[Smt-talk] Harmonic and Melodic Scales

Marcel de Velde marcel at justintonation.com
Tue Dec 3 12:37:21 PST 2013

Dear Martin,

I must respectfully disagree with your conclusion.

While I'm not an expert in neuroscience of music, I have read enough in 
this field that it appears strongly to me that it currently does not yet 
give a clear answer on the topic of how we perceive intervals.
A 12-step chroma space like you describe seems to me to be in direct 
conflict with the practice of many great composers and my own personal 
experience of how I interpret music.
Lets take the diminished fourth vs the major third. They are two 
completely different intervals, the music itself makes clear which is 
which even if they are tuned the same, and they have been used as 
different intervals by many great composers to great effect.
Common practice music theory would for very important parts fall apart 
if we assume a 12-step chroma place / true enharmonic equivalence.
Or as another example, take a G# and an Ab in the context of a piece in 
for instance C major. They are two different notes and function in 
different ways, "feel" different and are naturally played at a different 
pitch on free pitch instruments.

This also means that when we modulate diatonic scales that strictly 
speaking one does not get a 12-step chroma space.
Instead one gets ever more augmented or diminished notes. The circle is 
only closed artificially in equal temperaments, but not in how we 
perceive music.

Kind regards,

Marcel de Velde
Zwolle, Netherlands
marcel at justintonation.com

> Hi Nicolas, and others,
> "..... modulations by a fourth or a fifth (flatwards or sharpwards) 
> ....."
> If 7-tone scales are modulated this way, the necessary result is the
> representation of a 12-step chroma space in the brain.
> This effect is perhaps best demonstrated by the enormous popularity of 
> the
> 12-key hand-pumped harmonium in Indian classical music from the mid-19th
> century until today.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pump_organ#Harmonium_in_Indian_subcontinent
> At times, theoretical purist tried to ban the instrument from India, but
> with no success at all. The affinity of the instrument to the unknown 
> chroma
> map of the musicians and listeners simply was too strong.
> I think this example highlights a general weakness of many discussions in
> this forum. The focus is almost exclusively on relative pitch relations.
> However, today we know that the mammalian brain has a hard-wired 
> octave-wide
> chroma map. On this map, pitch classes are unevenly represented. For
> example, for Europeans, Japanese, and Americans the pitch classes A, 
> C, D,
> E, F, G are more strongly represented than the other 6 pitch classes. 
> This
> has been demonstrated by numerous experiments.
> Back to the subject of scales, knowing that auditory chroma maps exist 
> makes
> it easy to understand that scales with "augmented major seconds" can be
> quite stable in all music cultures that use 7-tone scales and fifth or
> fourth modulations.
> Martin
> -------------------------------------------
> Martin Braun
> Neuroscience of Music
> S-66492 Värmskog
> Sweden
> http://www.neuroscience-of-music.se/index.htm

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