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date: 15 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents the results of a pilot study of “voiceness” in instrumental musical sound across cultures. This study grew from the proposition that not only is the voice of primal importance in music, but “voiceness” in nonvocal musical sounds is a quality that seems to exert a particular fascination to music cultures around the world. The objective is to look at the use of voiceness in music across cultures in order to discover something about the constituents of voiceness. Since it is normally not the case that voice-like instruments, either alone or in combination, sound like voices per se, it must be the case that the quality they convey as voiceness consists of some distillation of acoustic features, presumably proper to “real” vocal sound. A primary question addressed in the chapter is whether the voiceness in music of specific cultures varies in a way consistent with that culture’s primary language, or whether there are features that convey voiceness across cultures independent of language. Unlike many other instruments, the voice is capable of immense timbral variation, and the magnitude of difference across individual voices can be as great as the difference between instrument classes. The author has taken the results of the study as a preliminary indication of an abstract auditory category of voiceness consisting of perceived commonalities across several levels of vocal variation. The chapter focuses on sounds from just three cultures that are particularly illuminating in regard to these issues.

Keywords: auditory category, auditory neuroprocessing, facial recognition, fusiform area, instrumental voiceness, timbre, vocal recognition, music, ethnomusicology, musical instruments

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