Analysis and Perception of Javanese Gamelan Tunings
Gamelan music as performed on the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali is one of the most well known and well studied non-European music traditions. Especially the tunings of gamelan ensembles have fascinated researchers since the early stages of the disciplines of Systematic and Comparative Musicology, as these tunings are considerably different from Western, Middle Eastern or other music traditions and even differ between gamelan ensembles. Additionally most instruments of the ensemble are percussion instruments with inharmonic overtone spectra. One way to explain certain characteristics of gamelan tunings is by relating the inharmonic sound spectra of the percussion instruments to the perception of dissonance. This theory is assuming that the psychoacoustic sensation described as auditory roughness is perceived as dissonant and is therefore avoided. This study investigates the influence of musical roughness on the perception of different gamelan tunings by correlating psychoacoustic measurements with a perception test in an online survey. Based on sound samples of an existing gamelan ensemble set based in Hamburg, Germany, a gamelan tune was built in a DAW. By detuning the sounds, several versions of the tune in different temperaments were built. It appears that the measured roughness perception and roughness measurements of the different tunes correlate very well for all detuned cases. Still the original piece does not correlate, pointing to a different perception strategy for the original ensemble tuning.
The instruments whose tones were recorded for the stimuli of this study are part of the Gamelan Margi Bodoyo that belongs to the Indonesian Consulate of Hamburg (KJRI). We thank the Consulate for their support.
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