Can silence affect perception? Duration and frequency of occurrence in perceived pitch structure

Michael E. Lantz, Lola L. Cuddy


The duration and frequency of occurrence of tones and the silence between the tones are manipulated to understand their effect on the perceived organization or pitch structure of tone sequences. Duration and frequency of occurrence are both elemental in music and act upon a single mechanism that in turn increments a magnitude accumulator. Within a sequence of tones the longer tones are judged to be more salient than the shorter but more frequent tones. Sequences were generated from six-tone tonesets, each of which contained tones of two major triads from maximally distant keys. Three sequence conditions that were created from the tonesets include the tones of one major triad that were longer than the other tones, modification of the first sequence, and modification of the original sequence. The finding suggests that the duration of an event has perceptual priority over the frequency of occurrence of the event.


Acoustics; Natural frequencies; Magnitude accumulator; Tone sequences

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