Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by endgame, Sep 16, 2017.


  1. DOP

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  1. gregorio
    Shakespearian sonnets are not normal, everyday speech, even 400+ years ago it wasn't, let alone today. And, even though many people may not make much effort to organise their words, they obviously make some effort, otherwise, If their words were completely random and disorganised they would pretty much always be impossible to comprehend. All speech is sound and it's sound which must, to some significant degree, be organised and therefore by the definition you have used, all speech must be music.

    A Ferrari going past is certainly worth rolling down the window for but what about say a Ford Fiesta? All car piston engines have two or more cylinders/pistons which are 4 stroke and which must fire in a specific order and pattern, the sound is therefore highly organised but except for the occasional exotic car, car engine sound is described/classified as noise, not music, even though it fulfils the definition (quoted by bigshot) of music and fails to fulfil the definition of noise! And of course, this is just one example, there are many more if you think about it. It's really not a good definition of music or noise..

  2. pinnahertz
    A continuous 1kHz sinewave tone is highly organized, but is probably not music as it has no change, no rhythm, and is actually a slightly flat C6.
  3. bigshot
    Continuous isn't organized. (And neither is Phillip Glass.)
  4. pinnahertz
    Isn't "predictable" and "repetitive" part of being organized? Wouldn't m"Unpredictable" and " Random" all be qualities of disorganization?
  5. bigshot
    You need to hang out more with artists and musicians!
  6. castleofargh Contributor
    I would like to remind everybody that this topic is about 2 formats, and to some extent the possibilities of audible differences caused by those formats or the gears used to play them back. and not about reenacting the third Fast&Furious movie "topic drift". :wink:
  7. Don Hills
    ... so how did you like the movie? :wink:
    castleofargh likes this.
  8. bigshot
    I think the original question was answered long ago. Now we're improvising!
  9. Strangelove424
    It seems the interest in the original question has become lukewarm and indifferent. Anyhow, just responding...

    I can't think of a better example than Ferrari, but there are many factors involved that help the Ferrari, including larger engine displacement to begin with, more cylinders, firing order as you mention, a budget set aside for developing the exhaust note to perfection, and Italian taste. I would agree that engine/exhaust notes, though sometimes nice, are strictly neither music nor noise. I think the Porsche symphony of cars video was a good illustration of this. On their own, each car produces a nice note, but not necessarily music. Only when they are together, dynamic and fluctuating between the notes in structure does it begin to really approximate music I think. Interesting to think about. I always found philosophy of music fascinating. I appreciated Plato's view of it because he thought music got closer to the essence of art than any other archetypal form. A friend who is a musician and myself used to discuss an idea we called "musical correctness". We wondered in how it almost seems that in a good song, you can feel where the notes will take you next. Like the music has its own life to it, and the job of the artist/producer was to unveil what was already there, not to construct it. The way a sculptor says that the sculpture is already in the rock. That was musical correctness to us, and we identified bands like the Beatles or jazz greats like Coltrane as having large doses of this correctness. Not sure if we were really ever on to anything from a scientific standpoint, but it was fascinating to think about, and it actually served us well in the way we handled and looked at music.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  10. gregorio
    Sorry to castleofargh for continuing off-topic but on the other hand, a bit better understanding of music and perception would go a long to dispelling many of the audiophile myths upon which most of the new audio formats depend.

    To be honest, not really. Chord progressions exist to create the expectation of what will come next. The musical scale itself is divided into 8 tones, the 1st tone is called the Tonic, as is the 8th note which is one octave above the 1st tone and the 7th tone is called the "Leading Note". It's called that because in most circumstances it "leads to" (creates the strong expectation that the next note will be) the Tonic. In fact, the whole history and basis of western harmony is built upon the relationships between notes, the expectations implied, the tension caused by juxtaposing notes more distantly related and the resolution of that tension. None of this knowledge is even remotely new, the strongest of these expectations, the leading note, was known and used for this purpose by composers at least a millennium ago and all the basic relationships, tensions and expectations not just of the notes but of chord progressions were well known and established by about 500 years ago! IMHO, the "correctness" you mention was best epitomised by Mozart. He achieved a sort of perfection with the structure of his pieces, the chord progressions, melodies and modulations (changes of key). However for me, this means that I can't listen to Mozart any more for pleasure. With my experience of music composition/theory, that perfection (correctness) makes his music too predictable for my taste, even on those rare occasions when I hear a piece of Mozart I haven't heard before. The history of western music too a turn after Mozart and for the next century or so it can be analysed in terms of the unpredictable, of surprises and shocks, of the prolonging of the tension (withholding of the expected resolution) and the gradual blurring of the rules of harmonic structure established centuries earlier until the early 20th Century when Arnold Schoenberg developed what became known as atonalism, effectively the deliberate "throwing out" of every single one of those rules of harmony and any semblance of knowing/feeling "where the notes will take you next". Interestingly, atonalism (also called serialism) as a musical movement was, in a sense, a complete failure. Even though there is no musical key in serial music, no tonic, no leading notes, no modulations, no resolution and no harmonic or melodic expectations, the western brain is so habituated to the rules of harmony that it simply makes up musical keys and relationships which do not exist. In other words, perfectly atonal music could not be perceived as perfectly atonal and the movement died or rather, was subsumed into later movements (polytonalism, amongst others). True atonalism was only really achieved by not only throwing out all the rules of harmony but also all the rules of what even constituted music (as opposed to noise), which ultimately is what led to John Cage's infamous "4:33" and even that wasn't perfectly successful, as significant numbers of the audience reported hearing the piano being played!

    For us in the business, perception and the manipulation of it really is old hat, in fact one of the very oldest hats in continuous existence. And, even cutting edge ideas of what music is, what it can do and how we perceive it, have been around since well before most of us were born!

    Don Hills and castleofargh like this.
  11. Strangelove424
    Interesting history of ideas. I’m aware of chords, but I have always been curious why they elicit certain responses psychologically. Mozart was technically brilliant, but I find him a bit uptight and ornate personally. On the other hand, I can listen to his music and enjoy it, which is not the case with atonal music I’ve heard like Shoenberg. It’s almost seems like the atonal composers are working purely theoretically, coming from a mathematical perspective, not an emotional one, or even experiential one.

    I had to Google “John Cage’s 4:33” but this is the musical equivalent of an empty modern art exhibit with a million dollar price tag. A joke? A commentary? Sure, but not music. But I suppose in this day of age, where any kind of post-modern nonsense flies, I have to qualify that with “in my own humble opinion.”
  12. gregorio
    1. With few exceptions, a chord on it's own has no meaning and doesn't really elicit anything, it's the relationship between a sequence of chords. In some cases only two chords are enough but usually three are needed and when we string a lot of them together we can elicit more complex responses and changes of responses. As mentioned, these responses have been well known for many centuries but why they elicit these responses is not really known, beyond some basics such as the notes perceived to be most closely related are those which have the simplest mathematical relationship. Interestingly, one of the exceptions I mentioned is a chord which is today called the tri-tone chord but was at one time known as the "Devil's Chord". It's use by a composer was for a few centuries punishable by excommunication which at the time was effectively a death sentence! I mention this to illustrate that even centuries ago not only was the perception/response to chords well known by composers but was well known by the establishment. Composers' ability to use musical tools/rules to manipulate responses and elicit emotion was taken extremely seriously and treated effectively as a potential treat to national security, and this continued well into the 20th century.

    2. That's an opinion taken out of context. In fact the opposite is true; compared to most of the music composed before him (throughout the high baroque), Mozart's music is deliberately very much less ornate. "Ornamentation" has a specific meaning in music though, so perhaps we're getting our descriptions/terms confused? Also, there is considerable evidence that Mozart was quite the opposite of "uptight", more of a rebel, who simply didn't care about some of the conventions of music or of behaviour and even some of the laws of his day. To really appreciate music beyond the very superficial, we have to look at it in context of it's time and culture.

    3. Again, in a sense you have this backwards. As mentioned above, there is a mathematical perspective to conventional notes and harmony. This was discovered by Pythagoras and indeed the tuning system used up until the beginning of the 18th century is still called Pythagorean tuning. You are making a judgement and distinction which does not exist, or rather which only exists in today's popular culture. In reality there isn't a distinction between a mathematical perspective and an emotional one and many/most composers deliberately applied mathematical equations/concepts to their compositional process and the one's who didn't were still applying maths, just unwittingly. Certainly, Schoenberg introduced unbreakable rules for "serial" composition but those rules existed simply to ensure that the rules of traditional harmony could not inadvertently creep into a composition. In a sense then, Schoenberg was doing the exact opposite of what you suggest, he was trying to eliminate the "mathematical perspective" which exists in traditional harmony/music! Also, there is absolutely an emotional basis for Schoenberg's works, arguably more so than with traditional compositional techniques! To appreciate this though, we have to again look at it in context, the context of the "Expressionism" artistic movement and the eschewing of traditional ideas of fine art, "correctness" and beauty in favour of pure subjectivism, unencumbered/unrestricted by traditional rules. Additionally, an idealised depiction of love, family feuds, idyllic pastoral scenes and innocuous still lifes was no longer enough for many artists by the turn of the C20th, they wanted to "talk" about the personal reality of living and the traditional language/rules of harmony were entirely inadequate for communicating these concepts, and so they had to go! This isn't just a musical movement but a movement across all the arts; poetry, literature, dance, painting, sculpture, etc., resulting in the artistic movement called "Modernism".

    4. Again, you are ignoring context! Art was no longer restricted to the traditional and superficial concept of being pleasing, pretty or "correct", with Modernism the definition of art changed to a much wider definition of; a subjective means of communication by an artist. Wider because it covers the communication of ANYTHING, not just traditional areas of god, love, idyllic landscapes, etc. By the time of John Cage, Modernism and this wider definition of art was already old hat. Unwittingly then, you have effectively contradicted yourself! For example: Why have you asked the questions: "Is it a joke? Is it a commentary?"? Why have you made the statement "sure, but not music" and what thought process did you go through to arrive at that conclusion? I'm NOT questioning your conclusions/judgement, I'm trying to get you to realise that: There was a cause for your questions, that something caused (elicited) you to think about your opinion of what music is (and is not) and that act of thinking about it also elicited a further thought process of qualifying your statements/questions with "in my own humble opinion". These considerations, definitions and judgements, as well as your resultant feeling of at least annoyance (if not anger) required quite a complex set of thought processes. So what is this something which has elicited all of this? The answer is John Cage's "4:33"!!! This is a way more complex and advanced set of elicited responses than the (relatively) extremely simplistic response of "pleasantness" or "correctness" which composers could achieve many centuries ago. And, just in case you were wondering, no, there's no lucky happen-stance here, eliciting thoughts and heated discussion of whether it's a joke and of the very nature of what is music was not a by-product of 4:33, it was the whole point of why he composed it in the first place! John Cage knew exactly what he was doing, he knew exactly what response/s and thought processes he was eliciting. In terms of the modern meaning and purpose of "art", 4:33 is therefore a masterpiece, one of the most important pieces of the C20th and your comments/questions confirm that at the very least, it succeeded in fulfilling it's complex artistic communication goals! Hence why I said that you've effectively contradicted yourself. Indeed, of all his works, Cage himself felt that 4:33 was his crowning achievement. It's rather a shame though that many people completely fail to recognise what's going on, they go no further than dismissing it based on 19th century notions of "niceness" or "correctness". The next time you hear a piece of music (or see a piece of art) and feel cheated, disappointed, angry or even disgusted, don't just dismiss it as not art, give yourself a moment, step back and ask yourself if feeling cheated, angry, disappointed or disgusted isn't in fact exactly the intended response and if so: 1. Why, what is the artist trying to communicate that requires you to feel those things? and 2. The artist deserves at least a little appreciation for manipulating/eliciting your emotional response. That's the whole point of modern/post modern art, good modern art is very personal and very interactive, it's all about your personal perception and playing with your expectations ... all of your expectations, not just the expectation of exceeding a certain level of "correctness"!

  13. bigshot
    Music basically is math. It's values and patterns. If you are familiar with the sound of a particular kind of application of values and patterns, it sounds "right" to you. If you aren't familiar with those values and patterns, it sounds "wrong". It's like learning a language. At first it sounds like a bunch of random sounds, but as you learn the syntax and vocabulary, the meaning starts to come through. A single note or chord doesn't have a specific meaning any more than a letter or a word out of context does, but a combination of notes and chords can express a meaning.

    Humans naturally create things with emotions being expressed through them. It would be hard not to, because humans are naturally emotional beings. But sometimes artists can be disingenuous enough to override their emotions just to make some sort of intellectual point. I understand what Andy Warhol and John Cage were trying to do, but I don't think it's fully realized art because it ignores one of the fundamental elements of what art is... personal expression. I'm not big on art of omission.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
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