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Thread: Music everywhere?

  1. #1
    Midshipman, Forte Colorful Mage's Avatar
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    Music everywhere?

    The past few months my interest in music has risen sharply. I began to connect what I hear to visual stimuli, and then to every other sense. Now when I hear music, I close my eyes and sense many things from the music; I see elaborate (or very simple) paintings, I feel water running over my skin gently, or a sharp slap in the face. I taste new things that I doubt I have any experience with.

    But, lately, I've tried to associate my other senses with hearing. I am stuck, however. I look at a simple object such as a door, and I do not hear music. Do any of you hear music from a door, or from a pencil, or such?

    I think that I've become so accustomed to seeing such things that I have completely ignored all music that might be derived from them. Whenever I see new things, I see music. Paintings are so meaningful to me now that I place them on the same level of importance as music. However, I'm finding a lack of appreciation for the simple things that make our lives great.

  2. #2
    acciaccatura
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Associating music with extramusical items, I think, is quite common. Each person perceives music differently and each person has his/her own imagination. One of music's great strengths is to be evocative, but the closer you look at the music and the more times you listen to a particular piece of music, the 'cleaner' will be your experience. You may begin to perceive rythmic/harmonic patterns and musical form. Some people think it would be a terrible thing to be 'deprived' of musical images, but they may not yet have experienced a true musical understanding and analysis. In my experience, the most rewarding musical experience one can have, is being close to understanding a composer's intentions.

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    Commodore of Water Music Gareth's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Yeah music to me lately has done the same, I am that deeply involved I figured out the pitch of the school bell (well siren), a high B, and yeah, I just think that there is a pitch for everything, which I am almost certain that there is, like a dog barking, maybe a collection of chromatic scales or whatever. I will agree with the most rewarding musical experiance that one can have ^^^^^^^ because I think then you can sort of play that composers music a bit easier as you have adapted to that style that he has depicted.

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    Midshipman, Forte Colorful Mage's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Yeah music to me lately has done the same, I am that deeply involved I figured out the pitch of the school bell (well siren), a high B, and yeah, I just think that there is a pitch for everything, which I am almost certain that there is, like a dog barking, maybe a collection of chromatic scales or whatever. I will agree with the most rewarding musical experiance that one can have ^^^^^^^ because I think then you can sort of play that composers music a bit easier as you have adapted to that style that he has depicted.
    Haha. I did the exact same. My school bell rings slightly sharper than an E flat. It is a little dissapointing, though, that it is a little sharp; I cannot play the exact pitch on my piano. I do agree with you, though, in that everything does indeed have a pitch. I sometimes take a guitar tuner or somesuch and bang it against surfaces to see what pitches it reads.

    My guitar teacher told me that every pitch is contained in every other pitch due to the series of overtones.
    One thing I do constantly wonder is why we are all born with a natural aversion to minor keys? It has been proven that hearing a song in minor key actually has biological effects such as increased blood pressure. Why, though? Do animals react the same way as we do to certain pitches? Why do some notes create dissonance but others when played together sound lovely?

    I think it is very intelligent to say that the most rewarding musical experience is to understand another composer's work. However, I think that it is equally important to have others understand your work. What is music, other than communication? We listen to music to receive certain concepts and emotion; we create music to convey those ideas, to express ourselves. Humans are social creatures, and the creation of music was merely an extension of social behavior.

    Thank you for your responses. I loved reading the brilliant insight.

  5. #5
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Wow, you hit on a number of different things here. The associations of images with music can be on a couple different levels. As far as the form of a particular piece of music goes, there is the different between program music and absolute music. Program music is written with the specific intention of evoking images, such as tone poems by R. Strauss, or the Moldau by Smetana, for instance. Absolute music is music whose form is more important, and this would mean pieces such as fugues, Symphonies in traditional form (sonata form for the first movement), theme and variations, etc.

    Then there is another type of association called synaesthesia. In this case, another sense comes into play. . .for instance, you might hear a particular kind of sound and see a color. I have this to a degree. A friend and I used to tell about our images that came to mind with different stops on the organ we were taking lessons on. To give an example, the 8' Principle always reminded me of Danish pastries! (HAHA, appropriate for our forum in Denmark! Do you ugys have "Danish" pastries there?)

    I'd like to read the studies about major and minor keys. I like minor keys!

    It is true, to an extent at least, that in nature a tone contains lots of pitches coming through the overtone series. However it is oversimplifying it to say "all the pitches" because the overtone series is not in equal temperament. There are many pitches in the overtone series that are "between the cracks" on a modern piano keyboard.

    The question about dissonance is a complicated one, as it has partly to do with clashes in the overtone series. But you also need to keep in mind that what was considered consonant and dissonant has changed through different eras. Until the Renaissance, a major third was considered dissonant, and even then at first it was considered an "imperfect" consonance. During the Renaissance and Baroque (and even the Romantic era) dissonance was handled carefully, approached and resolved in specific ways. During the 20th century, intervals such as 7ths began to be used as consonances, without the careful approach and resolution, signifying greater acceptance as a consonance.

    But I do think it all boils down to what you said. Music is a language that is used to express concepts and emotions. (And I would argue very strongly that it IS NOT, NOT, NOT a universal language. It has dialects and grammars that cannot be universally understood.)

    Thomas Dressler

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    Commodore of Water Music Gareth's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Geez, how do you guys sit there and type so much!!!!

    I haven't heard such thing as minor keys raising blood pressure lol, maybe it is to do with emotional effects of a sad piece with lots of sad chord progressions(trust me on my comments)
    ,but I have heard that rock music (if put loud enough) can burst your lungs, would you believe, to do with the sudden changing of the pressure coming out of the speakers.

    Danish Pastries???? Never heard of them in Aus here, what about where you come from?? Yeah, I will agree with you guys on the emotion part.

    Yeah, to understand what the composer had in mind could set you to compose a really good sounding melodic piece.

    Leo Tolstoy had a great quote about music: "music is the shorthand of emotion" I think that is 150% correct.

    Your Question below: I can give a scientific answer if you want:P
    -Why do some notes create dissonance but others when played together sound lovely?
    Lol, my answer is that different wave lengths produce different pitches. (to sum it up really badly).

    But anyway, some good questions in there, and it is good to talk musically with someone my age.

    Gareth

  7. #7
    Midshipman, Forte Colorful Mage's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    "Then there is another type of association called synaesthesia. In this case, another sense comes into play. . .for instance, you might hear a particular kind of sound and see a color. I have this to a degree. A friend and I used to tell about our images that came to mind with different stops on the organ we were taking lessons on."

    I have read about this (in a fascinating book titled The Seven Mysteries of Life). This is one of the main methods of absolute pitch, is it not? To "hear" colors? Perfect pitch deeply interests me, and what little research I have done on it would indicate that this is a basis for accurate pitch recognition. Do you have perfect pitch?

    You also said, Thomas, that some music is made with the intentions of evoking visual sensations, and that some music was intended for form? What is the difference between the two? The form is a major factor in determining which images I see while hearing a piece; is the only difference here that one type of music is intended for this purpose and that one is not?

    I too greatly enjoy the minor key, as do I the major key. For some odd reason, minor key now makes me happier than major key. I was having a conversation once while listening to music. An upbeat song in the major key was playing, and for some reason I was upset at the person I was talking to, and then the song ended and a minor song was next on the songlist. When I heard it, it made me realize that I was getting upset, and I immediately ended that, smiled, and was happy. It allowed me to step away from what I was doing and observe my behavior from a more objective light. Have any of you had a similar response to the minor key? (And I'll try to find the research on the minor key I found; it has been a while.)

    I do see the wisdom in your statements regarding dissonance, Thomas. As a music theory book (Theory of Harmony by Arnold Schoenberg) says, what sounds good to people is what they are used to hearing. As we mature, we want comfort, and I guess that we find consonance is what is comfortable, and familiar, to us. I seem to find comfort everywhere; on the piano, I can play a few notes in harmony that I see no problem with, and others around me will cringe. I find no dissonance where most others will. This only reinforces that music is indeed an art; and by that, I mean it is subjective in its preformance and its quality to any who hear it.

    I find it interesting that you say that music has many different dialects. That is correct, it seems, although I had never thought of it in that way. Thank you for that; it broadened the way I look at the language of music.

    Gareth, you mentioned a scientific reason for dissonance (could you elaborate on that a little bit?). Does this mean that you think some notes when played together are dissonant for everyone? Or that there is objective value to saying that the two notes are dissonant, rather than being consonant? I'm now very curious to know whether or not we can measure in a labratory whether sounds would be consonant or dissonant, because even sounds like chalk-board scraping are only horrible to some. I think Thomas was more correct in saying that how music is perceived is based more closely on our experiences than our genetics.

  8. #8
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Right on Gareth,

    For your age group you certainly have been blessed with experience - BRAVO

    Oh yes, high wattage sound pressure waves from e.g. loudspeakers can seriously disturb your internal organs.

    There once was a rumor that the pipe organ at Notre-Dame in Paris, when played at FFFF, is louder than the Concorde taking off - that's a nerve shattering experience, especially in an enclosed space.

    MMMMMM - Danish Pastries! You've got to go to Denmark for the REAL THING!!! Maybe one of the MIMFers in Denmark might kindly share where one could get an exquisite morsel of Danish bakery skill.

    Yeah, Tolstoy's quote about music does hit home quite well. Another quote: "The mother of Music is sorrow and it's sister is poetry.

    Great post - keep up the good work Gareth.

    Giovanni

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    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Colorful Mage,

    You are hinting at a very fertile research subject: Psychoacoustics! Google that - you should find some very interesting treatises - the last last word has definitely not been said about psychoacoustics.

    Great post.

    Giovanni

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    Midshipman, Forte Colorful Mage's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    I see. I may be interested in going into that field later in life; I had already planned a career in psychology or in law, but one in psychoacoustics would sate both my psychological and my musical fascinations.

    Is there really a profession to be made off the field, though?

  11. #11
    Commodore de Cavaille-Coll
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Colorful Mage,

    An oft used term in Graduate and Post-Graduate education: Publish or Perish! If you become a Professor of Music, Physicist or other related academic field and are doing research in the field of psychoacoustics, hopefully when you apply for a grant from one of the many organizations that fund research, a committee will lend a sympathetic ear to your presentation.

    Be prepared to do lots of work in your field of specialty. Usually, a position as a professor at a music college, conservatory or University will help somewhat - preferably a tenured position - those can be hard to come by although. You might not earn six figure salaries before the decimal point in your field but you will do a service to the coming generations.

    To do research and get your findings peer-reviewed and finally published can be one of the most rewarding and yet exasperating experiences you'll ever come across. Don't feel discouraged by what I have shared - like everything in life, there is no free ride. Prepare yourself meticulously as one would in any field one wishes to go into.

    Giovanni

  12. #12
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    I don't know if people use synaesthesia for absolute pitch or not. I don't have perfect pitch, but as I've gotten older, it's gotten closer. I've played on harpsichords tuned a 4th low and found myself getting completely confused. Well, now as I think about it, perhaps there is more to this than I thought:

    I am ADD, and ADD people tend to be very kinaesthetically oriented--in other words, feeling oriented. Tempo is one musical variable that is notoriously difficult for musicians to remember accurately--think about the metronome, just like the thermometer which is needed because people cannot remember "absolute temperature" either. I do have a form of pretty accurate "absolute tempo" because I feel it in my body. I remember when I was younger having teachers tell me to set a tempo by concentrating on certain spots in the music. Never worked for me. The only way I can set a tempo is to completely clear my mind of any thoughts and FEEL the music. And I am very aware of even minor differences in tempo. When I'm doing professional recording, I can record a long piece in many takes without a metronome and my takes all match as long as I do it in one session. (Another session and I'll be in a different mood and want to use a slightly different tempo.)

    As to form and program vs absolute music, the difference is that one is an internal, cerebral experience and the other is mostly "referrential." Ok, what that means is that program music is written with the intention of causing you to picture something else as you listen. Program music may still have a form, and sometimes even a form such as sonata form, but it's primary intention is for you to think of something else. Absolute music is abstract, the pleasure is derived from how the melodies and motives interplay with one another, repeat, are varied, etc. Program music tends to have evocative titles, like "The Moldau" which is the name of a Czech river. The form of The Moldau is basically just a rhapsody, moving from one scene along the river to another, although it has the glue of the water motif holding it together. While program music is generally thought to have become strong during the 19th century, there are earlier examples, such as Beethoven's "Pastorale" 6th Symphony (which I love) and Vivaldi's "The Seasons" concerti. These last two pieces have the strict form of their time periods, as well as being meant to evoke images.

    The dissonance issue is a very interesting one, and I find no simple answers to it. I thought for a long time that what we consider to be dissonant has only to do with conditioning, but I have come to suspect that there may be inherent issues involved, too. But it is quite complicated. I think it involves overtone clashes as I mentioned, however those clashes will differ with the system of temperament used. This is why I believe using the correct temperamant is essential to hearing music of the past.

    If you are interested in the idea of music as a language, there is a very interesting but complex book called Emotion and Meaning in Music by Leonard B. Meyer which goes into this in detail. It's an older book so I'd say some of it has been superceded, but it is still the basis of some very interesting thinking along these lines. I did my master's thesis on the Psychology of Emotion in Music. (That was some time ago, but I can still remember some of it!!)

  13. #13
    Midshipman, Forte Colorful Mage's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Great post, Thomas. It greatly enlightened me on the subject.

    It's comforting to find that others have had slight difficulties with tempo, for that used to be a skill lost on me. I used to keep tempo by tapping four places on my feet (the toes and heel of both foot) in some wierd manner that allowed me to keep the beat. My piano teacher as well as a few friends in chorus told me to stop, that it would only hurt me from keeping the beat. They all told me to only tap the toe on one foot if I had to. This caused a few problems: I was not used to doing this; my foot tired of the extremely repetitive movement and began to slow down, leading to my correction that often moved it to a tempo far too fast; I could not tap every beat and down beat, but only the beats, and this seemed too restricting. The lack of a steady tempo went so far as to interfere with a few sight-singing auditions.
    A few weeks ago, a friend teased me about how I cannot keep a steady beat. I thus began furiously (well, calmly) to correct the issue. Somehow, now, I can snap my fingers to an accurate tempo, and I can tap the four places on my foot to keep the tempo, but some people find that awfully annoying.

    Thank you for elaborating on the difference between program and absolute music.

    On the topic of dissonance: You're probably correct in saying that certain pitches do naturally clash, but if one was used to hearing such a clash, it would not bother them or sound dissonant to them, would it? I realize that chalk-board scraping is notorious for it's horrible dissonance that can literally hurt people. Most people I know have a strong disliking for the chalk board sound (although that could theoretically be partially attributed to the fact that it is commonly referred to, and so people expect for it to hurt; conditioning). I think next time I can, I will submit them to repeated attack with the chalk board and see if they get used to it. :tounge"

    You also mentioned that dissonance is dependant on the system of temperment. This brings me to another question: My chorus teacher told me that in Bach's time, the A that we now know as 440 was not that number of hertz. He said that it was 416 or somewhere around there. He also told me that some historians try to tune a piano to what was believed to be the correct tuning of his era in order for historical accuracy. I disagree with this, however. I think that were we to hear a song transposed lower, it changes the song; that is, since we're used to hearing the pitches as they are now, if we go for historical accuracy, it will sound different to us, subjectively, as it did to Bach. Which way do you prefer?

    I will definately get that book. But just how complicated is it? Will it be useless to me until a few years have passed and I understand music theory much better? Or, does it have enough content that is easy to understand to make it worthwhile for me to purchase soon?

  14. #14
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    Well, the book is pretty complicated in its language and I think it would help to know something about music theory, but it's almost like the book is a theory of theory. I will admit to you that the book is difficult, mostly in that it makes you think deeply about psychology and also because it's written in very precise English. It's difficult for me to know whether it will be useful to you or not at this stage, but if you find these subjects interesting, it will be of use at some point--and I myself find it to be profound.

    Your remarks about conditioning are interesting, and in a way they relate to a simplified explanation of what Leonard B. Meyer said in the book. To take your chalkboard analogy a step further, you could make sure you always raise your hand before scraping your fingernails on the chalkboard. You'll condition them to expect that scrape after you raise your hand. Then, sometime, just raise your hand and watch how they react!

    Another example which is somewhat different would be to take a class full of jelly bean lovers. Every time you stamp your foot, they each get a jellybean. After they're conditioned to get their beloved treat every time you stamp your foot, then you stamp your foot once and DON'T give them the jellybean. See what happens then! I bet you get lots of emotion!

    Another interesting way to look at it would be that you condition the jellybean lovers to get a jellybean everytime you scrape your fingernail on the chalkboard--an interesting, more complex combination of cringing and expectancy. Perhaps the ugly sound of the chalkboard begins to have a kind of tortured sweetness to it. See what happens when you scrape but don't give the jellybean!

    And this is basically how music creates emotion in listeners. The jellybeans are consonances and the chalkboard scrapes are dissonances. There needs to be a consistency in style in order to create expectancies, but the real beauty and communication comes in how those expectancies are violated. But too many violations and the expectancies change.

    Interesting, huh?

    About pitch and tuning. I am definately in the camp that believes the original pitch and original tuning are important--for the very reasons you cite. Perhaps we're used to A=440 these days, but Bach was not. So exactly as you said, when the pitch is changed the character of the music is different, I believe that hearing all music at A=440 is playing the music in a way the composer might not have intended. I'll answer your question with another question--Which is more important in interpreting a piece of music, what the audience is used to (even if it's not what the composer wanted) or the original intentions of the composer?

    I am one who tunes my own harpsichord by ear, and I never tune it in equal temperament 1) because the composers of harpsichord music never used that temperament except perhaps very late, and 2) harpsichords sound pretty bad in equal temperament because the overtones clash more than they do on a piano, making the whole instrument sound more dissonant than it does in a historic temperament. There are actually more reasons related to the music itself, but these are the two most glaring reasons.

    Even though I have very accurate tempo memory now, I didn't when I was younger. I needed to move a part of my body to keep it--how about very inconspicuously tapping your toe inside your shoe so nobody can see it or hear it? It would be a little less obvious than this:


  15. #15
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster sondance's Avatar
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    Re: Music everywhere?

    I find a great wistful depth to minor keys and variations in minor scales, particularly the melodic which uses a 6th and 7th raised a half step as it ascends and a 6th and 7th which are not raised a halfstep as it descends. It is the only scale that does not use the same exact notes ascending and descending.

    The best danish I've ever had were at a hotel in Thailand. I used to order extras with breakfast and take them to work for break time. But then I have not been to Denmark... yet.

    I have something against pastel colors - could not explain it to you if I tried but when I see a pile of pastel plastic Easter eggs I become very uncomfortable as though I'm almost getting sick to my stomach. Of course my daughter loves pink!

    There was in classical music a time in the Classical period when it was common to use the major seventh as a primary melodic note with its own harmonic significance (no, I do not technically know what I am talking about) - they just loved that note as if they had not heard it before. They would go out of their way to use it, maybe by modulating to another key, using it there and returning the the original key and using it again.

    To me that note, used as they did, is pastel. Maybe someone knows a technical description of that. Anyway melodies that make excessive use of passing tones in a major key border on too much pastel and not enough primary and secondary color for me. Pastels have to be used sparingly or they seem to dilute the vibrancy of the piece.

    Colorful Mage I wonder when you were on the phone and the major key piece was playing, if maybe it made you irritable because you simply did not like it, whereas the minor key piece was pleasing and that relief made you feel better.

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