9 mar. 2008

Timbre is also the way that we distinguish between one vowel sound and another: they are qualitatively different, with different harmonics. We know that eeeee is higher-pitched than ooooo, even when the actual pitch is the same! That's because the harmonics of the instrument (the human voice in this case) are changed depending on what part of the anatomy is resonating.

That's why we say that vowel sounds are "musical."

1 comentario:

gary barwin dijo...

Interesting post. I think the difference between 'timbre' between pitched and unpitched sounds that you refer to is a case of the 'harmonics'. The harmonic ratios in unpitched percussions have irrational frequency ratios which is why we can't hear a pitch. Our ear needs to be able to reduce a set of harmonics down to a series of simple ratios. So, 1, 1/2, 2/3, etc. rather than 1, 13/7, 31/8 etc. In this way, we hear all the sounds as coming together as a single 'timbre' with pitch rather than as an unpitched sound. Bells are an interesting case. There harmonics are irrational yet we can sort of hear pitches. This accounts for their clanginess. Clarinets only have ever other overtone which is what makes their wave form pretty square and gives that clarinet sound. A flute sound is very pure and sine shaped with only a few overtones.

Vowel sounds have unchanging overtones (in terms of pitches_ regardless of the base pitch. This is very different than most musical sounds.Consonnants, of course, are unpitched. Our mouth of drums.