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Music is auditory cheesecake?

by Manraj singh
Tags: auditory, cheesecake, music
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atyy
#19
Sep14-14, 09:42 PM
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Quote Quote by AlephZero View Post
Some modern composers are experimenting with 53 notes per octave, which isn't a new idea - the earliest known mention of it was a Chinese music theorist writing about 2000 years ago.
Really?
Pythagorean
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Sep14-14, 09:50 PM
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Quote Quote by AlephZero View Post
Personally I don't buy the "simple integer ratios" theory of why western music is what it is. Traditional musical instruments just don't fit the pattern, and they must have been designed and tuned "by ear", not by a mathematical theory.
The simple integer theory is somewhat aligned with physiology. I don't think the theory is a complete description, though. I think it would have been more strongly guided by what people heard in their environment (via Melodic expectation).

But what simple integers do, because of the way our brain handles frequencies (storing an octave as the same note) and because of the beat frequencies in the physics. Integer ratios can help describe harmonic tension between two notes. 1:2, the octave is the least tense, 2:3. the fifth is more tense (but more stable beat-wise than any other interval besides the octave. The most tense notes are closer together. Of course, this doesn't predict who will like what combination of tension and resolution and progression, but one thing you could say about it is that it can be used to construct a standardized music system and that makes it a more stable meme.

But I agree. Ultimately, neither melodic expectation or integer ratio theory say anything about emphasis, timbre, or rhythm and those account for a lot of cultural differences in music.

Quote Quote by zoobyshoe
I think a person raised with Indian music would also be able to hear the 'rightness' of a western major chord when exposed to it. They would 'get' it, whether or not they wanted to listen to it all the time. I don't think they would be confused by anyone saying that C E G go well together.
I don't think that's true for a laymen. Even western laymen can only reliably detect octaves.

I do think an experienced Indian musician would be able to see the harmonic tension (maybe they have their own word for it) increasing with higher integer ratios, and you could explain the musical logic behind using a fifth to reinforce the tonic, but the third would be more difficult. They would have neither in their system though (12 is nicely divisible by 4, 3, and... 22 is only divisible by 11 and 2) and they likely won't see the significance of it with respect to what they call music.
zoobyshoe
#21
Sep15-14, 12:31 AM
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Quote Quote by AlephZero View Post
So the peasants never made any music of their own on the other 6 days of the week?

Actually the aristocrats made plenty of secular music as well, and unlike the peasants they wrote some of it down, so we have at least a vague idea what it sounded like.

Even the monks let their hair down sometimes. The oldest copy of this was in the library of an abbey. The lyrics are mostly about the not-so-monastic subject of sex...
Whether or not the composer of this song thought in terms of chords he was certainly employing them, don't you think? The harmony in this tune is not obscure. To the extent there is no theory behind it's composition, if that's the case, it would seem to be evidence for hardwiring.

Apropos: I recognize these lyrics from Shakespeare, though I can't remember the specific play, and I seem to recall a footnote saying it was a rare instance where he used a pre-existing folk tune. Unusual for him.
zoobyshoe
#22
Sep15-14, 01:19 AM
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Quote Quote by AlephZero View Post
I can't give a direct quote without ransacking my bookshelves, but somewhere I have the autobiography of the 20th century conductor Antal Doráti, who once took a western symphony orchestra on a tour of India (in the 1950s, IIRC) The audiences found most of what they heard totally incomprehensible.
He would have had the same experience had he toured the United States limiting performances to towns with a population less than 10,000. Hell, I could fill San Diego symphony hall with people picked off the street here who would find the normal repertoire of a symphony orchestra incomprehensible. The first time I played a recording of Beethoven piano sonata #8 for a friend in high school (who was raised exclusively on pop), he said it sounded like a crazy person crashing randomly on the keyboard.

The question is, would any of them authentically find a major chord to be illogical, unpleasant, incomprehensible? I don't think so. I think they would all immediately understand why someone would claim those notes go together naturally.

Personally I don't buy the "simple integer ratios" theory of why western music is what it is. Traditional musical instruments just don't fit the pattern, and they must have been designed and tuned "by ear", not by a mathematical theory.
Not sure what you mean. Pre-Bach, instruments were not well-tempered, of course, so the tuning was different, but I'm not sure that's why you don't think they fit the pattern.

FWIW, Indian music divides an octave into 22 notes, not 12.
They have octaves? Hmmm. That's interesting. Where would they get the idea that's a desirable sound?

My question about the 22 notes would be, are there among them notes that approximate the harmonics? Our "half tones" are kind of arbitrary and they're often used as mere "passing tones." To what extent does the Indian musician use parts of the 22 divisions the same way, to "slide" from one tone to a goal tone, and to what extent are peculiar intervals not available to us intrinsic to the kind of sound they want to create? I think I hear both things happening when I listen to Ravi Shankar. The "peculiar" intervals are of interest to me because I sense the extent to which they deviate from a harmonic interval. Does the Indian listener unconsciously hear the same thing? I'm asserting yes.
zoobyshoe
#23
Sep15-14, 02:04 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
I don't think that's true for a laymen. Even western laymen can only reliably detect octaves.

I do think an experienced Indian musician would be able to see the harmonic tension (maybe they have their own word for it) increasing with higher integer ratios, and you could explain the musical logic behind using a fifth to reinforce the tonic, but the third would be more difficult. They would have neither in their system though (12 is nicely divisible by 4, 3, and... 22 is only divisible by 11 and 2) and they likely won't see the significance of it with respect to what they call music.
Someone could certainly do a poll. We could play C E G for random people in various countries and ask if they find they sound well together or if they sound bad together. The point would be to uncover possible hardwiring, so you wouldn't want to ask, "Is this good music?," or anything that would invite comparisons with their own culture's music. You'd want the phrasing of the question to be neutral. I think harmonics are universally 'recognized' just like perspective in a painting or drawing would be universally recognized, even among peoples who don't employ it in their artwork.

edit: I'm not claiming anyone'd be able to name the chord as 1-3-5, if that's what you thought I meant.
Pythagorean
#24
Sep15-14, 07:50 AM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
Someone could certainly do a poll. We could play C E G for random people in various countries and ask if they find they sound well together or if they sound bad together. The point would be to uncover possible hardwiring, so you wouldn't want to ask, "Is this good music?," or anything that would invite comparisons with their own culture's music. You'd want the phrasing of the question to be neutral. I think harmonics are universally 'recognized' just like perspective in a painting or drawing would be universally recognized, even among peoples who don't employ it in their artwork.
They have octaves? Hmmm. That's interesting. Where would they get the idea that's a desirable sound?
The octave is the only thing in music that is consistent across cultures and can be recognized by laymen (and perhaps the fifth). The octave has the same meaning across cultures too: it's the beginning and the end; it marks the cyclic auditory property (the octave is perceived as the 'same note'). The fifth serves no universal purpose. Even if it can be recognized by another culture, it likely doesn't have a musical meaning to them - it would just be a neat sound observation. Higher integer ratios (like the third) won't translate in a meaningful way. If you went and tried to explain it to a musician from another culture, it would be a lot like an acoustic scientist trying to explain some random acoustics facts to you - you might be able to understand the logic of it, but you'd likely walk away having not gained any musical appreciation of it.

Here's an excerpt from an essay written in Nature:

So how do different cultures decide on their musical scales? Cognitive studies on infants and primates offer some evidence that the brain recognizes the octave, and possibly the fifth as 'special'. Indeed, these intervals feature in nearly all musical cultures that use scales. The other notes in a scale seem to be constrained in other ways, too. If there are too many notes per octave, it is hard to tell them apart, and instruments are difficult to tune. There is probably a good reason why most scales have unequal steps, as in the way the Western diatonic scales switch between whole notes and semitones. This asymmetry offers clues about a melody's tonal centre, letting a listener quickly figure out 'where the tune is' in relation to the tonic note.

It is also not obvious how much of the relative consonance and dissonance of different intervals, if any, is a 'natural' phenomenon. Certainly, notions of consonance in Western music have been fluid, defined largely by convention. But there does seem to be a genuine sensory dissonance in some combinations of tones, caused by the unpleasant sensation of beating between two tones that differ only slightly in frequency. Hermann von Helmholtz first did the maths in the nineteenth century and showed that sensory dissonance dips at the intervals corresponding to the Western scale, suggesting that physics does play a part in determining this scale. Yet there is considerable flexibility in the range of tunings that our ears will tolerate. It may even be that acclimatization to a convention can completely override these acoustic facts.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...l/453160a.html
zoobyshoe
#25
Sep15-14, 06:04 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
The octave is the only thing in music that is consistent across cultures and can be recognized by laymen (and perhaps the fifth). The octave has the same meaning across cultures too: it's the beginning and the end; it marks the cyclic auditory property (the octave is perceived as the 'same note'). The fifth serves no universal purpose. Even if it can be recognized by another culture, it likely doesn't have a musical meaning to them - it would just be a neat sound observation. Higher integer ratios (like the third) won't translate in a meaningful way. If you went and tried to explain it to a musician from another culture, it would be a lot like an acoustic scientist trying to explain some random acoustics facts to you - you might be able to understand the logic of it, but you'd likely walk away having not gained any musical appreciation of it.
Here's what I think: I think if they "recognize" the octave; two notes an octave apart, played simultaneously, then they would judge the addition of the fifth and third to have enriched the octave, to have fleshed it out, to be supporting its "special" properties. This is something we could only test by taking a large poll over many cultures.

If we found people who didn't like the sound, it would be important to hear their objections to it. If they object to it on the basis it's too sweet, too static, too boring, we would know they do experience it as "enriched," but that they have a cultural/artistic bias against that "nice" kind of sound. On the other hand if they described it as sour, bitter, painful, irritating, and such, we would know it's not a matter of taste: the third and fifth authentically confuse their experience of the octave. (However, even in the latter case, care has to be taken to make sure the nature of their objection is clear. "Terrible!, Horrible! Unlistenable!," and equally vague objections might only indicate the experience of a surfeit of sweetness, niceness, regularity. The look on someone's face if you put half a cup of sugar in their coffee might be indistinguishable from the look on their face if you put half a cup of bitter dish soap in it.)

The goal is to explain why that kind of bird chattering bothered the guy back there, earlier in the thread, why it seems so obviously unmusical. Why do some sequences of tones sound like the opposite of 'cheescake for the ears?' Are there, in fact, cultures where the addition of the fifth and third would turn an octave into that "opposite of cheescake?' Can people really become so steeped in non-harmonic music that harmony is experienced as bitter?

Here's an excerpt from an essay written in Nature:
The point that "acclimatization to a convention can completely override these acoustic facts," is non-controversial, and I don't dispute it. I would have you note, though, that it assumes a "standard" ("these acoustic facts") that is being over-ridden. Every culture has an accumulated system of distortion algorithms that are deviations from a standard which that culture may only unconsciously sense and never have defined. If you look at the prehistoric cave paintings of Europe there doesn't seem to be any direct exploration of symmetry or geometry at all, but the level of artistic sophistication is so high they can't possibly have not unconsciously assumed symmetry and geometry. It's as if they jumped right over all that elementary stuff right to sophistication. And it doesn't mean they would be baffled or repelled by a circle or rectangle. A major chord might just be too trivial for many cultures to bother with.


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