August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
The texture of musical sounds: Cross-modal associations between visual textures and musical timbres and intervals
Author Affiliations
  • Joshua Peterson
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Thomas Langlois
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Stephen Palmer
    University of California, Berkeley
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 445. doi:
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      Joshua Peterson, Thomas Langlois, Stephen Palmer; The texture of musical sounds: Cross-modal associations between visual textures and musical timbres and intervals. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):445.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Previous research has provided evidence that cross-modal music-to-color associations are mediated by emotion, both for classical orchestral music (Palmer et al., 2013) and for a wide range of genres, from heavy-metal to Hindustani-sitar (Whiteford et al., VSS-2013). Similar results suggesting emotional mediation have been found using lower-level musical stimuli, including musical melodies (Palmer et al., VSS-2011) and two-note intervals and instrumental timbres (Griscom & Palmer, VSS-2012). Here we extended this line of investigation by studying musical associations to another salient visual domain: line-based geometrical textures. Using analogous experimental methods, we examined cross-modal associations from instrumental timbres and two-note musical intervals to visual textures consisting of many similar elements constructed from lines and/or curves. While listening to one of 16 instrumental timbres (flute, harpsichord, trombone, violin, etc.) or one of 12 two-note musical intervals (the tonic paired with the other 12 semitones in a full chromatic octave) participants chose the three most consistent and three least consistent visual textures from a 7x4 matrix of 28 black-and-white textures. Each subject later rated each timbre, interval, and texture individually on 13 dimensions: 5 emotional (e.g., happy/sad, angry/not-angry) and 8 geometric (e.g., sharp/smooth, simple/complex). For each dimension (e.g., happy/sad, sharp/smooth) we computed an index of timbre-texture associations (TTAs) and interval-texture associations (ITAs) as a weighted average of the (happy/sad) ratings of the 6 textures chosen as going best and worst with each timbre and each interval. We found strong correlations between ratings of the timbres and the TTAs of the textures chosen to go with them for some geometric and emotional dimensions (e.g., sharp/smooth=+.85, angry/not-angry=+.75). The same was true for two-note intervals for some dimensions (e.g., simple/complex=+.83; happy/sad=+.83). The results thus suggest that associations from low-level musical stimuli to visual textures may be mediated by corresponding dimensions in particular geometric and emotional qualities.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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