Glossary

absolute pitch A rare ability possessed by some individuals who can name the pitch of a musical tone, or sing a named pitch on demand, without referring to any other sounds.

amusias Acquired disorders of music perception, performance, reading, or writing that are due to brain damage and are not attributable simply to the disruption of basic perceptual, motoric, or cognitive functions.

consonance A subjective quality of the pleasantness of combinations of tones.

contour The pattern of changes in frequency direction within a tone sequence, regardless of the magnitude of those changes.

harmony The subjective effect produced by the simultaneous sounding of musical tones or tone sequences.

melody A sequence of tonal pitches, usually varying in duration, organized to express a musical idea.

meter A repeated pattern of stress against which other temporal variations are ordered.

pitch A subjective quality of the relative highness or lowness of sounds.

rhythm The musical organization of the temporal durations of sounds.

scale The basic set of pitches used in a particular musical composition (identical in every octave), arranged in ascending or descending order.

song A short musical composition integrating words and music.

timbre A subjective quality imparted to harmonic complex sounds by the relative distribution and time course of energy at the different harmonic partials but distinct from their pitch.

tonal melody The pattern of intertone intervals formed by a tone sequence, including their specific size and order, that may be transposed in frequency.

tonal working memory The ability to hold sequences of tones in mind, often in order for more complex processing to be carried out.

tone A sound of distinct pitch and duration, such as a musical note.

The study of how the human brain produces musical behaviors, both receptive and expressive, is at least as complex as the similar study of language. As in the study of language, the neural substrates of these highly evolved and complex human activities, such as listening to (or performing in) an orchestra with chorus, are best approached by breaking them down into component processes, each of which depends on distributed networks of neural processors.

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