The System of Music

Music is quite remarkable in its ability to portray the world we live in. Not only in terms of TIME and SPACE but also in Human Emotional terms.
From the playful to the sombre, from joy to melancholy, celebrational to mournful and all the variety between these poles.

Just as we find in the theatre the symbols of Comedy and Tragedy, we have in music the statements of Major and Minor.
As all of life unfolds between these two opposite ends, and upon the vast stage that conjoins them, we will have to admit that each is contained in, and owes its existence to the other.
They are mutually interdependent.
Just as our awareness of happiness is contrasted as we emerge from a state of sadness.

However, music, or to be more precise, the nature of sound has a secret to share. A beautiful secret, a message of great hope for Humanity.
To find this secret, which is embedded in the nature of sound itself (and we can reverse that quite sensibly and say the sound of nature) we must look towards the phenomenon of Harmonics, or partials, as they are sometimes known.

A freely vibrating object, such as a piano string when struck by the felt hammer, will produce what we hear as the main note. This we call the fundamental, and it is this pitch that we pay most attention to. This is produced by the whole length of the string cycling backwards and forwards at whatever frequency (determined by length, thickness and tension.)
For example, the strings of the note "A" above middle C, are tuned to 440Hz. In other words, the whole string completes 440 cycles of motion each second. (Hz is an abbreviation for Hertz after the German scientist Heinrich Hertz and is used as a measurement of cycles per second.)
A cycle of motion is from the starting point, at rest, through an excursion to the positive, back through the starting point, through an excursion to the negative and back to the start point. (Positive and negative are theoretical labels only for the point of illustration, as both states are co-dependent.)

If this were the only frequency created however, the sound would be very unfamiliar to us, and very unlike what we expect a piano to sound like. For this is not the only frequency produced by the vibrating string.

Divide the string into perfect integer proportions, ie. Halves, Thirds, Quarters, Fifths etc. and etc. ad infinitum, and consider the fact that these portions of the string contribute their own frequency to the overall sound, in ratio to the integer number.
Therefore, the two halves of the string produce a tone at twice the frequency of the fundamental. This will give us a tone of an octave higher. If the fundamental is "A" 440Hz. this tone will be "A" 880Hz. but about half the volume of the fundamental.
This tone is known as the first harmonic or partial. The other integer portions add their own voices, in diminishing amplitude, which is why they remain hidden to our awareness.
However if they were not there, we would certainly notice.


You can prove all this by trying a little experiment (this will only work on a real piano) using a piano technique called "Flagging." With your right hand you will be revealing, one by one, the harmonics that are naturally present in the note that you will sound with your left hand. Be sure that you understand this before we start.
The right hand is revealing the harmonics that are within the left hand note.

Here is the simple experiment.
With a finger on your right hand, slowly and silently press middle C. Do this without any sound. You are simply lifting the damper away from the string and allowing it to vibrate in sympathy at its own frequency. This can be triggered by the same frequency, in isolation, or contained within another source. The source will now be supplied by your left hand.
Get ready with a finger of your left hand above the "C" below middle C.

Keep middle C depressed, and strike a firm but short note on the "C" below. Listen carefully to what happens. If performed correctly, you should be hearing the middle C string gently answering the "C" below.
You should hear it ringing.
That is because middle "C" is the first harmonic, the first partial of the "C" below, and is actually present in the sound of that note.
Let us proceed up the Harmonic Series of the "C" below middle C.

Do exactly the same again, this time the right hand should be holding down, silently the "G" above middle "C" instead.
Again, strike the low "C" with the left hand.
Listen . . . the second harmonic, contained within the sound of the low note - answering in sympathy.

Proceed upwards, trying the notes "C" above middle C (the third harmonic) the "E" above that (the fourth harmonic) the "G" above that (the fifth harmonic) the B flat above that (the sixth harmonic.
This will usually sound rather weak as the note B flat is not quite in tune with the natural harmonic of the left hand note) and finally the "C" two octaves above middle C (the seventh harmonic.)
Notice that the harmonics are getting closer and closer together.
The process continues ad infinitum, at least until the original energy input dissipates.

The whole point of this exercise is to demonstrate that the nature of sound (or the sound of nature) includes within itself the MAJOR third.
This is the "E" at the fourth harmonic. To me this suggests that nature (or the designer of nature) intends us to be JOYFUL.
Or have we learned to align our state of joy with this phenomena, simply because it is more natural?
Either way, it is confirmation that the natural state of the universe is one of harmony.
Are we a part of that harmony?
The answer, my dear fellow journeyman, is YES WE ARE.
A part of the whole experience of cosmic harmony.

Harmonics provide us with our sense of harmony and all simple major triads (3 note chords) are comprised of notes that are present (at some pitch or other) within the spectrum of naturally occurring harmonics or partials. It would appear therefore that harmony is the precursor of melody, as harmonics provide us with many of the notes that we employ as our major scale. All very interesting speculation only as the emergence of musical language took place many years ago in our pre-history.
However, the laws of the Universe haven’t changed.

Before we go on let me throw a few more musical terms into the melting pot.

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