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JMulvale



Joined: 13/10/11
Posts: 70
How does music work???? New blog. new
      #987818 - 16/05/12 02:45 PM
I've just started this blog aimed at giving a general understanding of music theory.

Part 1 uploaded today!

http://howmusicworks.blogspot.ca/

Enjoy

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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #988998 - 22/05/12 05:53 PM
Looks good! Just a few things that might interest you...

"All this just because the air in the room is vibrating a little bit? How can something so mundane as this be the basis of thousands of years of culture?"

You could say this about frequencies of light too, and paint, clay, marble, the letters of the alphabet, etc -all quite limited.

"It’s a concept which has been invented by humans, and only humans can really appreciate it."

However, the materials are already present in nature. We only have to waggle a plastic tube around to hear something very melodic (spectra) which forms the building blocks (intervals) of almost all traditional music. Octave equivalence (the tendency of men, women and children to sing the same melody in octaves and to bind scales by this interval) is almost universal. Common scales (such as the pentatonic) are present in all cultures, even in those where more unusual scales occur. It seems that our 'ear' has certain natural-given preferences that determine what music is. Rhythm too is inherent in all movement... if you walk with a loose enough bunch of keys in your pocket, rhythms arise spontaneously. It is difficult to explain much of it as being to do with interaction between peoples, but rather it's just inevitable to overblow a pipe, to make vowels on a hunting bow (see 'musical bow') and to discover throat singing while you're off your face on drugs. All these are ways to discover the harmonic series and music. The rest is provided by human motions, singing in chorus, etc.

It always amazes by how natural music can sound. Bach's fugues sound like they've grown right out of the ground to me.


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Jennifer Jones
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #989157 - 23/05/12 03:06 PM
Quote JMulvale:

...only humans can really appreciate [music]...




The dancing dog, Golden the dog and Frostie the parakeet show otherwise

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Jennifer Jones
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #989158 - 23/05/12 03:09 PM
I do agree though. It blows my mind that something so natural can bring so much joy and pleasure. Bit like food. Or any of the other arts J.A.S. mentions. After all, we are hardwired to appreciate things that appeal to our senses. But I'm pretty sure this is true of a lot of animals - at the end of the day it just comes down to the intelligence and creativity of humans that make us appear to appreciate these things more as we have advanced them all to what we consider art forms.

I'm more interested to know why we perceive certain chords or melodies as 'nicer' or 'better' than others - obviously people have different preferences, but in a more general sense, why have certain chords or melodies become more popular? What is it about them? I'd suspect it comes down to mathematics - as often happens in nature.

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Edited by Jennifer Jones (23/05/12 03:13 PM)


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Airfix



Joined: 07/05/12
Posts: 452
Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #989159 - 23/05/12 03:14 PM
Plants too!
researchers have studied the effects of sound on plants and flowers, especially music, and found that they do respond.


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #989176 - 23/05/12 04:52 PM
It's quite a tricky area this. It has been shown that birds get an endorphin release from singing, suggesting they do enjoy it -but perhaps this enjoyment for many animals is really just satisfying an urge so that it no longer 'pulls' at them. 'Pleasure' in the way humans experience it, must be more complex than the endorphin-induced urges of other animals. Humans often get a synergy of intellectual, sensual, emotional, and memory based pleasure all at the same time. (Pleasure from beautiful timbres and envelopes, from structure, balance, tension/release, sometimes from memories and their associated emotions, or perhaps just the emotions evoked/transmitted from the composer).

As far as why we like certain scales, rhythms, harmonies, etc, I think it is a kind of geometry that is limited by the harmonic series and/or by our particular sense of balance and proportion. The most common scales have the most balanced sequence of intervals, and this is also true of guide rhythms used all over Africa and South America.

It had been suggested that birds 'choose' similar scales to humans (pentatonic, wholetone, diatonic) but my analysis of slowed down birdsong showed that birds are really filtering out higher overtones (from two fundamental tones).

Take a harmonic series on C (approximate):

1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7 : 8: 9: 10 :11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16
C: C: G: C: E: G: Bb: C: D: E :F# G: :Ab: Bb B C

The wholetone scale is really:

7 : 8: 9: 10 :11: 13
Bb: C: D: E :F# :Ab

The pentatonic is really:

7 : 8: 9: 10: 12:
Bb: C: D: E G:

The diatonic is actually:

8: 9: 10 :11: 12: 13: 15: 16
C: D: E :F# G: :Ab: B C

(Harmonics 11(F#) and 13(Ab) are closer to their white-note equivalents than in equal temperament.)

I have confirmed this by the tuning of the tones, which match natural (spectral) intonations. I'll publish this on my website in the next few months (hopefully).


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adrian_k



Joined: 30/01/03
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #989832 - 27/05/12 08:49 AM
That's interesting. I'd like to read the results of that when it's ready

I've just been reading some collated research on bird song, and there doesn't seem to be a consensus on whether the birds 'create' and enjoy the sounds they emit, or whether they just do it.

I'm not sure there is much difference. My gut is warning me off the line of reasoning that defines humans as higher beings having special, different powers. Powers is the wrong word, maybe gifts, umm... I'll come back to it. I'm struggling to marshall my thoughts, but:

- just because the triggers for the endorphin release 'reward' in humans seem to be lot more complex than in birds, doesn't mean that the overall process is different.

- some birds do seem to compose, learn and sing songs for no other reason than they can, and they get something out of it that is not just attraction or defence - they have other sounds for that, which seem to be innate.

- it's been suggested, and there's some evidence to show, that music is processed in two parts of our nervous system. One of those parts is tangled right up with our emotional centre, in the oldest bit of the brain in evolutionary terms (the 'Lizard Brain'). Music appreciation seems to have been hardwired in to animals for a very long time.

- did you read about the 'Whale Top Ten'? A shoal of whales sing the same song as a group. Sometimes a whale comes up with a new tune, and if the others like it they adopt it. When they meet another shoal, if that shoal thinks that the new tune is groovy they nick it. If you look at what whales are singing around the globe there is an ever changing list of popular tunes. I love that thought. (When whales get the internet, downloading will probably be the death of it though haha).

- I used to have a dog that hated the E minor chord, but liked A major. I could make him slink away with a sad, haunted look by repeatedly playing Em to him. He might have been bored though I guess. He didn't seem to respond to melody at all.

Sorry about the random ramble...

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getting better all the time..


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Jennifer Jones
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: adrian_k]
      #989943 - 28/05/12 08:10 AM
That is all really interesting. I'd love to read more on the subject, and especially some scientific research papers. I sort of feel like if this is something I'm doing I should at least understand how it works Bit like I should understand vaguely how a car works if I'm going to drive one. (Note the operative word 'should'. I'm not very good at this one - cars are a complete mystery to me. I'm lucky to have a local mechanic who very patiently talks me through things and shows me examples on other cars, and takes the time to explain concepts I don't understand when I stare at him vacantly.)

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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. [Re: adrian_k]
      #990014 - 28/05/12 01:17 PM
Quote:

I'm not sure there is much difference. My gut is warning me off the line of reasoning that defines humans as higher beings having special, different powers.




I do think that some animals probably have many of the same emotions as humans. I'd say, it's not that we underestimate the complexity of animal emotions, but overestimate the complexity of human emotions. I think human emotions are quite basic (and actually felt in the body not in the brain). You can see emotions like jealousy in dogs -just bring another dog in the house! We had a dog that used to disappear (and sulk?) at mealtimes because (from its perspective) it was left out.

But these discussions always lead us back to that Ludwig Wittgenstein quote "If a lion could speak, we couldn't understand him." Animals are probably so different overall, their frames of reference so utterly bizarre to us, that even if we could use the same words they wouldn't make any sense to us. But thinking about it now, I'd go further and say, if they could speak, they couldn't even be the same creatures anyway. Their hearing and visual systems are different enough to make their language and 'music' beyond us. Slowing down birdsong gave me the sense that I'm eavesdropping on a private world -I recommend it! But just slowering birdsong doesn't let me hear it as they do really.

Quote:

- just because the triggers for the endorphin release 'reward' in humans seem to be lot more complex than in birds, doesn't mean that the overall process is different.




I think the endorphin part of it is probably similar, but because art can satisfy us on more levels, there is a chain reaction of different aspects that give us pleasure -often triggering more brain/chemical changes. I'm not sure animals are able to reflect or understand a large-scale structure unfolding or 'balancing out'. I presume animals are all about the 'now', but I don't know. (I think to keep sane, humans should spend some of their time in this state also!)

Some human music is like that too. Many Stockhausen works aren't really about what's coming next in relation to what has happened before, except on a shorter scale. Delius also composed in a way that the 'now' was more important than the long-term 'unfolding'.

Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart, on the other hand, composed great architectural works. I'd say Mozart wrote more for the 'now' (i.e. he introducted new themes all the time, whereas the other two prefered to develop fewer themes more thoroughly).

Quote:

- did you read about the 'Whale Top Ten'?




In the film 'Jaws', when they're in the boat drinking and can hear whale songs, I think it's really affecting. When I had a radio as a kid, I used to listen into all the foreign stations (even Russia) and there's something about an intelligence 'breaking through' some kind of mist that is important to us. Even listening to vintage records and old family tapes makes me get a feeling of the past coming through to communicate. Perhaps it's a throw-back to when we were trying to hear lost family members in the forest echos, who knows?

But... it's the wailing sound itself too. I think the atttaction of blue-notes is related to this crying somehow. I remember getting goose-bumps at the dinosaur sounds in Jurassic Park. I used to imitate Chewbacca on the mouth organ. But that's another story!

JMulvale might look at this and think... "er... whale noises? Aliens????!!!! No... MUSIC THEORY!!!"


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Daniel Davis



Joined: 10/03/06
Posts: 873
Loc: Edinburgh
Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #994151 - 22/06/12 12:35 PM
Quote J.A.S:


The diatonic is actually:

8: 9: 10 :11: 12: 13: 15: 16
C: D: E :F# G: :Ab: B C





Diatonic refers to their being two intervals (tone and semitone). Your scale here has seven different intervals 9/8, 10/9, 11/10 etc. So it is not diatonic. It is usually called the overtone scale and is popular in eastern europe especially when played against drones.

FYI
The major scale is derived using only lower order harmonics by super imposing 3 triads. One on the tonic, one a fifth higher and one a fifth lower. The names of the degrees of the scale are based on this.

Tonic
Supertonic (this just means above the tonic)
Mediant (mid-point between Tonic and Dominant: the 3rd of the triad on the tonic)
Subdominant (a fifth below the tonic and NOT becuase it is the note below the dominant)
Submediant (mid-point between the Subdominant and the Tonic: the 3rd of the triad on the Subdominant)
Leading Note
Tonic

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Daniel Davis
Edinburgh Recording Studio Windmill Sound


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Daniel Davis]
      #994408 - 23/06/12 11:18 PM
Quote:

Diatonic refers to their being two intervals (tone and semitone). Your scale here has seven different intervals 9/8, 10/9, 11/10 etc. So it is not diatonic. It is usually called the overtone scale and is popular in eastern europe especially when played against drones.




Well, yes, that's exactly what I was saying. You must have read that out of context then. The important point is that I discovered these bird tones do not correspond to our 'common scales' but are actually harmonic tones that have been wrongly interpreted by some researchers. I have withdrawn a book that contains this information and will publish it instead as a website in the future. I might do a video presentation on it sooner though.

Quote:

FYI The major scale is derived using only lower order harmonics by super imposing 3 triads. One on the tonic, one a fifth higher and one a fifth lower. The names of the degrees of the scale are based on this.




As I wrote in the Equal Temperament thread, there are several ways to derive the major scale, I included derivatives of that method you are referring to, but I include the Bb as a generator of F.

Quote J.A.S:


1)A cycle of fifths: F C G D A E B

2)The natural major chord as tones and their fifths: G C E Bb + harmonics D G B F (gives C,D,E,F,G,A,Bb,B in one rotation).




Otherwise, we can have CEG, GBD, DFA, or the prefered method of Schenker C, E gives B, G gives D which gives A. He thought F# was derivative of B (but shifted to B), but it really makes no difference to the working of the tonal system.

FYI please acknowledge your harmonic series related errors that I corrected in the Equal Temperament thread :

Quote Daniel Davis:

As for the harmonic series - it doesn't have a major 7th, but then it doesn't have a perfect fourth either.




Harmonic 15 is a major seventh (literally if you subtract 1:8)

Harmonic 4 minus Harmonic 3 is a perfect fourth, so it depends what you mean by "have".

Quote:

Tonic
Supertonic (this just means above the tonic)
Mediant (mid-point between Tonic and Dominant: the 3rd of the triad on the tonic)
Subdominant (a fifth below the tonic and NOT becuase it is the note below the dominant)
Submediant (mid-point between the Subdominant and the Tonic: the 3rd of the triad on the Subdominant)
Leading Note
Tonic




This is really elementary stuff and not particularly relevant, so I don't know who it's aimed at.


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
Posts: 5742
Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #994441 - 24/06/12 10:54 AM
Quote Jennifer Jones:

I'm more interested to know why we perceive certain chords or melodies as 'nicer' or 'better' than others - obviously people have different preferences, but in a more general sense, why have certain chords or melodies become more popular? What is it about them? I'd suspect it comes down to mathematics - as often happens in nature.




Scales can be derived from the harmonic series, consonance and dissonance can be defined as frequencies with simple ratios.

But, apart from perfect octaves, the instruments and scales we actually listen to are tuned in a way that might make a "consonant" perfect 5th have a far more complex frequency ratio than a "dissonant" majot 7th! And a piano has to be VERY out-of-tune before we stop hearing tensions and resolutions in the music played on it.


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #994511 - 24/06/12 04:50 PM
I think there are other factors at work in scale selection too, like pattern. Preferred scales tend to have a more balanced pattern of intervals. Even in Indian Classical music, they theoretically have 72 (mathematically-derived) scales, but in many of these, the notes are bunched up and so such scales are rarely (if ever) used. A smaller set of 36 scales is more viable (where degrees 2, 3, 6 have a natural, flat or sharp equivalent, 4 has natural or sharp, 7 has natural or flat, 1 and 5 are fixed and always present).

So, I think theorists like Hindemith, Hugo Riemann and George Russell wasted a lot of thought on trying to justify the western tonal system by showing how it directly 'grows out of' the harmonic series. I don't think it needs to be so obvious. However it came to be, once extant, a viable tonal system wouldn't violate harmonic tone relations so there's no need to justify it this way. (Although I do think we could be more flexible with regard to the fine tuning of these tones.)

In terms of practical ways in which scales came to be... I can imagine many scenarios: Tribal ancestors blowing different lengths of pipe, someone overblowing a pipe and trying to match new lengths of pipe to these tones, people singing the tones they hear in a musical 'mouth bow' or in overtone singing, etc.

Probably the reason why almost every culture has the pentatonic (CDE GA) is because it's really easy to derive it from stacking (overblown) perfect 5ths C-G-D-A-E and playing these in different octaves. Five of these tones can also be heard in the upper harmonic series tones (C:D:E:G = 8:9:10:12).


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #994520 - 24/06/12 06:39 PM
I know next to nothing about music theory but would like to know more so i'll be following your blog.

Regarding the origins of music, i think it was here when we arrived. People comment "humans invented basket weaving in 2k BC! Aren't we incredible!?"

Well actully, no they didn't, they copied basket weaving from bird's nests. In fact you can look at so many human inventions and find their roots in nature. We are excellent refiners, adapters and exploiters.

I'm sure music has it's roots in the sounds we heard, and we ade instruments to copy and develop those sounds. We use music to communicate emotion, it's a form of communication, animals do this too, they sing and they communicate feelings through the singing, or they communicate messages through rhythmic beating and clicking etc.

It makes sense. If hearing is such a key faculty for the vast majority of creatures then the logical progression is to create a language based on hearing. The fact that there's so much of it about means that there's a good evolutionary advantage to coded sounds within communities.


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #994669 - 25/06/12 03:30 PM
Well, despite some dictionary definitions, we ourselves are not separate from "nature" anyway. Our brain, our mechanism of hearing is wired to appreciate relationships in the harmonic series and well-balanced patterns and sequences, which give rise to preferred scales and harmonies. Our visual system is wired to appreciate certain geometric relationships too (see 'Golden Ratio').

Even when these relationships are distorted, this distortion can actually pronounce in us a consciousness of true (undistorted) relationships. (I'd say, one reason why every culture seems to give spiritual significance to bell tones is because those harmonics are scattered and result in a shimmering ambiguity of tone and pitch.) Similarly, if you study how to make beautiful, pure harmonies like those from the Renaissance period, you'll learn at the same time how to write effective 'dissonant' harmonies into your music.

Even though harmony and counterpoint required centuries of cultivation, it developed via a consensus of what sounded natural (until the more self-conscious combinations of composers of the Second Viennese School like Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Stockhausen).

So, early humans didn't necessarily need to learn everything from existing artefacts. We ourselves are structured according to natural principles and we can access this wordless knowledge. Weaving, the spear, the bow and arrow, etc, were probably developed by different cultures in many different ways: by accidental discovery (through play), through copying nature, by improving on some object dropped by another tribe, by found objects (like a sharp rock), by unusual or 'gifted' individuals, through insights in dreams and during mushroom trips, etc. Humans probably discoverd fire through aimlessly messing about with sticks until smoke appeared. Then they might think it's a god escaping from the tree, so they relentlessly see what happens after hours of doing it. Then... wow!


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
Posts: 5742
Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #994682 - 25/06/12 04:58 PM
Quote J.A.S:

Well, despite some dictionary definitions, we ourselves are not separate from "nature" anyway. Our brain, our mechanism of hearing is wired to appreciate relationships in the harmonic series and well-balanced patterns and sequences, which give rise to preferred scales and harmonies. Our visual system is wired to appreciate certain geometric relationships too (see 'Golden Ratio').

Even when these relationships are distorted, this distortion can actually pronounce in us a consciousness of true (undistorted) relationships. (I'd say, one reason why every culture seems to give spiritual significance to bell tones is because those harmonics are scattered and result in a shimmering ambiguity of tone and pitch.) Similarly, if you study how to make beautiful, pure harmonies like those from the Renaissance period, you'll learn at the same time how to write effective 'dissonant' harmonies into your music.

Even though harmony and counterpoint required centuries of cultivation, it developed via a consensus of what sounded natural (until the more self-conscious combinations of composers of the Second Viennese School like Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Stockhausen).

So, early humans didn't necessarily need to learn everything from existing artefacts. We ourselves are structured according to natural principles and we can access this wordless knowledge. Weaving, the spear, the bow and arrow, etc, were probably developed by different cultures in many different ways: by accidental discovery (through play), through copying nature, by improving on some object dropped by another tribe, by found objects (like a sharp rock), by unusual or 'gifted' individuals, through insights in dreams and during mushroom trips, etc. Humans probably discoverd fire through aimlessly messing about with sticks until smoke appeared. Then they might think it's a god escaping from the tree, so they relentlessly see what happens after hours of doing it. Then... wow!




What a lot of words!

How little meaning!

:-)


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #994685 - 25/06/12 05:17 PM
A lot of words? Yeah, loads. I deal with people like you all the time. You've got nothing new whatsoever to say about anything, so all that's left in your mind is the urge to mock those who do.


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #994691 - 25/06/12 05:54 PM
Quote J.A.S:

...Humans probably discoverd fire through aimlessly messing about with sticks until smoke appeared...




No, that's drummers. Far more likely is that humans didn't discover fire, they noticed forests bursting into flames after they'd been hit by lightening!

I realise we are part of nature, bt then so is everything. We have this wrd "nature" to dscribe everything else in relatin to ourselves (even a side of ourselves) but given that we have the word i thought i'd use it as everyone knows what it means.

Mothers sing to babies, gibbins sing for mates and the mate joins in the song. We haven't really been around for that long, Neanderthal had art including music, we may have got it from them.

But i say that music is just a part of the cosmos which we are a part of, and it's the most natural thing in the world to make music. You can break it down and have an equation for how it works and that is interesting, as is an equation to describe the shape of a beehive is interesting, bt more interesting is the beauty of the beehive.

I've been making music forever. The reason i know no theory is becaue i have gone out of my way to avoid any type of formal musical education because i believd it would detract from the beauty of the crative process and clog up my channels with numbers.

In fact if we go back to the other thread (hidden talent) you seem to hold the view that language is a block to many skills and paradigms of thought that you mooted were neccessary and missing from our education system. I disagreed as you know...

But i do hold the view that introducing formal language into art (notation in music etc) is a diversion to the paradigms of thought that lead to proper original and groundbreaking creativity in art. In other words, the greatest art comes from people who haven't a clue what they're doing.

You can quote and reference the great composers, but all they were really doing was applying mathematical musical theory to a piece of paper and having it played out by an orchestra... Those guys would have loved Logic, the could have messed about all day programming, sort of midi woth tights and wigs. Not really any different to people that took trig and made a pyramid. Awe inspiring, yes, but i'm far more amazed and intrigued by a three metre turmite mound city in the Australian desert. Why? Because they don't know what they're doing, they just do it.


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #994709 - 25/06/12 08:12 PM
Quote ow:

Far more likely is that humans didn't discover fire, they noticed forests bursting into flames after they'd been hit by lightening!




This is unlikely to result in the practical discovery of how to actually make fire.

Quote ow:

But i do hold the view that introducing formal language into art (notation in music etc) is a diversion to the paradigms of thought that lead to proper original and groundbreaking creativity in art. In other words, the greatest art comes from people who haven't a clue what they're doing.




Well, yes. I did mention that point in (page 1) of that same thread:

"Many musicians brought up with notation as a constant reference seem to be uncomfortable without it. They claim not to be able to play without notation, or try to reduce everything they hear to its written-down form. So, what about all those timbral nuances that are lost to notation? Well, from my experience, many such musicians are less impressed by these aspects."

Just like language thought, I don't think we should rely on notation at the expense of ear-playing, improvisation, exploring sound, etc. But we can restrict symbols to the correct purpose just as great writers do with words. Many classical composers were famous for their improvisations and ear-playering.

Quote ow:

I've been making music forever. The reason i know no theory is becaue i have gone out of my way to avoid any type of formal musical education because i believd it would detract from the beauty of the crative process and clog up my channels with numbers.




I understand this fear. But it doesn't happen so long as we always respect our ear'oles.

Quote ow:

You can quote and reference the great composers, but all they were really doing was applying mathematical musical theory to a piece of paper and having it played out by an orchestra...




No, no. They were celestial musicians! Notation and formulaic methods were just crystalisations of earlier ideas -a vehicle to greater things in the music. It's just a different approach -music as flowing archetecture. There is a lot of natural mathematics in music and art though, but this should remain intuitive. Leonard Bernstein said many surprising things about Beethoven with regard to intuition. YOUTUBE LINK

Quote ow:

...you seem to hold the view that language is a block to many skills and paradigms of thought that you mooted were neccessary and missing from our education system.




It's a really difficult thing to explain because it's a non-verbal state. I remember looking at something in the distance that was flying about in the wind. There was a brief moment where I was just focussing before any questions came into my mind. Like a 'silent void'. Then, I realised it was a bin bag and verbal thought returned. That 'void' I realised is something important that we neglect if we're always thinking in words and fixed ideas. It's not just me. This state is all Zen 'Buddhists' are really practicing to sustain.


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #994711 - 25/06/12 08:30 PM
Quote Exhaulted Wombat:



What a lot of words!

How little meaning!

:-)




I don't really know how much more 'meaning' you can expect in a single post...

Quote J.A.S:

Our brain, our mechanism of hearing is wired to appreciate relationships in the harmonic series and well-balanced patterns and sequences, which give rise to preferred scales and harmonies.




See papers by Toussaint and Tymoczko.

Quote J.A.S:

Our visual system is wired to appreciate certain geometric relationships too.




Quote J.A.S:

Even when these relationships are distorted, this distortion can actually pronounce in us a consciousness of true (undistorted) relationships... ...Similarly, if you study how to make beautiful, pure harmonies like those from the Renaissance period, you'll learn at the same time how to write effective 'dissonant' harmonies into your music.




i.e when we study 'common practice' counterpoint and harmony, we not only learn to write in a pure style, but we also learn how to achieve the best opposite effects (of dissonance) along with it.

Quote J.A.S:

I'd say, one reason why every culture seems to give spiritual significance to bell tones is because those harmonics are scattered and result in a shimmering ambiguity of tone and pitch.




See inharmonic tones. This is what gives bell tones their vagueness of pitch. I suggested that this ambiguity has led to many cultures associating this sound as a symbol of spirituality and the unknown, hence church bells, Buddhist gongs and bells, Hindu chimes, etc. So, this association with inharmonic tones suggests the opposite association with tones corresponding closely to true harmonics.

Quote J.A.S:

Even though harmony and counterpoint required centuries of cultivation, it developed via a consensus of what sounded natural...




There were many composers and theorieticians (esp. early second Viennese School) who disputed the notion that music had any natural basis. It was really the work of Helmholtz that made such composers face up to the natural basis of acoustic consonance.


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #994730 - 26/06/12 12:32 AM
Quote Jennifer Jones:

I'd love to read more on the subject, and especially some scientific research papers...




'The cognitive neuroscience of music' by Peretz and Zatorre, OUP, 2003

Part 1, 'The origins of music' has two interesting essays :

Ch 4 'Music, cognition, culture and evolution', by Ian Cross

Ch 5 'Is music and evolutionary adaptation ?', by David Huron


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #995018 - 27/06/12 03:13 PM
Quote Jennifer Jones:

I'm more interested to know why we perceive certain chords or melodies as 'nicer' or 'better' than others - obviously people have different preferences, but in a more general sense, why have certain chords or melodies become more popular? What is it about them? I'd suspect it comes down to mathematics - as often happens in nature.




With melody, I'd say it's about getting a good balance of contours and phrasing. We intuitively understand the necessities of breathing, we have a natural appreciation for what can be sung in a single breath, and where breaths would occur (pauses, etc). Japanese music (e.g. for shakuhachi flute) is quite free of metric rhythm and instead focuses on this aspect of phrasing and its relationship to breath...

Quote:



Quote ow:

...you seem to hold the view that language is a block to many skills and paradigms of thought that you mooted were neccessary and missing from our education system. I disagreed as you know...




Quote:

RE: This "paradigm" of breath is a good example of what I mean by teaching kids to be just as much focused on the physical and sensual as the cerebral or verbal. There is more to be absorbed directly through our body and senses than from the chattering intellect, in my opinion.

J.A.S











...When music is measured, groupings of beats then influence melody more. (Probably why Captain Beefheart recorded his vocals with the volume barely audible -so he could use more poetry/breath inspired phrasing rather than being a slave to the pulse.)

Listening to singers of Indian classical music is an excellent way to develop melodic sense both in terms of measured and unmeasured phrasing. It begins with free, unmetred improvisation ('alap') before being developed over a rhythmic cycle. I also find drawing line contours on paper and learning how to make these look balanced before turning them into melody is an effective approach too. They can be used to guide improvised singing into a tape recorder.

Chords have more to do with acoustics but there is much confusion between acoustic dissonance and what might be called 'contextual dissonance'. In simple terms (excluding matters of counterpoint) whether a chord has tension depends both on acoustics and on musical context.

In jazz, b7th chords do not necessarily evoke a sense that they need to resolve. But, in classical music, because a dominant seventh chord contains a tritone between its 3rd and b7th (the greatest 'insult' to the 5th) the 3rd moves upward to the 1st of the tonic chord and the b7th to the 3rd of the tonic chord. Actually, perhaps it is really that the 3rd and b7th of the dominant chord 'wish' to escape to their own adjacent 5ths:

V7 (on G, = B and F)

I (on C = E and C)

This chord can also turn outwards to its other 5ths:

(on G, = B and F)

(on F# = F# and Bb)

...but this would not be within the same key. Anyway, because of the two tritones, a diminished 7th chord can move to four different chords in the same way. This shows that the acoustic aspect is more about tensions between tones within each chord and between (successive) chords. But the musical context can influence and override this to some extent.


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Gone To Lunch]
      #995346 - 29/06/12 10:10 AM
Quote Gone To Lunch:

Quote Jennifer Jones:

I'd love to read more on the subject, and especially some scientific research papers...




'The cognitive neuroscience of music' by Peretz and Zatorre, OUP, 2003

Part 1, 'The origins of music' has two interesting essays :

Ch 4 'Music, cognition, culture and evolution', by Ian Cross

Ch 5 'Is music and evolutionary adaptation ?', by David Huron




Thanks - I'll seek those out.

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Gone To Lunch
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #995437 - 29/06/12 07:14 PM
Quote Jennifer Jones:

Quote Gone To Lunch:

Quote Jennifer Jones:

I'd love to read more on the subject, and especially some scientific research papers...




'The cognitive neuroscience of music' by Peretz and Zatorre, OUP, 2003

Part 1, 'The origins of music' has two interesting essays :

Ch 4 'Music, cognition, culture and evolution', by Ian Cross

Ch 5 'Is music and evolutionary adaptation ?', by David Huron




Thanks - I'll seek those out.




Beyond just the origins of music, for a comprehensive review of the current state of play in the (scientific) psychology of music, I can recommend 'Exploring the musical mind' by John Sloboda, OUP 2005.


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Gone To Lunch]
      #995539 - 30/06/12 05:49 PM
I think all lines of investigation are valuable, but I wonder how much wisdom is put into the gathering of data and its interpretation. I can imagine asking research subjects to listen to chords and ticking boxes as to which they prefer. But, how can we check the subjects aren't trying to second-guess the researchers and just say what they think is expected? A subject might hear a chord or scale and like it, but recognise there's some 'disssonance' within the combination so tick the 'dislike' box.

I only intend this as a simple example of the kind of problems that might occur with research. (It's a problem I've noticed with a lot of general questionnaires. For example, if you want to find out what teenagers really think about things, probably the only real option is to eavesdrop (as immoral as that may be). If you question teenagers (and most adults for that matter) they're surely more likely to regurgitate clichés they've heard, or else just say what they think adults want to hear.)

I think that 'consensus', i.e. what has been selected by generations of musicians and composers is a valuable form of data that researchers should also take into consideration. The most common rhythmic patterns found all over Africa and Europe have been shown to be Euclidean strings. I am fascinated by this because I've selected these patterns as preferable independantly of such research.

Of course, the problem with the historical record is that the work of theoreticians has influenced the materials used in music. Indian classical music has been influenced by mathematical work (by Raamamaatya and others) on scales and rhythms since the mid 1500s (and this might be why these rhythms are not Euclidean). Similarly, the music of the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Webern, etc) shouldn't be confused with material that has been selected intuitively by generations of composers.


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #995570 - 30/06/12 09:55 PM
Quote:

but I wonder how much wisdom is put into the gathering of data and its interpretation.




Lots and lots in my experience !

Generally, in matters such as this I personally prefer the informed carefully considered opinions of successful peer-reviewed mainstream academia, such as, eg, Sloboda.

So much more interesting and informed than the regurgitated cliches one sometimes finds in chat-room postings....


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tacitus



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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #995609 - 01/07/12 10:04 AM
I can recommend 'The Language of Music' by Deryck Cooke - one man's view of how music achieves various effects and arouse various emotions, all illustrated with examples from centuries back up to rock 'n' roll (it doesn't go further because it was written in the late 1950s). But a cracking read, and validation, if you need it, that tonality does actual 'mean' something.

Worth getting a second-hand hardback of this as it is a classic.


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #995629 - 01/07/12 01:46 PM
Quote J.A.S:


I think that 'consensus', i.e. what has been selected by generations of musicians and composers is a valuable form of data that researchers should also take into consideration.





Indeed... See 'The language of music' by Deryck Cooke, just recommended by Tacitus

Quote J.A.S:


The most common rhythmic patterns found all over Africa and Europe have been shown to be Euclidean strings. I am fascinated by this because I've selected these patterns as preferable independantly of such research.





So do you think you have a 'gene' for them ?


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Anonymous
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Gone To Lunch]
      #995761 - 02/07/12 01:39 PM
Quote:

So do you think you have a 'gene' for them ?




1. My research resulted in these scales and rhythms being selected, since these rhythms grow naturally out of physical (right and left hand in drumming) movements. So, neither 'a gene', 'genes', nor developed rhythmic talent were really that necessary.

2. But anyway, why do you always say 'a gene' and not a lucky cocktail of 'genes'? No one here ever suggested 'a gene' for anything.

3. However, I do think the reason why such scales and rhythms have been accepted aesthetically is that they are the most balanced rhythms (after metric rhythms) and scales.

Even if the current research indicates that an inherited talent for specific tasks is unlikely, this isn't the same thing as suggesting there are (something like) inherited templates for aesthetics. Such 'templates' are important for sexual selection and many experiments have shown preferences for a certain feminine shape, facial symmetry, golden sectioning, etc (which, by the way, goes quite against what is currently fashionable).

4. Very clever, seemingly meticulous research has been shown to be fundamentally flawed in the past, sometimes due to a very tiny stupid error. The concept of using the 'average Joe' as a kind of 'blank canvas' is flawed in itself. (There's no such thing as either.)

5. No need to resort to ad hominem arguments. I could play that game too. There are many people in this world who will have a different way of looking at things than you, and hard academic research is not necessarily going to give better insights than an individual who has gone further into something. (Hence the countless 'inconclusive' academic papers). This is why there have been successful lone scientists who were once mocked for seemingly going against the grain in preference for some 'hunch'. Similarly, a composer's intuition for what sounds right (and why) might have more truth in it than a thousand questionnaires conducted by (and using) people who have little experience of the creative act.


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Jennifer Jones]
      #997433 - 12/07/12 02:52 PM
Quote:

'The cognitive neuroscience of music' by Peretz and Zatorre, OUP, 2003




The paperback is £40, so I'll wait to see if I can get a cheaper copy in future.

According to reviews, these authors argue that music is an "evolutionary vestige" rather than "accidental".

I don't believe music evolved as a specific ability. Rather, I've always assumed music to be a kind of 'by-product', a spin-off deriving from a synergy of other abilities that were evolved out of necessity. These include language, rhythm for co-ordinated motions and biological signals, visual symmetry and pattern and body motions finding their metaphor in sound (melodic contours, etc) and acoustics (we all have an innate knowledge of harmonic spectra that evolved to help us recognise voices, animal sounds, etc, which in the modern world includes musical instruments, vehicle engines, etc and causes us to appreciate these relationships between sounded tones too).

I also think that the way we are organically constructed -efficiently- means that beautifully efficient structures in nature, in art and in sound will automatically resonate with us.

So, perhaps the same sense of admiration we get from looking at the amazing efficiency of a bee hive, might also be responsible for our admiration of efficient voice leading in a Haydn string quartet, and an artist's ability to capture a personality in a few pen-strokes or a dancer's efficient movement.

The problem with hard, combing research is that it appeals to the part of the brain that is at odds with that which principally appreciates nature, art and music sensually. We get people who think they know why a rainbow is beautiful, but really we all know why when we're two-years-old. There may be explanations about how the colours resonate perfectly with our receptors or something (maybe), but since the brain ultimately interprets this information -is it really why?

There is a documentary on BBC4 iPlayer Heart vs Mind -What Makes Us Human?. It's not without its problems this documentary (especially the presenter's overly intense desire to confirm his suspicions). But I really do think there is some truth in the problems with our modern 'mechanised' view of the human condition.

This is really what I've been trying to say when I suggest the senses and the body have more wisdom (for art at least) than what can be understood verbally or applied intellectually. I think it is our primary source of intuition (and probably the inspiration behind ancient beliefs in Akashic records). I think we can access this wordless knowledge through becoming more physical -focussing on our bodies more rather than living inside the head and it's word-based operations.

There is a continual suspicion (or a lack of acknowledgement or appreciation) for what can't be easily understood intellectually. I think this is a mistake.


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petev3.1



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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Gone To Lunch]
      #1001324 - 02/08/12 10:26 AM
Quote Gone To Lunch]
Indeed... See 'The language of music' by Deryck Cooke, just recommended by Tacitus





Not recommended by me. Loads of waffly words to no effect. Each to his own though. I'd recommend Hans Keller and S:


enker.

Edited by petev3.1 (02/08/12 10:30 AM)


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petev3.1



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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #1001325 - 02/08/12 10:32 AM
Wha...

Sorry can't edit the previous post. Mysterious glitch in system. Cannot get rid of spurious line and font change. Anway, just wanted to mention Hans Keller. Brilliant on tension, resolution and the contradiction of expectation in music. Also pretty good on football.

This is the guy who when running Radio 3 brought some friends into the studio, improvised for twenty minutes and announced this as the debut work of some new Eastern European composer with an unpronouceable name. Got some great reviews, and then got into a lot of trouble.


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #1001330 - 02/08/12 10:49 AM
Can't believe no one has mentioned Dan Levitin's "This is your brain on Music".

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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Tomás Mulcahy]
      #1001478 - 02/08/12 10:55 PM
I dare say there are countless books that could be suggested here, in music theory and psychoacoustics, music research, etc. In any case, it's extremely difficult to reconcile the different approaches to any study of an art. If you ask a leading food scientist why certain flavours go together, I'd expect there to be a completely different answer from that given by a master chef. In this case, I suppose the ideal would be a master chef that is also an expert in food science.

In music, such an equivalent is extremely unlikely (i.e. in a single author). You'd need someone with the knowledge of classical music (like Alfred Mann, Robert Levin, etc), a knowledge of world music (Arom, Kubik, Nketia, etc) with a knowledge of jazz and popular music, as well as psychoacoustics, and psychology. There isn't time enough in one lifespan!

Unfortunately, I think many people wrongly believe that only stringent research is going to provide lucid answers. Going by the analyses of works provided by such authors, it is easy to see where they were over-confident in the application of their (overgeneralised) hypotheses. That is (in their musical analyses at least) they try to make the facts fit the theory and leave out anything that doesn't support the scientific model.


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #1001484 - 02/08/12 11:50 PM
Quote Josif A. Soterίou:


2. But anyway, why do you always say 'a gene' and not a lucky cocktail of 'genes'? No one here ever suggested 'a gene' for anything.




Using the plural in the way you suggest wouldn't make a difference to my fundamental point.

Quote J.A.S.:

Even if the current research indicates that an inherited talent for specific tasks is unlikely, this isn't the same thing as suggesting there are (something like) inherited templates for aesthetics. Such 'templates' are important for sexual selection and many experiments have shown preferences for a certain feminine shape, facial symmetry, golden sectioning, etc (which, by the way, goes quite against what is currently fashionable).




Not really....again there is alot of academic psychology research on these questions, which generally lean towards nature rather than nurture.

Quote J.A.S.:

Very clever, seemingly meticulous research has been shown to be fundamentally flawed in the past, sometimes due to a very tiny stupid error. The concept of using the 'average Joe' as a kind of 'blank canvas' is flawed in itself. (There's no such thing as either.)




Perhaps one of the most important examples would be the falsification of the twin studies regarding heritability of IQ, that nevertheless influenced the 1944 education act in the UK. See the lucid expose by Leon Kamin, 'The Science and politics of IQ"

Quote J.A.S.:

5. No need to resort to ad hominem arguments. I could play that game too. There are many people in this world who will have a different way of looking at things than you, and hard academic research is not necessarily going to give better insights than an individual who has gone further into something. (Hence the countless 'inconclusive' academic papers). This is why there have been successful lone scientists who were once mocked for seemingly going against the grain in preference for some 'hunch'.






Scientific explanations are generally built on a consensus from a large number of individual research projects.

The majority of brain scientists the world has ever had are alive now, or only died recently; the research I have cited is based on a broad consensus of many contributors from related disciplines like biology and statistics. A dramatic paradigm shift in the style of Copernicus or Darwin, in favour of the frankly discredited simplistic genetic determinism is unlikely...

If you listen to Radio 4 science programs, you might have heard the recent item about enhanced functionality of silicon chips. I mention this because I personally predict that the next big scientific shifts in brain science will come from ever more sophisticated neural net modeling occasioned by this advancing chip technology, and also the Object Oriented software that will increasingly drive it. Which I suspect will, ironically for some, make good use of 20th century behaviourism concepts. Specifically, I predict it will be about how neural nets LEARN stuff.... But biology can be full of surprises, so I would not rule out genetic mechanisms at this level in future. But that would be a long way from the genetic determinism I think you are defending

Quote J.A.S.:

Similarly, a composer's intuition for what sounds right (and why) might have more truth in it than a thousand questionnaires conducted by (and using) people who have little experience of the creative act.




I don't understand what this has to do with the argument here ? Surely you aren't suggesting there are genes for aesthetic truth as well ?


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Gone To Lunch
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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #1001486 - 02/08/12 11:59 PM
Quote Josif A. Soterίou:

I dare say there are countless books that could be suggested here, in music theory and psychoacoustics, music research, etc. In any case, it's extremely difficult to reconcile the different approaches to any study of an art....
You'd need someone with the knowledge of classical music (like Alfred Mann, Robert Levin, etc), a knowledge of world music (Arom, Kubik, Nketia, etc) with a knowledge of jazz and popular music, as well as psychoacoustics, and psychology. There isn't time enough in one lifespan!




That's why I recommend peer-reviewed summaries by teams of the relevant experts!

Quote Josif A. Soterίou:

Unfortunately, I think many people wrongly believe that only stringent research is going to provide lucid answers. Going by the analyses of works provided by such authors, it is easy to see where they were over-confident in the application of their (overgeneralised) hypotheses. That is (in their musical analyses at least) they try to make the facts fit the theory and leave out anything that doesn't support the scientific model.




If you mean me, I certainly do think rational peer-reviewed scientific research is the gold standard for scientific questions.

Less so the aesthetics of composition....


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Gone To Lunch]
      #1001601 - 03/08/12 12:11 PM
Quote Gone To Lunch:

Surely you aren't suggesting there are genes for aesthetic truth as well ?




While I don't take issue with anything else you've written here, I don't understand this part. Firstly... "as well" as what? (Is this a straw man argument, i.e. suggesting I've proposed that there are genes for everything?)

Secondly, by "aesthetic truth" do you mean taste? If so, taste is such a complex subject, it depends. I feel we all have a sense of balance that grows out of logic and a sense of relative proportions. This sense can cultivated in so many artistic ways, from flower arranging, landscaping, architecture to the relative proportions of symphonic movements.

But perhaps appreciation of sounds, colour, beauty might depend on how preoccupied someone is with their verbal thoughts to notice detail around them, and if therefore they develop taste for certain combinations, structures. But I certainly think beautiful, balanced structures will automatically 'resonate' with us, since we ourselves are constructed by such measurements (laws). Surely, our brain structure would have a kind of sympathy for natural designs?

Intuitive scientists (like Einstein) seemed to rely on knowledge that goes deeper than the verbal intellect. Data derived from stringent combing research is important, but great leaps in advancement have been equally due to scientists making intuitive connexions between diverse correspondences. They often say they are led by the 'beauty' of equations and theorems. Perhaps they mean simplicity, efficiency, just like musicians can appreciate the effeciency of voice leading, or a dancer's motions.

Maybe I'm just talking bollocks. I don't really know anymore. I might just disappear into music and leave this stuff to people who are more intellectually equipped. I just feel that some of the answers might not be possible to put into words. Why do we expect everything to be available to us in word form? Perhaps the truth is in the equations and symphonies rather than their verbal reduction or analysis. Maybe that's why J.S Bach refused to write a theoretical treatise and instead wrote the 48 and other collections of works that say it all. I know that from studying counterpoint, all the questions of "why" just disappear as the reasons (in that context) become self-evident.


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Oli_F



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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: JMulvale]
      #1005924 - 28/08/12 04:25 PM
Can we stop repeating the myth about the golden section? It's never been shown that human physiology are either based on it or that we have a preference for it.

It's pure numerology. You could pick any ratio and 'find it' everywhere.

Just because it's a ratio found in self-similar replicating plants (sunflowers, leaf distribution around a plant stem, etc), there's no reason to start applying it to everything.

While this might be seemingly irrelevant directly to the topic in question, I think it's symptomatic of the tendency to want to find an overarching explanation for aesthetics or 'why music works'. I think any 'reason' that explains everything is likely to explain nothing.


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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: Oli_F]
      #1005972 - 28/08/12 09:30 PM
Quote Oli_F:

It's pure numerology




The mathematics of the golden section is inseparable from the Fibonacci sequence:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, ...

Different studies have thrown up just as many results into our preference for it. (I really wouldn't expect most adults to be sensitive to proportions enough to choose or prefer it spontaneously as many of the studies have attempted to determine. Most adults have the visual development (e.g. drawing skills) of a 12-year old child, blinkered -I believe- by a verbal 'cartoonish' perception of the world.)

Quote Oli_F:

You could pick any ratio and 'find it' everywhere.




Its prevalence in natural forms is very real. Even Keith Devlin who wrote an article for The Mathematical Association of America 'The Myth That Won’t Go Away' conceded that "the appearance of the golden ratio in nature ...is real, substantiated, and of considerable scientific interest”.

It does seem to resonate with me, which is why I've always found it interesting. For instance, I've always wondered why it's so difficult to pinpoint what it is about the original Volkswagen Beetle that makes it so unusual. I wondered if it had to do with golden sectioning and it turns out it was (so I've been told anyway) based on a golden logarithmic spiral.

Obviously geometry is attractive to us in a very fundamental way (order, balance, contour) but you are right that there will never be a single answer to why music works. For a start, 'it works' for reasons that are quite impossible to express in words, which is one reason we have art and music.


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Oli_F



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Re: How does music work???? New blog. new [Re: ]
      #1005995 - 28/08/12 11:04 PM
Thanks, I'm perfectly well aware of the mathematical function Phi, and how it's generated!

I'm also perfectly well aware of it's appearance in nature, particularly when it come to packing functions as seen in sunflowers and leaf distrubution around a stem. Etc.

However, to claim humans have a preference for it is numerology. Why Phi? Why not e, Pi, i, power laws, etc, etc? Why on earth would we like one geometric series over any of the others? (Cos it's easily understood and then mystified by people who don't understand maths and nature mainly)

And to claim to find it outside of where it naturally resides is also silly. It's not in the Parthenon, the Pyramids ... or the VW Beetle. It's wishful thinking and false attempt to both simplify and mystify art, music and aesthetic, which is - as you rightly say - profoundly complex.


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