Music and Sound  (The Domain of Artistic Expression)

      Musicians can easily differentiate between one sound and another using their ears. Generally, harmonic analysis has been the most important tool to show the exact differences between sounds, for example, the difference between a trumpet and a flute. A waveform is often shown as a kind of bar chart graphic for individual harmonic amplitudes. One could have two completely different sounds average out to the same waveform when depicted in this manner. This highlights the shortcomings of the most common type of harmonic analysis. Oo-ah and ah-oo would average out to the same waveform. Yet with our ears we easily distinguish them. It is possible to create many different "cross sections" or perspectives on the information. Examining the different ways of graphing data it becomes obvious that the more dimensions in which the data is graphed, the more complete the description of the sound is. The two dimensional model, amplitude against harmonic number is inadequate because thousands of waves are averaged together. It's as if you took a still photo of a horse running full speed as a way of explaining how running works. Even in the more complete model shown by FFT (three dimensional graph) there are subtleties that are not adequately shown such as the information that we hear as emotional content. So the note and its’ first dozen harmonics are the architecture around which the higher order information is built.

      The reason that subatomic physics has become so important to the study of matter is that it shows how there are no fixed points in nature. Everything is a vibration that has a considerably larger footprint in space and time. This implies that the subtle behavior of the vibration can be altered by intent. Now that is a kind of far out notion for some, that thought can potentially affect matter. Well, with music, it is already a given that there is a powerful relationship between thought and vibration. We all know from experience the way music can affect consciousness. It can produce real changes in the mental and emotional state of the listener.

      FFT does have benefits. It is a good way to visualize the complex behaviors of pitch, amplitude, harmonic phase and enharmonic content. This is a way to see that many things we think of as fixed points are in constant flux. Pitch is in constant motion, vibrato varies in speed and loudness and it's modulation of the already fluctuating pitch. The stream of audible harmonics are shifting as well; some in sympathy with the fundamental and others developing sub behaviors that behave independently of the lower partials. Some instruments have the ability to create these more complex sound patterns while others tend to vibrate more homogeneously. The sound post in the violin was moved off center to allow the two halves of the violin to vibrate independently and when played to that end you can hear the sound change from an ordinary tone to a singing tone. This is a good example of this behavior and why it's worth understanding it. With the flute, the mouth and nasal cavities create the second resonance chamber to create the modulating effect. The flute itself will have varying susceptibility to subtle modes of vibration as well.

      Understanding all this is useful to a musician because visualization is such an important component of the way we think and the way we create. If you can visualize the structure of sound you can have greater control over it's subtleties.

      Sound extends beyond the audible and supersonic harmonics up to visible light and beyond. Mind you these are relatively low amplitudes, but it is there, which would mean that sound affects and is affected by all the higher waves. Therefore, a sound would be different in the dark than in the light to some degree. Sometimes this would be manifest on the same level as "if a fly lands on a steel girder, it has to bend to some degree." Sometimes the effect of the physical environment on music or vice-versa is profound. When these combine meaningfully it can create a sense of space, or sound can be directed to a specific place or person, (this song's for you) or focused on a particular part of the body for immediate physical results.

      Position changes the informational content we perceive. Walking along a river with a light across the water from you, it will make a path between the two points. This path will follow you as you walk, but the person walking far behind you will perceive the path leading to them and they are incapable of perceiving the path leading to you. This phenomenon is well known and also has a good scientific explanation. It has to do with the angle of deflection of the light and the fact that light doesn't make left and right turns very easily. There is an analogous situation with regard to vibration and music. In a concert hall what you hear is influenced by whether you are seated in the balcony or front row orchestra.

      It is the ability to connect with many points of view that is the domain of artistic expression.

      Point of view in musical terms provides the basis of modal harmony, the attraction of one chord to another is changed depending on position. G7 doesn't always want to go to C. In another mode there exists a completely separate set of rules for attraction. Different harmonic schemes arise out of the same underlying physical principles of vibration. These intersect with the human mind to form meaning. This is the genesis of the consonance and dissonance of tension and release that forms the basis of harmony. It also allows for a set of melodic rules that compete for the information bandwidth sometimes at odds with the local harmonic rules. This makes it possible to put a bassline with a strong melodic component under a set of chords with different harmonic requirements.

      Some of the rules of meaning seem to be hardwired in the brain. This forms a dialectic between the organization of the universe and the organization that the brain is imposing on the universe. There are systems of meaning in music that allow the information wave to reach up 40 octaves to the frequency of visible light. The information wave travels both directions in time which allows music to operate independently of the "arrow of time." For example, we hear a wrong note in music followed by a musical phrase that justifies the offending tone and the mind goes back in time to fix the wrong note so that the whole makes sense. Any change in the way the data is sorted by the brain changes the harmonic spectrum of the perceived sound.

      Once the standard mode of listening is expanded it is possible to access the entire spectrum of sound for different layers of meaning. Our ability to visualize sound in new ways leads to other modes of communication. So the player harnesses vibration, time, and position to create a musical moment and that is the new music—sound.