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Front Psychol. 2016 Jan 5;6:1977. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01977. eCollection 2015.

Acoustic and Categorical Dissimilarity of Musical Timbre: Evidence from Asymmetries Between Acoustic and Chimeric Sounds.

Author information

1
Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, Schulich School of Music, McGill UniversityMontreal, QC, Canada; Signal Processing Group, Department of Medical Physics and Acoustics and Cluster of Excellence Hearing4All, University of OldenburgOldenburg, Germany.
2
Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, Schulich School of Music, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.

Abstract

This paper investigates the role of acoustic and categorical information in timbre dissimilarity ratings. Using a Gammatone-filterbank-based sound transformation, we created tones that were rated as less familiar than recorded tones from orchestral instruments and that were harder to associate with an unambiguous sound source (Experiment 1). A subset of transformed tones, a set of orchestral recordings, and a mixed set were then rated on pairwise dissimilarity (Experiment 2A). We observed that recorded instrument timbres clustered into subsets that distinguished timbres according to acoustic and categorical properties. For the subset of cross-category comparisons in the mixed set, we observed asymmetries in the distribution of ratings, as well as a stark decay of inter-rater agreement. These effects were replicated in a more robust within-subjects design (Experiment 2B) and cannot be explained by acoustic factors alone. We finally introduced a novel model of timbre dissimilarity based on partial least-squares regression that compared the contributions of both acoustic and categorical timbre descriptors. The best model fit (R (2) = 0.88) was achieved when both types of descriptors were taken into account. These findings are interpreted as evidence for an interplay of acoustic and categorical information in timbre dissimilarity perception.

KEYWORDS:

acoustic modeling; auditory representation; categorization; dissimilarity ratings; timbre perception

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