Sound (The New Acoustics)

       Everything in the universe is in motion; physics is the science that seeks to describe the exact nature and behavior of that motion. Recently, a holistic approach in particle physics has lead to a new paradigm in that science,
Fritjof Capra being one of the leading exponents of this approach. However, the visualization and application of this sub-atomic sized model of the universe is difficult for most people to grapple with. Since the entire spectrum of vibration from matter to energy can be understood as waveforms, an inter-disciplinary approach emerges which broadens the scope and meaning of another branch of physics: acoustics. This is a very rich way to visualize physical relationships in general and a powerful new model of acoustics in particular.

      Nature works with energy in discrete packages which gives rise to the perception that the universe is made up of fixed points and objects that are in a steady state, that is to say, they are physically real or quantifiable. In seeming contradiction, these discrete packets are made up of probability waves of energy that merely have a tendency to exist.

      The fixed point in sound is the note—but analysis in acoustics yields a view of the higher order makeup of sound. Beyond whether a note is a C or C#, there is a universe of information to know about it. One can determine not only pitch (frequency), but loudness (amplitude), length (duration), quality (timbre), modulation (vibrato and tremolo), and note shape (behavior over time). In musical terms these things are all given consideration to varying degrees but investigation in acoustics shows levels of complexity in sound that go far beyond our normal understanding.

      The way things vibrate in our universe determines almost every process in our lives. Pythagoras figured out the geometric relationship between the harmonics of vibration. Every sound comprises the main bit that you notice—the note, and the rest of it—the harmonics. These harmonics vibrate in a specific way called the harmonic series and are analogous to energy levels or states. The relationship between harmonics can be expressed as a ratio. For example, in vibrations per second (Hertz) the relationship of A440 to an octave below A220 is 2:1. This is called the law of octaves.

      The proportions within the harmonic series give rise to the basic musical forms. Musical scales are based on these relationships and the intervallic and harmonic rules of music are structurally related to the harmonic series—so many of the same relationships that allow for stable coherent waveforms underlie the structure of music theory. These relationships are also evident in the structure and function of the human body. When the body becomes ill there is a less harmonic vibration. There is a correspondence between pathological changes in the human body and the vibratory rates of the energetic systems.

       The language of music and the science of acoustics therefore provide a powerful system means for understanding and working with energetic systems in general. The periodic table, Balmer hydrogen series, color rainbow, planetary movement, chakra systems, and more follow the same rules as our musical scales and have been used to illustrate the similarity or universality of the organizing principle found in music and acoustics. The concepts of dissonance and consonance takes on a new usefulness in light of the foregoing. And the understanding of acoustics with respect to physics and metaphysics leads us back to a deeper awareness of music and all it entails. It is here, balanced between art and science, where emotion, meaning and technique come together in music.