Folklore | Sound Quality: Vocal & Instrumental Timbre in Performance
F804 | 24808 | Fales


Sound Color.  This course focuses on a primary level of sound  its
quality or timbre  where aural meaning is often produced and
understood without conscious awareness on the part of either
musicians/speakers or their listeners that communication has
transpired.  In both music and speech, timbre functions to nuance,
emphasize, even contradict the message of more obvious dimensions of
sound.  Historically, vocal and musical timbre have been overlooked
in studies of acoustics and phonetics, and woefully undertreated in
studies of music.  In the last thirty years, science has demonstrated
that human listeners are more acutely attuned, on a subliminal level
at least, to the parameter of timbre than to either the parameters of
pitch or loudness; in speech perception, science has shown that
listeners respond to spoken passages in which the vocal quality and
semantic content conflict by shading or distorting semantic meaning
in favor of the message conveyed by tone of voice.  The course will
examine vocal and instrumental timbre by reviewing what is known
about human perception of timbre, by sharpening techniques of
conscious listening, and by close aural and digital analysis of the
role of tone color in performance of several kinds.  Classes will
combine lecture/discussion and lab sessions where students will look
at details of sound whose importance only becomes evident when
digitally brought to the surface of a complex aural event.  Course
requirements will include a project allowing students to apply
techniques of timbre analysis to a performance in their area of
interest.