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Scientists in the United States believe they have solved one of the oldest puzzles in psychology - why does music take the form it does?

Speaking in tones

Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, they say musical structure - chords and scales - is connected with patterns found in human speech. The chord is the traditional building block of music from Haydn to Hendrix.

Chords and melodies can be broken down into their smallest parts, producing a scale of 12 notes - the chromatic scale:

Chromatic Scale
--- Online Music Theory Reference ---

It is not just a western phenomenon. Many musical traditions - some experts would say most - use the same 12-note scale.

"You have many musical cultures that don't have a 12-note scale, they may have five notes, a pentatonic scale, and yet we could not find any that had notes that were not in the chromatic scale or very close to it," David Schwartz of the Duke University in North Carolina told BBC News Online.

He said: "Not all these other cultures had all the notes we have, but there didn't seem to be any that have notes that we don't have."

But the researchers wondered why music was divided into 12 notes - why not 14, or 20, or three?

At this point let me interject to say that perhaps, we break down the twelve note system into "triadic chunks," for those readers who are not familiar with the concept of musical triads. I use the word "chunks" to give a parallel link to the idea of "chunking" found in infant babbling and tasks of memorization, both of which use triadic chunking mechanisms.

Speech-dominated environment

According to Dr Schwartz and his colleagues, music was divided into 12 notes because we are trained to by the sounds of speech.

The human speaking voice produces certain combinations of frequencies (pitches) and we look for those same combinations in music.

He said: "Speech is special because it is the sound that we are most often exposed to...

"We are immersed in it, we are bathed in it, we live in an acoustic environment dominated by speech and therefore speech sounds are going to play a major role in shaping the evolution and development of the auditory system."

It would appear that such a statement was made without a knowledge of the pattern-of-three structure that the components of our ear already take... H.O.B.

One of the most pleasing musical chords is known as a major third and we find it familiar and pleasant, according to the new theory, because sub-consciously we hear the same combination daily in speech. (Is it a pattern-of-three combination?...H.O.B.)

He said: "The reason why our perception seems to correspond so nicely with the statistical structure of speech sounds is that the brain... has in some way internalized the statistical structure of the sound environment we inhabit... (Or, has the so-called "statistical structure" of the brain (and three-patterned auditory system) externalized itself onto speech sounds?...H.O.B.)

"There is this nice match between mind and world," said Dr Schwartz.

--- BBC News: Science finds keys to Music ---
by Richard Black

Interestingly, instead of a 10-base numbering system, it has been suggested that we should use a 12-base numerical system.

THE (3 in 1) HEARING MECHANISM...(A table full of Links)
Peripheral Hearing Mechanism Central Auditory Mechanism
Conductive Mechanism Sensorineural Mechanism
Outer Ear Middle Ear Inner Ear Auditory Nerve Central Auditory Pathway
- auricle (1)
- auricle (2)
- ceruminous gland
- concha
- external auditory meatus
- external ear and canal
- eustachian tube (1)
- eustachian tube (2)
- mastoid space
- ossicles
- round window
- stapes (1)
- stapes (2)
- stapedial muscle
- Facial Nerve (innervates stapedial muscle)
- tensor tympani muscle
- tympanic cavity
- tympanic membrane
- tympanic membrane
- tympanic membrane (Moiré)
- tympanic membrane model

- semicircular canals
- crista
- utricle
- saccule


- basilar membrane
- cochlea
- cochlea (1)
- cochlea (2)
- cochlea (3)
- cochlear (freq. place)
- modiolus
- scala media
- cochlear scalae
- scala tympanii
- scala vestibuli
- organ of Corti (1)
- organ of Corti (2)
- organ of Corti (3)
- outer hair cells (1)
- outer hair cells (2)
- outer hair cells (3)
- outer hair cell (dimensions)

- outer hair cell cilia
- inner hair cells (1)
- inner hair cells (2)
- inner hair cell (dimensions)

- hair bundles
- inner hair cell cilia
- neurotransmitters
- stereocilia
- spiral lamina
- stria vascularis
- basilar membrane
- tectorial membrane
- tectorial membrane (2)
- endolymph
- perilymph
- internal auditory artery
- Vestibular Branch
- vestibular nerve fibers
- vestibular nerve function
- Auditory Branch
- spiral ganglion
- spiral ganglion
- spiral ganglion
- auditory nerve
- auditory nerve
- Schwann cells

- corpus callosum
- auditory cortex
- primary auditory cortex
- auditory radiation
- medial geniculate body (1)
- medial geniculate body (2)
- inferior colliculi (1)
- inferior colliculi
- inferior colliculi
- commisure of IC
- ...l
- lateral lemniscus (1)
- lateral lemniscus (2)
- lateral lemniscus (jpg)
- superior olivary complex (1)
- superior olivary complex (2)
- superior olivary complex (3)
- superior olivary complex (4)
- trapezoid body (1)
- trapezoid body
- jpg. (2)
- trapezoid body (3)
- cochlear nuclei (1)
- cochlear nuclei (2)
- dorsal cochlear nuclei
- ventral cochlear nuclei (1)
- ventral cochlear nuclei (2)
- ventral cochlear nuclei (3)
conductive loss sensorineural loss central auditory processing disorder
mixed loss

--- Virtual Tour of the Ear---
Augustana College
Perry C. Hanavan,
Sioux Falls, SD 57197

Page Created: Thursday, 13-November-2014... 5:42:19 AM
Updated Posting: Wednesday, 19-July-2017... 6:50 AM
Former Update: Tuesday, 3rd December, 2019... 2:50 AM
Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland