A qualitative and quantitative analysis of the acoustical effect of cryogenic freezing on brass trumpets

No Thumbnail Available
Whisler, Bruce A.
Pohly, Linda, 1954-
Issue Date
Thesis (D.A.)
School of Music
Other Identifiers

The purpose of this study was to determine whether deep-cryogenic freezing produces a change in the timbre or playing characteristics of brass trumpets. The experimental procedure consisted of two parts: quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis. For qualitative analysis a panel of four professional trumpet players evaluated five trumpets: four were frozen and re-evaluated, and one served as the experimental control. Analysis of the harmonic spectra of tones from each instrument provided quantitative data. Since previous studies requiring the analysis of musical instrument tones have suffered from a high degree of variation among tones played by human performers, I constructed a mechanical device that could play tones on the test instruments with greater consistency than is possible with live performers.The changes observed in the qualitative and quantitative analyses are very small, and possibly contradictory. The test panel rated all of the instruments higher after they had been frozen, and any actual improvement in the playing characteristics is suspect because the control instrument received the second highest improvement of the five instruments in the study. In the quantitative analysis, I observed some slight changes in the amplitudes of some of the harmonics in the spectral graphs, but I also observed slight variations in some of the harmonics of the control instrument. Inconsistencies in the performance of the electronic equipment used in the study could account for some of the variation. The instrument that showed the most statistically significant improvements was rated significantly higher in intonation after cryogenic processing, but I was unable to measure any frequency changes in the tones the mechanical embouchure played on the test instruments.Although one may not actually be able to measure differences reported in the qualitative analysis, it is not possible to rule out any acoustical change from cryogenic freezing. In fact, in the quantitative measurements, three of the instruments showed changes greater (some positive and some negative) than the "experimental error" seen in the control instrument's measurements. Additionally, one member of the test panel is convinced that cryogenic freezing has improved his instrument significantly, but the other three trumpeters are ambivalent.