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Quantum Physics Offers Insights Into Music Expressivity

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Researcher Luwei Yang plays the erhu.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London are bringing us closer to understanding the musical experience through a novel approach to analyzing a common musical effect known as vibrato.

Credit: Queen Mary, University of London

Researchers have pioneered a new approach to understanding the musical experience by analyzing the vibrato effect using the Filter Diagonalization Method (FDM) in music signal processing.

FDM was originally developed to investigate quantum dynamical resonances of atoms and molecules.

"Although musical signals are very different from their quantum counterparts, mathematically they share many similarities, including the characteristics of their resonances," says QMUL's Khalid Rajab.

He also notes the harmonics in musical signals can be more complex to analyze than their quantum equivalents.

The researchers say FDM could help musicians realize the perfect vibrato, help sound artists produce more natural-sounding vibrato, and enable scientists to plot out stylistic trends in vibrato use across cultures and time.

"We are now one step closer to understanding the mechanics of music communication, the nuances that performers introduce to the music, and the logic behind them," says QMUL professor Elaine Chew.

From Queen Mary, University of London
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