Music / 29.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf We have completed two stages in this series – the physics of sound in general and the technical foundation of musical sound in particular. These give us an understanding of the fundamental building blocks of music (the swaras) and of how they fit together according to the principle of intervals or ‘musical distance’. With this understanding we are ready to explore how music is constructed. Many more good textbooks are available in this domain although I find them heavy on content and information and a bit light on communicating the intuition and concepts. I will therefore continue this somewhat off-beat introduction that seeks to reproduce my personal struggles and discoveries and the ways in which I pieced them together.
Music / 13.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf When I discovered ‘frequency’ I felt empowered and reacted much as Archimedes did by letting out a high-pitched shriek – Eureka (“I have found it”). At least for me it was an empowering feeling to finally figure out what I had been talking about. Let us get two things out of the way before we forge ahead. First, the term ‘high-pitched shriek’ is really a tautology: a shriek, by definition, is high-pitched. If you don’t believe me, try and emit a low-pitched shriek. What you might succeed in emitting would be a low-volume shriek but the shriek itself would retain a high pitch. This is a useful exercise because it would help you distinguish clearly between the two attributes of sound we have learnt so far – volume and frequency.
Music / 07.08.2010

By Anjum Altaf We are almost there, within striking distance of our primary goal. If you would bear with me just a little longer and not get psyched out by the reference to physics, you would find yourself the proud owner of a number of important insights and you would wonder why you had not been aware of them all along. Believe me, this is a short tunnel and there is a searchlight at the end of it. We had concluded the last part knowing how sound is created and how it travels from the source to the human ear. We also described the shape of an ideal sound wave and I would urge you to take a look at the graphic if you have not done so already (just observe the shape, ignore everything else).
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.