Music / 19.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf At last we are in a position to answer two fundamental questions: First, why are there so few elements in the musical alphabet? And second, why have widely dispersed civilizations separately discovered the same musical alphabet? Recall that the range of frequencies that are audible to the human ear extends from about 20 Hz to about 17,000 Hz. This is a huge continuous range that can accommodate an infinite number of stopping points. But as was mentioned earlier, the ear cannot distinguish very small differences in frequencies and of those that it can distinguish, not all combinations are musical or pleasing to hear.
Music / 18.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf In the last installment we went back to the origins of instrumental music tracing it to the sound that resulted from the draw and release of a hunting bow. This was presumed to have led to experimentation with more strings being stretched across a bow-like frame – a precursor of the harp. Since the shape of the frame mandated strings of unequal length, we asked the natural question: Did there need to be any kind of relationship between the lengths of the various strings in order for the harp to produce music rather than noise? Recall from an earlier istallment that the frequency generated when a string stretched between two points is plucked depends upon at least four characteristics of the string: its material, its thickness (or gauge), the tension with which it is stretched, and its length. These can be easily verified by actual or imaginary experiments.
Music / 03.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf I have been reflecting on the feedback from readers, both negative and positive, and it has helped me immensely to sift through my own biases and prejudices. I am now inclined to drop any remaining pretension to the claim that the end objective of this series is to increase the enjoyment or appreciation of music. This end result may or may not happen but it is not the real driver of this set of notes. I now realize that I am addressing myself to the set of individuals who wish to talk and write about music, to describe an aural experience in words, and to critique it such that a reader gets a reasonable sense of the difference between one performance and another.
Music / 31.07.2010

By Anjum Altaf It is time now to venture gingerly to the next stage in this modern introduction to music. I hope by the end of this post it would be clearer why the term ‘modern’ has been employed in the title. Just as painting is the art of color, music is the art of sound. Painting is a visual art form; it is seen by the eyes. Music is an aural art form; it is heard by the ears. Music and sound are intertwined and so the first step in understanding music is to understand sound. One thing should be obvious: While all music is sound, not all sound is music. In fact, most sound is not music; it is noise.