Instrument Sound Perception...
Lately I practiced a lot with my new Vioweiss CatrPilar mute, which I like for the richness of the muted sound; however, when I took it off my instrument it sounded.. to me.. so different than before, like a completely different instrument. Nothing has changed other than me getting habituated to its muted sound. This has me thinking how much does our getting habituated to the sound of an instrument influences, not necessarily in a good way, our perception, hence selection of a new one? How much does the sound of one instrument in a group comparison affects the perception of the others? Like tasting wine where we eat something in between to sort of reset our taste buds, how do we reset our hearing during an instrument comparison? It sounded more like when I just put on new strings, so when new strings settling down how much of the difference is the string stabilizing under tension and how much is our hearing getting habituated to it? It's like the illusion that the moon is larger close to the horizon but it ain't. The reference point that is the horizon makes it look relatively larger. A similar thing happened when I removed the mute, which was the reference point.
A friend of mine regarded it to be one of the fundamental characteristics of stupid people to believe that one can initiate actions without there being consequences. That is, basically, the denial of cause and effect.
Muting my instrument for just half an hour changes the sound of my instrument for hours.
Good observations, Roger.
I have seen references online that say that a mute does change the sound of an instrument, especially the heavier practice mutes. A google search should turn something up if you're skilled at searching.
Make a recording before the mute is put on and after it is taken off, and see if you can hear any difference then.
Apart from the "relative" nature of our perception, and disturbance to the instrument vibrations, I reckon that the mute allows clumsier bowing which the sounds awful when we remove the mute.
Yes, our perceptions tend to be "relative" in nature, and of very short duration when it comes to super-accurate memory of both sounds and colors. Exposure to something different tends to "push the reset button".
There was a similar thread 10 years ago:
Consider the baseball player who warms up with a few swings in the on-deck circle. A lead doughnut is placed on the bat so that it will feel much heavier. Then, then the device is removed as the player steps into the batter's box and, suddenly, the bat feels much lighter and the player can swing for the fences.
There are those vibrating devices one can put onto the bridge of an instrument to "break in" a new instrument and open up its sound (perhaps a myth, but that's another topic). Typically it would run non-stop for days if not more and even then you "may" arguably get a very slight difference in the sound characteristics of the instrument. The point is, if it takes that much vibration to get hardly a perceptible difference, do you really think that playing with a mute for a few hours would have that much of a an effect on the acoustic of the instrument? I very much doubt so, much more likely a physiological phenomenon than a physical one. It could be partly hearing partly bowing, but physiological nonetheless.