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Music Perception and Sensory Information Acquisition: Relationships and Low-Level Analogies

Ernst Terhardt
Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Vol. 8, No. 3 (Spring, 1991), pp. 217-239
DOI: 10.2307/40285500
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40285500
Page Count: 23
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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.
Music Perception and Sensory Information Acquisition: Relationships and Low-Level Analogies
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Abstract

Information processing is characterized by conditional decisions on hierarchically organized levels. In biological systems, this principle is manifest in the phenomena of contourization and categorization, which are more or less synonymous. Primary contourization—such as in the visual system—is regarded as the first step of abstraction. Its auditory equivalent is formation of spectral pitches. Hierarchical processing is characterized by the principles of immediate processing, open end, recursion, distributed knowledge, forward processing, autonomy, and viewback. In that concept, perceptual phenomena such as illusion, ambiguity, and similarity turn out to be essential and typical. With respect to perception of musical sound, those principles and phenomena readily explain pitch categorization, tone affinity, octave equivalence (chroma), root, and tonality. As a particular example, an explanation of the tritone paradox is suggested.

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