Attaching meaningful and emotional qualities to instrumental pieces of music
relies, partially, on experiencing musical tension/release patterns, set up
using various sonic and sonic-organization devices.
Performance practices outside the Western art musical tradition place high
importance on one such device, "auditory roughness" (or "sensory
dissonance"), for communicating expressive intent. For example, the
Middle-Eastern mijwiz is constructed and performed in ways that highlight
the importance of narrow harmonic intervals, fast trills, and their
corresponding rough sounds. Similarly, the ganga style of singing, common in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Dalmatian Zagora regions of the Balkans, relies
heavily on the sonic effects produced by sound interference and the
associated perceptual roughness.
Following an overview of the auditory roughness sensation, we will discuss
ways to quantify it, introduce a new roughness calculation model, and
present an application that automates spectral and roughness analysis of
sound signals through implementation of the proposed roughness calculations
model and a new spectral analysis technique.
Spectral and roughness analysis will be illustrated in the context of two
perceptual experiments. These examine the claim that cultural learning and
context significantly influence our use of and emotional reaction to musical
sounds, infusing them with meaning and significance.
For the experiments, we calculated the roughness time-profiles of a stylized
improvisation on the Middle-Eastern mijwiz and of a traditional Bosnian
ganga song, based on the previously-discussed roughness calculation model,
and compared them to musical tension/release patterns indicated by (a) a
Lebanese mijwiz player and scholar, (b) a Bosnian ganga singer and scholar,
and (c) Western-trained musicians. The tension/release patterns indicated by
the Lebanese and Bosnian musicians match well the respective calculated
auditory roughness patterns, suggesting that, for the pieces in question,
roughness is closely related to the non-Western musicians' sense of musical
tension. The patterns indicated by the Western-trained musicians indicate
that roughness is just one of the cues guiding musical tension judgments,
often overridden by tonal and temporal cues, and/or by expectations of
tension/resolution raised by such cues.
The observed differences between the non-Western performers' expressive
intent and the Western-trained listeners' interpretation support
understanding musical tension/release as culture-specific concepts, guided
by the equally culture-specific musical cues employed in their organization