Face the Music

April A-Z will be here tomorrow and this will be my third year in a row writing about music.  Last year I did songs and the year before that I did groups.  I think that just about everyone enjoys music, but most people have their own opinion about what type of music they prefer, and that music will always hold a special place in many people’s hearts.  The earliest forms of music were probably drum-based, percussion instruments where sticks were used to beat out the rhythm.  This may have been accompanied with rhythmic chanting and it is possible that other people who were enjoying the excitement and pleasure of this music started dancing.  On all musical instruments something has to vibrate (shake back and forth).  This is caused by some kind of contact with a physical object that produces vibrations which spread outward as sound waves.  Vibrations of a string on a violin, guitar, or piano, drum head, xylophone bar, or a tube filled with air in a brass or woodwind instrument will produce sound.  Music consists of basic concepts like Beat, Harmony, Melody, Notes, Pitch, Rhythm, Timbre and Time which all seem to be related to each other.

String instruments such as violins or pianos produce sound by amplifying the vibrations of a fixed string.  When a string is fixed on both ends, there is zero amplitude because vibration cannot occur at those points.  These points of zero amplitude are called nodes.  The wavelength determines what note is heard when a string is vibrated.  The position where the string is plucked will determine how long the note will sound and plucking the middle of the string will yield the longest sounding note.  When a taunt string is plucked, it vibrates from side to side, producing a musical tone.  When you pluck a string, the motion that follows is interesting and complicated, but basically the standing wave travels down the string and then it comes back to you.  In the case of the string, the initial material of the pulse along the string pulls upward on the neighboring string material.  The neighboring material pulls upward on its neighboring material, and so on, leading to the propagation of the pulse.

In 1618, Descartes wrote his first mathematics book titled the Compendium Musicae (English translation Summary of Music), however it was not published till 1653, which was three years after he died.  The Compendium was meant to be a theory of harmony expressed in mathematical terms.  It featured sophisticated mathematical thinking while offering a succinct and lucid summary of music.  Pythagoras is said to have discovered the fact that two similar strings under the same tension and differing only in length, when sounded together give an effect that is pleasant to the ear if the lengths of the strings are in the ratio of two small integers.  If the lengths are in a ratio as one is to two, they then correspond to the octave in music.  If the lengths are as two is to three, they correspond to the interval between C and G, which is called a fifth.  These intervals are generally accepted as “pleasant” sounding chords.

Einstein responded with great empathy and enthusiasm, referring to quantum mechanics as “the highest form of musicality in the sphere of thought.”  We now think that electrons are “wavicles” (an entity having characteristic properties of both waves and particles) that set up a standing wave around the nucleus, rather than being separate particles in orbits.  The mathematics describing the vibratory patterns that define the states of atoms in quantum mechanics is identical to that which describes the resonance of musical instruments.  The stable states of atoms correspond to pure tones.  I hope that you are ready for some music, because I am bringing it this year.

10 thoughts on “Face the Music

    1. Mine might be very different from yours and I hope my posts are not too technical and cause me to lose readers, but if you want to learn about certain aspects of music, them my posts should be interesting. I expect your posts to be much more fun than mine.

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      1. I had a glitch for a moment there. Couldn’t respond. Ugh!
        I don’t know if you read my post about schedules. My spirit is willing but my ability to commit is weak. I’ll be popping on to watch but won’t have time to play along.

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