[Smt-talk] The Overtone Series

Andrew Milne andymilne at tonalcentre.org
Tue Jul 22 16:03:38 PDT 2014

Dear Victor

Whilst I agree that harmonic partials are not typically heard (attended to) while listening to music, this does not imply they have no effect on the origin of the triad (or, indeed, on connections between triads). Just because a specific percept is not being attended to does not mean it ceases to have any impact. We take in huge amounts of information through our senses and act upon this information. But we consciously attend to only a very small part of all that stuff coming in. It’s important not to forget that the ear physically functions as a frequency analyser that actually separates many of these partials (at least the first 8). These partials may be synthesized later on into the sensations of pitch and timbre, and this may be the aspect to which we typically focus our attention. But those separated-out partials are still there. 


Dr Andrew Milne
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Music Cognition & Action Group
MARCS Institute
University of Western Sydney

Email: 			a.milne at uws.edu.au
Web: 			Portfolio • Dynamic Tonality • SoundCloud • Google Scholar

> Sure, it's possible to train yourself and others to hear the overtones as discrete pitches, but that's very different from the claim that overtones are routinely heard as a "chord" made up of such pitches rather than a tone color. For this reason it seems obvious to me that the triad could not have originated from listening to the overtone series. 

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