Monday, February 26, 2007

The Sound of Music - Part 1

The Music of the Ainur

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Illuvatar: and he made the first Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to the, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sang only each alone, or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended only that part of the mind of Iluvatar from which he came, and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony.

And it came to pass that Illuvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendor of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Illuvatar and were silent.

Then Illuvatar said to them: “Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now make ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.”

Then the voice of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Illuvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the flowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void. Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Illuvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Illuvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Illuvatar shall be played aright, and take being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Illuvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well-pleased

The fact that the "world is sound" isn't just a widespread myth or legend. It is confirmed in the established findings of fundamental harmonic research and many other disciplines. We have found the world's tonal character confirmed in DNA genes and electron spins, in the solar wind and geomagnetism, in the weather and in the "song" of flowers and plants. Ever since the time of his incarnation, man has progressively lost his original spiritual perception. This has worked to divorce music and language from the natural harmonies and rhythms, which were and remain the primordial condition of all things.
-Jocelyn Godwin

March 13, 1989. This night on a cattle ranch in South Dakota, L. Hasselstrom was dazzled by waves of blue auroral light sweeping up from the horizon and meeting at a focal point nearly directly overhead. As the sky blazed, with the blue waves and crimson streamers, she heard:

"...a distant tinkling, like bells. It came again, louder, just as a curtain of green light swept the entire width of the sky from north to south. Each time green flushed the sky, the bells rang, the sound softening to a gentle tinkle as the light died."
(Hasselstrom, Linda; "Night of the Bells," Readers Digest, p. 185, April 1992. Cr. J.B. Dotson.)

Comment. Note the correlation of the sound with the green portion of the aurora.

July 29, 1990. On Coll Island in Centennial Lake, 120 kilometers west of Ottawa. Watching an auroral display, L.R. Morris heard the sound of the aurora:

"It was a faint but distant windlike sound; which, by process of elimination, could not be accounted for by any phenomenon other than the aurora."
(Anonymous; "Auroral Sounds," Sky & Telescope, 83:105, January 1992. Cr. D. Snowhook.)

Comment. Auroras have been heard for centuries, but they "shouldn't be." Current theory restricts auroral activity to altitudes above 50 miles, where a fair vacuum prevails, and sound generation and propagation are impossible. One explanation for auroral sounds is that intense electromagnetic waves created by the auroras sweep through thee observer's brain and are rendered as sound (electrophonic sound). But perhaps some auroras reach down lower into the atmosphere than theory allows.

The Sun emits a constant stream of charged particles (for convenience, the "Solar wind"). As you probably know, any moving electric charge creates a magnetic field, and vice versa. This Solar wind, in turn, interferes with various earthbound fields to cause such astounding phenomena as the aurora borealis, or 'northern lights' (it also causes comet trails, which is why the trails always point away from the sun, even when the comet is on its way back 'out' of the solar system).
The planet that hums
by Robert Coontz from _New Scientist_ September 11, 1999
THEY LIVE UNDERGROUND. They are everywhere but seem to come from nowhere. They barely exist, but never leave. If sounds have shadows, they are the shadows of a sound.

Researchers call them the background free oscillations of the Earth. But last year, when a pair of Japanese geophysicists named Naoki Suda and Kazunari Nawa dredged them out of a mass of seismic data, some people called them a hum. That's a comforting thought: a mystic Om, perhaps, or just the warm, cosy sound of a planet going about its business.

Don't try to tune in, you'll never hear it, though. The Hum is far too low for human ears to detect and is so feeble that a single 5.5-magnitude earthquake can blot it out. That's just as well because, if you could hear it, the Hum might drive you mad.

"It's a very messy noise," says Hiroo Kanamori, a geophysicist at the California Institute of Technology. Messy because the Hum is not one note but fifty, crammed into less than two octaves. Their pitches range between 2 and 7 millihertz. Musically speaking, that's about sixteen octaves below middle C. Speeded up and amplified so you could hear it, the result would be a Stockhausenesque cacophony. Imagine sitting down at a piano and slamming down every note within reach, while somebody next to you does the same thing on a piano a quarter tone out of tune. "It would be like banging a trash can," Kanamori says. Endlessly.

The individual notes are pleasant enough. They are the natural tones that the Earth makes whenever something--an earthquake, a meteor, a nuclear test--sets it ringing. They are known as "free" oscillations because, like the clang of a bell or the twang of a guitar string, they keep on sounding for a while after their source is gone.
Music and the Earth Spirit

This is a book about music and sound; a multi-cultural exploration from pre-history to the present day, revealing how man has used these forms to commune with nature and the environment. Underlying this communion is an acknowledgement of the spiritual powers of Mother Earth herself. The author shows how music and sound can be used to enable a "tuning" into this spirit. The book includes sound workings enabling the reader to sing his/her own Earth spirit song. ISBN 186163 1170
Price: £9.95

The mystery of chanting.

Om also Aum (om) noun
Hinduism & Buddhism.
The supreme and most sacred syllable, consisting in Sanskrit of the three sounds (a), (u), and (m), representing various fundamental triads and believed to be the spoken essence of the universe. It is uttered as a mantra and in affirmations and blessings.
[Sanskrit om.]

The imperishable sound,
is the seed of all that exists.
The past, present, the future,
all are but the unfolding of OM.
And whatever transcends the three realms of time,
that indeed is the flowering of OM.
This pure self and OM are as one,
and the different quarters of the self
correspond to OM and its sounds.

--Mandukya Upanishad

The Masonic Secret Word:

Not to be confused with the password. The Word (always capitalized) is so secret that initiates are taught it one letter at a time. First they learn A, then O, then M, and finally I. The Word is IAOM.

You never get a straight story as to what it means. As best as anyone can figure, it is the ineffable name of god, or some approximation thereof. The Word (or Name) is a tongue-twister. It takes some practice to get it right. The following pronunciation guide is from _Masonry and Its Symbols in the Light of Thinking and Destiny_ by Harold Waldwin Percival:

The Name is pronounced as follows: It is started by opening the lips with an "ee" sound graduating into a broad "a" as the mouth opens wider with lips forming an oval shape and then graduating the sound to "o" as the lips form a circle, and again modulating to an "m" sound as the lips close to a point. This point resolves itself to a point within the head. Expressed phonetically the Name is "EE-Ah-Oh-Mmm" and is pronounced with one continuous out-breathing with a slight nasal tone in the manner described above. it can be correctly and properly expressed with its full power only by one who has brought his physical body to a state of perfection...

from: _Big Secrets_ by William Poundstone

Dealing wirh sound means dealing with listening. Experiments have shown that no other sense can register impulses as minimal as those that the ear can register. The amplitude of the vibrations of our eardrum lies in the area of 10 [to the] -9 [power]. That is smaller than the wave length of visible light and even less than the diameter of a hydrogen atom. The smallest stimuli our ear can just barely perceive, on the other hand, have to be amplified by a factor of 10 [to the] 6 [power] in order to reach the level of the highest volume perceivable, by a factor in the million range. Were we to amplify the smallest impulses our eyes can register by the same factor, we would be blinded instantly. Hans Kayser points out the astonishing fact that our ears are the only human sense organ that is able to perceive numerical quantity as well as numerical value.

"The ears not only recognize exact numerical proportions, that is, numerical quantities like 1:2 as an octave, 2:3 as a fifth, 3:4 as a fourth, etc.; at the same time they hear ... values that they perceive as C, G, F, and so on. So the tone value fuses two elements into one unit: the element of sensing--the tone, that is--with the element of thinking, of numerical value. And this happens in such an exact manner that the value of the tone can be checked precisely against the value of the number, and the value of the number against the value of the tone.

"Among all our human senses we only have one organ that is capable of this fusion--the ears. In this way sensation controls deliberation--or to put it differently: Our soul is thus capable of deciding on the correctness or incorrectness of an intellectual quantity. Conversely, the phenomenon of tone value also gives us the opportunity to develop proportions and numerical values in the realm of the psyche."

The German poet Goethe aptly described architecture as "frozen music". Spatial periodicities are the analogs of "rhythm" in music. As we will see, spatial periodicities can be more than analogues of musical sounds. They can introduce audible, tonal elements of their own!

When periodic design elements are composed of sound reflective materials (such as stone), and if certain other conditions are met, odd echoes or other strange acoustical effects may result.

Go here to read of recent discoveries scientists have made regarding ancient sites that seem to have been designed "as music".

Mayan temples
listen to the Rosslyn Motet

Stockhausen, Karlheinz
Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1928- ), German composer, who was one of the most prominent avant-garde composers of the mid-20th century. He was born in Cologne. In 1953 Stockhausen helped found Cologne's important Electronic Music Studio. His works include the wind quintet Time Measure (1956); Gruppen (1955-1957), written for three orchestras; Zyklus (1961), for solo percussionist; the multimedia work Beethausen, opus 1970, von Stockhoven (1970); and the chamber works Ylem (1973) and Tierkreis (1977). Youthsong (1956) projects a singing boy's voice, mingled with electronic sounds, through five spatially separated loudspeakers.

In the book _Stockhausen: towards A Cosmic Music_, the German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen describes the human body as an indredibly complicated vibrating instrument of perception. The composer, who travels the vast spaceways that link electronic music and mysticism, argues that the "esoteric" is simply that which cannot yet be explained by science.

"Every genuine composition makes conscious something of this esoteric realm. This process is endless, and there will be more and more esotericism as knowledge and science become increasingly capable of revealing human beings as perceivers." And transmitters as well. Spiritual or not, we are beings of vibrating sensation, floating in an infinite sea of pulsing waves that roll and resonate between the synapse and the farthest star.

Paul McCartney listened to composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, a messiah in the world of electronic music but to the mid-60s pop star an unknown commodity. It was the German's 1956 'plick-plop' piece t - _Gesang der Junglinge_, a boy's voice construed and converted with a panoply of electronic sounds, that inspired McCartney to utilize his Brennell tape recorders for less conventional purposes, as Stockhausen himself had done the previous decade. McCartney, an advocate of all things melodious, had undergone a reformation of thought, no longer subscribing to the ingrained belief that rhythm, time signatures and even melody were essential.

The Beatles' musical language expanded incredibly in their consummate masterpiece, _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_ (Parlophone: June 1, 1967). The album was a potpourri of rock 'n' roll, Western classical music, Indian classical music, early 20th-century vaudeville music, and modern electronic music employing compositional techniques such as indeterminacy and playing tapes backwards, as pioneered by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen whose photo appeared on the album cover along with a host of other celebrities.

cover art depicts Stockhausen, top row, fifth person from left.
Beatles music to start entering the public domain in "2012"!

Should music be free?

I always tell people, music is a form of communication that predates language, straight up. It's been around forever. And it wasn't until about the turn of the century that they figured out a way to bottle the water, you know? Before that, music was a river. It was a river and everyone could sip from that river. But then someone came along with the idea that, "Hey, we can bottle this, and we can sell this water." And people were like, "Well, that's kind of cool, that's convenient, because I can take it home with me, or I can put it in my pocket and take it on a walk and have something to drink," which is fine. That's a reasonable industry, to go ahead and put some water in a bottle and sell it. That's fine. But the problem is when they start trying to discourage people from going to the river, or trying to close the river, or even worse, poison the river -- then it's not all right. Then it stinks.

And, for me, music is not an industry. Music is not even entertainment. Music is not just a soundtrack. Music is part of life. It is a straight-up form of communication, and it resides in every person in the world. And that's where I'm coming from in terms of music. That's exactly the world that I want to be… that's what I want to lean toward. It's sort of like clothes -- you live in a cold climate in a country that has these kinds of laws that you have to wear pants all the time, but basically, they're fairly artificial, they're a bizarre thing when you think about it. If you think about it, the whole deal is weird -- why does everyone have to wear clothes all the time? But that's the context in which I exist. I can appreciate [it] and I can go on with that. At the same time, when it comes to music, there are certain elements of what we do with music that are just distasteful. If people see music as just a living, they're just screwed. They're just gonna make something that's not music, in my opinion. But there are plenty of other people out there who are making incredible music who are not even thinking about money, and that's really where you're gonna find all the new ideas. It's always in the free space.

- Ian MacKaye - interview with Mike Watt of Minutemen/fIREHOSE

Some musical samples to tickle your ears
Listen to your DNA (it's beautiful)
All you need is love the beatles
Harmonic convergence sound samples

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