semitone paradox

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A phenomenon in the perception of musical tones that are ambiguous as regards the octaves to which they belong, each tone being composed of equal sinusoidal waves from octaves spanning the auditory range. Using ambiguous tones of this kind, if two tones such as D and G are presented simultaneously, followed by C# and G#, which differ from the first pair by a semitone down and up, then the sequence is clearly perceived as either converging or diverging in contrary motion, although the stimulus tones lack the information required to determine pitch: if the D is below the G, then it is divergent motion, but if the D is above the G, then it is convergent motion, and there is no way of knowing whether the D is below or above the G. It is a surprising phenomenon rather than a true paradox. See also auditory illusion. Compare melodic paradox, tritone paradox.

Subjects: Psychology.

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