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Musical performance and its problems. About musical performance
Performing as a special kind of artistic activity does not exist in all arts. In painting for example, it is inseparable from creativity: to create a picture is what it…

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Fundamentals of psychoacoustics. Interesting features of psychoacoustics

Nature has given us legs and arms,
to save and defend ourselves – and we invented sport.
Nature gave us a sense of height
to sort the sounds of the world around us – and we invented music. ”
W. Hartman

The task of the sound engineer — together with the composer and performer — is to create a sound image and transmit it to the listener using sound recording, sound reinforcement, broadcasting, soundtracks for film and television, etc.

The problems of the emergence, transmission and perception of sounds are dealt with in various areas of modern acoustics, one of which is musical acoustics, which studies the creation of musical sounds (acoustics of musical instruments, acoustics of speech and singing, electroacoustics); sound transmission (architectural acoustics, sound recording, amplification and broadcasting, etc.) and sound perception (psychoacoustics – acoustics of hearing).

Fundamentals of psychoacoustics (Interesting features of psychoacoustics)

At the end of the 20th century, it was psychoacoustics that came to the fore. The scientific and technological revolution has opened up fundamentally new possibilities for working with sound, including using computer music technologies. It served as the basis for the powerful development of the audio industry, creating new means of transmitting spatial audio information: digital broadcasting, television, sound recording, etc. Currently, fundamental progress has been made in how to make equipment for recording, transmitting and reproducing sound. However, the auditory system remains the ultimate judge of this process, and the principles of recognition of the auditory image by it have not yet been fully studied. That is why the main attention and means are now turned to this science.

The main tasks of psychoacoustics are to understand how the auditory system decrypts the sound image, establish the basic correspondence between physical stimuli and auditory sensations, and identify which parameters of the sound signal are the most significant for the transmission of semantic (semantic) and aesthetic (emotional) information.

This is fundamentally important both for the further development of audio technology, and for musical art in general (performing arts, improving musical instruments, the development of computer musical synthesis, etc.) and especially for sound engineers, since an understanding of the formation of a subjective “auditory space” is necessary base of their creativity.

1. The mechanism of the auditory system

Fundamentals of psychoacoustics (Interesting features of psychoacoustics)

An audio signal of any nature can be described by a specific set of physical characteristics: frequency, intensity, duration, time structure, spectrum, etc. (Fig. 1). They correspond to certain subjective sensations arising from the perception of sounds by the auditory system: volume, pitch, timbre, beating, consonance-dissonance, masking, localization-stereo effect, etc.

Auditory sensations associated with physical characteristics are ambiguous and non-linear, for example, the volume depends on the intensity of the sound, on its frequency, on the spectrum, etc.

Back in the last century, Fechner’s law was established, confirming that this connection is non-linear: “Sensations are proportional to the ratio of the logarithms of the stimulus.” For example, the sensation of a change in volume is primarily associated with a change in the logarithm of intensity, height – with a change in the logarithm of frequency, etc.

Fundamentals of psychoacoustics (Interesting features of psychoacoustics)

All sound information that a person receives from the outside world (it is approximately 25% of the total), he recognizes with the help of the auditory system and the work of the higher parts of the brain, transfers to the world of his sensations, and decides how to react to it.

Before starting to study the problem of how the auditory system perceives pitch, we briefly dwell on the mechanism of the auditory system. In this direction, many new and very interesting results have been obtained.

The auditory system is a kind of information receiver and consists of the peripheral part and the higher parts of the auditory system. The most studied processes of converting sound signals in the peripheral part of the auditory analyzer.

Peripheral part

– This is an acoustic antenna that receives, localizes, focuses and amplifies an audio signal;
– microphone;
– frequency and time analyzer;
– An analog-to-digital converter that converts an analog signal into binary nerve impulses – electrical discharges.

A general view of the peripheral auditory system is shown in Figure 2. Typically, the peripheral auditory system is divided into three parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear.

Fundamentals of psychoacoustics (Interesting features of psychoacoustics)

The outer ear consists of the auricle and the auditory canal ending in a thin membrane called the eardrum. External ears and head are components of an external acoustic antenna that connects (matches) the eardrum to an external sound field.

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