Perception of musical tension for nontonal orchestral timbres and its relation to psychoacoustic roughness
Can tension in nontonal music be expressed without dynamic
or rhythmic cues? Perceptual theories of tonal harmony
predict that psychoacoustic roughness plays an important
role in the perception of this tension. We chose a set of
orchestrated chords from a nontonal piece and investigated
listeners' judgments of musical tension and roughness.
Paired comparisons yielded psychophysical scales of tension
and roughness. Two experiments established distinct levels
of these two attributes across chords. A model simulation
reproduced the experimental roughness measures. The results
indicate that nontonal tension could be perceived
consistently on the basis of timbral differences and was
correlated to roughness, the correlation being stronger as
the perceptual salience of other attributes (such as high-
pitched tones or tonal intervals) was reduced.