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Journal Article

Natural Musical Intervals: Evidence from Infant Listeners

E. Glenn Schellenberg and Sandra E. Trehub
Psychological Science
Vol. 7, No. 5 (Sep., 1996), pp. 272-277
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40062961
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Natural Musical Intervals: Evidence from Infant Listeners
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Abstract

Ancient and medieval scholars considered tones related by simple (small-integer) ratios to be naturally pleasing, but contemporary scholars attribute the special perceptual status of such sounds to exposure. We investigated the possibility of processing predispositions for some tone combinations by evaluating infants' ability to detect subtle changes to patterns of simultaneous and sequential tones. Infants detected such changes to pairs of pure tones (intervals) only when the tones were related by simple frequency ratios. This was the case for 9-month-old infants tested with harmonic (simultaneous) intervals and for 6-month-old infants tested with melodic (sequential) intervals. These results are consistent with a biological basis for the prevalence of particular intervals historically and cross-culturally.

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