazz, and has now performed the experiment and a preliminary analysis. You can read about both in the embedded presentation. This work is part of Tuukka’s master’s thesis, due for completion next year.

Rhythmic Coordination in Dyads

I’m just back from Leipzig, where the lovely people at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences organised a workshop “Musical Movement and Synchronization” followed by a symposium “Rhythmic Coordination in Dyads”. I gave a talk in the latter and thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend.

At the end of the symposium there was a brief discussion about where to go from here. This was the very first symposium of its kind, and many researchers in this new approach are struggling with similar issues of methodology, measurement and analysis etc. Everyone would greatly benefit from collaboration and of course as the terminology seems to be rather nebulous it would be good to decide which terms to use so that we’d understand each others’ work more easily and without the danger of misunderstandings.

A number of things were mentioned, among them this wikipedia page, Citizendium in general, and this journal.

Email, facebook and discussion forums were mentioned as ways to keep in touch about these things. As there are no proceedings of this symposium, and actually would really like to see the slides of the various presentations again, I suggest we all upload them in SlideShare, which means we don’t need to send bulky files around and the presentations can be uploaded to any page we might make. I can, for instance, collect them all here, if you think that’s a good idea.

To be the first to start, here are my slides. You can download the whole presentation, I wrote some details about the experiments etc. in the notes-sections of the PowerPoint slides, in case you’re interested.