RHYTHMS EMERGE FROM THE PERCEPTUAL GROUPING OF ACOUSTIC COMPONENTS

  • Albert S. Bregman

Abstract

To have a rhythm, one has to have a succession of distinct units. Usually we take theexistence of auditory units for granted, because we have created them. We think of them asseparated by silences, but there is hardly ever total silence in a complex auditory scene.However, the auditory system has mechanisms that find units within it. A unit not onlycontains acoustic energy that stretches over time but over the spectrum. Various acousticfactors favour the integration of energy into the same auditory unit. Once formed, these unitshave to be bound together sequentially to form an auditory stream. To a first approximation,a rhythm emerges within a stream. Although the ideal function of a stream is to represent aparticular source of sound, in practice there is not always a one-to-one correspondencebetween streams and sources. Research and demonstrations will be presented to illustratethese ideas.
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