Zipf's Law in Short-Time Timbral Codings of Speech, Music, and Environmental Sound Signals

TitleZipf's Law in Short-Time Timbral Codings of Speech, Music, and Environmental Sound Signals
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsHaro, G. G., Serrà J., Herrera P., & Corral A.
Journal TitlePLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue3
Pagese33993
Journal Date03/2012
AbstractTimbre is a key perceptual feature that allows discrimination between different sounds. Timbral sensations are highly dependent on the temporal evolution of the power spectrum of an audio signal. In order to quantitatively characterize such sensations, the shape of the power spectrum has to be encoded in a way that preserves certain physical and perceptual properties. Therefore, it is common practice to encode short-time power spectra using psychoacoustical frequency scales. In this paper, we study and characterize the statistical properties of such encodings, here called timbral code-words. In particular, we report on rank-frequency distributions of timbral code-words extracted from 740 hours of audio coming from disparate sources such as speech, music, and environmental sounds. Analogously to text corpora, we find a heavy-tailed Zipfian distribution with exponent close to one. Importantly, this distribution is found independently of different encoding decisions and regardless of the audio source. Further analysis on the intrinsic characteristics of most and least frequent code-words reveals that the most frequent code-words tend to have a more homogeneous structure. We also find that speech and music databases have specific, distinctive code-words while, in the case of the environmental sounds, this database-specific code-words are not present. Finally, we find that a Yule-Simon process with memory provides a reasonable quantitative approximation for our data, suggesting the existence of a common simple generative mechanism for all considered sound sources.
preprint/postprint documenthttp://hdl.handle.net/10230/42026
Final publicationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0033993
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