Re: Subject: Re: [Harp-L] comb material

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----- Original Message ----- From: EGS1217@xxxxxxx
To: jevern@xxxxxxx
Cc: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 9:15 PM
Subject: Subject: Re: [Harp-L] comb material

Vern writes:

"It has been done twice. Once at SPAH 97 and again at Buckeye 98."

yes...but flawed and certainly neither double blind or scientific.

You are right that it was blind but not double-blind. It was scientific to the extent that it placed some stringent controls on the experiment to make certain that the only differences were the comb materials. All of the other conditions were the substantially the same for every harp. The most important control was that the listeners had no way but the sound of knowing what the comb materials were. Probably no set of test conditions would have satisfied the believers who brought up all the "flaws" AFTER they were disappointed by the results. The conditions were orders of magnitude better for making valid comparisons than those under which harmonicas are normally heard. The listeners could not even tell when the same or different comb materials were played in sequence.

Way before my time, but up pops my disagreement with you once more. People who, like me have extremely acute hearing (even within my own family) have come up in our discussions. You will not allow for any possibility that there might be some folks (not specifically me) who can perhaps hear more differences in sounds and tones...than either one of too perhaps, in combs than other people?

This is the old "Hans Christian Anderson" argument that the true princess can detect the pea under a stack of mattresses but us commoners can't. My $1000 challenge alllows for anyone with exceptional sound discrimination to demonstrate their abilities under double-blind conditions.

How do YOU know with absolute certainty that what I or the person sitting next to you on the subway/at a concert hears isn't completely different from what you hear? How can any person judge what one person hears vis-a-vis another? That's where an audiologist would come in...but even then, their testing is done with gauges and machines. No one knows exactly what another person hears. Just one of those facts of life.

I don't have know what you hear. I only have to know what you SAY you hear. My hearing isn't involved. Someone or a machine (not me) plays a set of harmonicas having different comb materials. You say "same as" or "different from" the one played previously. If your accuracy is better than random guessing, then you have demonstrated the ability to discriminate among comb materials by sound and you prove me wrong. If you fail, you are NOT proved absolutely wrong, only that you could not demonstrate the ability under these circumstances. You can always claim, as did the listeners at the previous comparisons, that you might be able to do it under different circumstances. However, this is a very slender thread on which to hang your belief in a materials effect.

So I've said to you before (on another list) that it can't be a proper "scientific experiment" (ergo Single or Double Blind as in Garry's mention of it never having been done)...if You keep insisting on controlling it. Since you do insist on it being completely under your control (based I assume, on your $1000), then it cannot be scientific or unbiased. Then the age (based on hearing acuity) of the participants comes into play as well, since the rationale was that young people - I believe someone mentioned 12 - 14 as probably the optimum age for hearing health (do correct me if I'm misremembering this since I don't have time to look it up) for the test subjects.

All that I insist upon is that the comparison be conducted in such a manner that you cannot know the materials by any other means but their sound. Other than that, anyone can conduct the test, preferably NOT me and the person tested can be anyone you choose of any age.

I've also made clear I don't care about your money. It'd be the last incentive for me to participate. I find it vaguely embarrassing (and not a bit insulting, actually), since the whole premise is more about what one player hears from his/her own instrument and nothing at all to do with monetary gain.

Making or losing money isn't the object of the wager. The $1000 is to establish the level of confidence of the challenger. I facilitated the two previous comparisons by purchasing a dozen Hohner Big River harmonicas and making combs of many materials using my own time and money. Certainly there was no profit there for me. I did not play the harps and I did not record the data. I wasn't even present at the Buckeye comparisons in 98 and the results were the same.

So round and round we go.....

There is an objective truth here and there is a way to find it. This is not a matter of opinion.

could it be Vern... that most people simply go about their business knowing what they know about what they can hear from their own instruments and simply pay no more heed to your wager, and that might possibly be why the issue keeps resurfacing just when YOU believe you've "beaten it to death"?

That is certainly the case.

> A real, objective scientific study would surely resolve the issue for once and for all, wouldn't it? Until then, it's quite likely that folks are simply tired of being harangued if they express a contrary opinion, since at this point it still is only your opinion, isn't it, without real scientific back up?

What additional controls would you impose on a comparison to be satisfied with its scientific validity?

I argue that the 97 and 98 comparisons had evidentiary value and the results are consistent with the principles of musical acoustics. Nothing in science is so everlastingly true that it cannot be revised or even overturned by new evidence. However, at this point in time, the preponderance of the theory and available evidence denies a materials effect in either harmonicas or wind instruments in general. Stringed instruments are different.


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