Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tritone Paradox

Hello my name is Joshua Perez, and today I will be presenting a report from a scientific music journal

The name of the journal entry is Speech Patterns Heard Early in Life Influence Later Perception of the Tritone Paradox. It was written by Mark Dolson, Diana Deutsch, and Trevor Henthorn. They did experiments to test the theory that perception of the tritone paradox is influenced by speech heard early in life.

The journal explains of experiments conducted to test the theory of the tritone paradox. The tritone paradox occurs when two tones that are a 4+ or 5° apart are heard in secession. But the pitches are heard in such a way that pitch classes are clearly heard but the placement of the octave is vague. This paradox is an auditory illusion because the listener could perceive the notes to be descending or ascending.

There were many experiments that tested this tritone paradox. Dolson personally worked on the aspect of pitch ranges in speech. Throughout his studies he discovered that each language, dialect, and sub-dialect had its own pitch class. Meaning that each had specific note ranges where in which voices inflections fell. There was also the discovery that the physical being did not affect the pitch ranges in speech. This study showed that the pitch template, range of pitches during speech, is acquired through early interaction with the parental units.

To further study this phenomenon, Deutsch studied the perception in two groups. The two groups tested were from California and England. The study found that while the Californian’s perceived the tritones to be ascending, the English found it to be descending. This strengthened the hypothesis that pitch class template is acquired through the culture. Most of the testing done for their later experiments was on younger children and their parents. Further studies have been discussed one in particular belongs to the authors of the article. The following experiments were conceived to test if the childhood template survived into adulthood.

In experiment 1 there were three different groups tested the Vietnamese Late Arrival which contained 6 men and 10 women from South or Central Vietnam who moved to the United States when they were adults, and spoke only Vietnamese.

Another group tested was the Vietnamese Early Arrival which consisted of 3 men and 13 women from South or Central Vietnam. This group moved to the United States when they were infants or young children they primarily spoke English but had exposure to Vietnamese.

The final group tested was the Californian English. This group had University students, 6 men and 4 women, who were born and raised in California, spoke only English and had little or no exposure to Vietnamese.

The purpose of the experiment was to test whether or not each group tested perceived the tritone paradox to be ascending or descending. The results from this experiment showed that the perception of ascending/descending was influenced by each groups, own pitch template. They also observed that the perception of the tritone paradox varied significantly based on the first language to which the experiment participants were exposed.

Experiment two focused more on the fluent Vietnamese speakers. The participants included 2 men and 5 women, 6 of which had participated in the previous experiment.
This experiment tested the tritone paradox and how the pitch template range affected the perception of this. The findings showed that the pitch range of speaking, in which a person was exposed to first, is strongly influences the perception of the tritone paradox.

In conclusion; the findings from both experiments showed that there was a direct and strong link between speech and music perception. The findings also showed that the perception of the tritone effect is heavily influenced by the speech heard early in life.


Music Perception Spring 2004, Vol. 21, No.3, 357-372