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Musical Illusions and Phantom WordsHow Music and Speech Unlock Mysteries of the Brain$
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Diana Deutsch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190206833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190206833.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 October 2021

Strange Loops and Circular Tones

Strange Loops and Circular Tones

(p.61) 4 Strange Loops and Circular Tones
Musical Illusions and Phantom Words

Diana Deutsch

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 explores a class of musical illusions and paradoxes that involve the circular dimension of pitch. Pitch can be described in terms of two dimensions. The first is called pitch height, which can be experienced by sweeping one’s hand from left to right up a piano keyboard. The second is a circular dimension known as pitch class, which defines the position of a tone within the octave. Circularity effects in music are analogous to many of the visual works of M. C. Escher, and have been employed in music for hundreds of years. However, with the advent of computer music, striking pitch circularities became possible. The circular scales invented by Roger Shepard (based on Shepard tones) and circular glides invented by Jean-Claude Risset are explored. These remarkable illusions of ever-increasing (or ever-decreasing) pitch are presented as sound examples. They have powerful emotional effects, and their influence in musical compositions, such as the soundtracks and sound design of The Dark Knight and Dunkirk, is described. A new way of producing pitch circularity, which was invented by the author, is also discussed. This new algorithm can be used with natural instrument sounds, and so opens the door to new compositional opportunities.

Keywords:   M. C. Escher, Penrose staircase, pitch circularity, circular scales, pitch class, pitch class circle, proximity, movie soundtracks, pitch helix

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