Although superbly styled by the private and philosophical John’s bit was subtitled “a love tune” the topics he inquires concerning the connection between physics and music return to the early Greeks, and therefore are as outdated as the areas themselves.
It moved me a musicologist to compose something from the opposite side, to fulfill my scientific colleague at the center at an insecure conversation about the contrasts between both worlds.
Musical significance is tantalising and elusive. For the majority of us, music has the capability to reach us directly. The temptation would be always to talk of music as a speech: the idea of music as a sort of “speech of these emotions” is pervading, centuries old, and has some limited empirical experimental aid.
Most theoretical work done on musical semiotics treats music as simply a different flavour of discourse, a different vocabulary of signals albeit one with its own unique characteristics.
But this runs contrary to an age-old belief: that audio is a natural law. The medieval idea of “music of the spheres” held the motion of these celestial bodies that which we describe as astrophysics was, in origin, musical: the planets go in the skies based on principles of stability and resonance, using a set of ordinary Pythagorean ratios regulating both songs and cosmology.
Truly, we audio academics are somewhat nostalgic for its time (in medieval colleges) where music has been considered among the four core areas with astronomy, geometry and arithmetic, and we held pride of place over the three lesser (hence “trivial”) language-based areas of logic, rhetoric and punctuation.
Highs And Lows
Physics permeates the terminology we use to describe songs, and the concepts we use to comprehend it. For example we speak about “high” and “low” musical pitch, and possibly without realising how profoundly metaphorical this really is.
There’s not any elevation to musical pitch:”large” pitches are due to faster vibrations compared to “non” pitches. But we do not speak about “fast” and “slow” songs with regard to pitch (we utilize those metaphors for something else completely).
And still, the idea of musical elevation makes sense if we consider the energy conditions of their audio. If, as in the excerpt below from Puccini’s opera Toscawe hear a soprano maintain a high B level (as at 2:40 to the recording under), we’re conscious that she’s sustaining a high energy state, which has to eventually unwind.
The pitch appears invested using the kinetic energy necessary to make it (obviously, in Tosca’s situation she’s a literal experience with the power of gravity, but that is another story).
Singers, brass and wind players expend power to achieve “elevation”, whilst series players, keyboardists, guitarists and the rest work no more difficult to get the high notes compared to low.
Nevertheless, perhaps due to the centrality of the individual voice into all songs, this notion of fighting musical “gravity” is omnipresent, whether at a Paganini violin concerto or a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo, in accordance with the movie below.
Plus it does not come down just everywhere. In Western music, we call and also many people, irrespective of their degree of formal musical training, can listen to and sing the notice to which the songs is “pulling”.
This notion of magnetic appeal into a pitch has been arguably the single most significant characteristic of Western audio between 1600 and 1900, and even music afterwards.
This might be a feature of Western songs, but in different civilizations’ musics, the concept of a point of fascination is frequently more powerful, as in the case below from traditional Indian songs.
Not all songs has a biography, a fixed point of reference in 1908 at Vienna Arnold Schoenberg famously freed from the principle together with the “atonal” finishing movement of his second string quartet (according to the movie below), thus heralding a fresh and controversial musical era.
It is worth noting that speech has nothing resembling the idea of gravity or fascination: to understand that principle in audio that the metaphors has to come out of physics.
There are different theories that bridge the areas in precisely the exact same manner. Balance and symmetry are also ideas which are basic to musical arrangement, which appear to have more of a physical than the usual origin.
There is no wonder that rhetoric plays a part in shaping the manner in which these 2 phrases replicate each other. However, on a structural level, there’s an identity that appears almost mathematical in character.
Both phrases are in equilibrium: their (gentle) energies are complementary their contours are a picture of every other they’re two sides of the equation.
Memory And Time
For me personally, the main parallels between physics and music occur on a more philosophical level.
The late musicologist Jonathan Kramer began his book The period of Music together with the observation that little children play with toys and blocks to learn the basic notions of space in comparison, by singing and clapping, they play music to find out about time.
There’s something deep about the manner in which songs may accelerate, retard, bend and color our awareness of time’s death.
We can sit at a concert hall or opera theater for one hour and listen to 90 distinct men and women make tens of thousands of noises on pieces of timber, flesh and metal, and walk away with the belief we’ve heard something – a symphony, or even an opera.
Music unites time, and makes it possible for us to listen to time as organised and patterned. These routines enable us to forecast the near – we hear to expectation: that a melody will come to break, or a stability will proceed in ways which make sense to us, wordlessly.
Music is also a potent stimulus of memory – overhearing a bit of recalled music can immediately reestablish long-forgotten memories. Music is a tool for grasping the purchase and feel between what’s occurred before, what’s happening today, and what’s going to occur later on.
Threats And Survival
Regrettably, there’s one final way in which physics and music are now bedfellows. Back in America and the UK, many physics departments have closed or are at risk.
Music schooling no more receives government funds in UK universities, also in Australia current controversies in ANU and Edith Cowan are symptomatic of the fact administration financing for songs is debatable.
Along with the supply and quality of physics and music education in our secondary schools, essential to encourage and empower undergraduate analysis, are constantly competing with the requirements for increasingly more literacy and numeracy in the program.
There isn’t yet a catastrophe – at least, not in the high end: it stays, at least for now, alluring enough in coverage provisions to finance the elite professionals.
However, the chances for pupils to study basic and abstract thoughts – such as physics and music – as a part of a liberal arts education that affirms a civilised and educated society have become fewer and fewer.
John Rayner was appropriate to predict the association between physics and music a love tune. Let’s only hope it is not also a swansong.