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Language-Selective Interference with Long-Term Memory for Musical Pitch

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This study examines linguistic influences on musical pitch processing and provides evidence for a form of language-selective interference with absolute-pitch (AP) memory. We show that voiced solfege syllables whose fundamental frequencies and harmonic structures are digitally shifted to precisely map onto a mismatched musical note can selectively interfere with pitch identification by some but not other AP musicians. Interference diminishes as the stimulus spectrum is increasingly lowpass filtered to remove its broadband speech features. Time reversal of mismatched pitch-syllable “hybrids”, which distorts their phase spectra but leaves their amplitude spectra intact, also substantially reduces interference. These findings support recent theories of AP encoding that propose an intrinsic association between linguistic cues and stored pitch representations in extraction and accurate labeling of pitch from long-term memory.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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