Sound’s story. 5) Cymatics, Solitons, & Novelty

Before going into the realms of harmonics, which have been referred to a few times in the various quotes, I want to interject with another perspective, related to the above subject, which will require a rather large quote from the book, Turbulent Mirror, by John Briggs and David Peatt. They are talking about research on Solitons and Equipartition. To clarify, a Soliton is an unexpected, solitary (hence Soliton) wave: – whereas a normal wave tends to break up over time and lose energy, a Soliton is a wave that becomes reinforced and bound by other waves joining together and can pass through other waves without losing its integrity. As Peatt and Briggs put it:

A soliton is born on the edge. If too much energy is involved in the initial interaction, the wave breaks up into turbulence. If too little energy, the wave dissipates…nonlinear interactions at critical values don’t produce chaos, they produce spontaneous self-organizing forms. (B&P, p.120)

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Sound’s story. 4) Music, Vibration, & Human Form

I wish to speak to sound as it relates to vibration. I wish to understand the symmetry and beauty of the universe. The way it continues to elaborate upon itself so appropriately, so eloquently, is worth observing, worth relating to. From a musical perspective, I am interested in how music can also be experienced as useful, as alchemical, as connected to the universal laws of creation. What does its inherent make-up speak to in us and our relationship to it? In order to do that, I feel drawn to examine, firstly, the relationship between myself and sound, through an exploration of vibration.

In Science, two gentlemen; “John Schwarz of the California Institute of Technology and Michael Green of Queen Mary College in London” (Superstrings, p.4) created a theory known as a Theory of Everything (TOE). Otherwise known as “Superstring Theory”. Superstring theory suggests that; the ultimate building blocks of nature consist of tiny vibrating strings. If correct, this means that the protons and neutrons in all matter, everything from our bodies to the farthest star, are ultimately made up of accordingly to the superstring theory, our world only appears to be made of point particles, because our measuring devices are too crude to see these tiny strings. (Superstrings p.4/5)

So, how does this relate to music?

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Sound’s story. 3) Sound beginnings, Noise, & The Elements

There is sound, there is music and there is noise. Music and noise somehow define each other and they are both relevant in any kind of philosophical debate on the values and properties of music and sound in a living system. McClellan puts it like this;

If tones become too complex or too great in irregularity of vibration, the result is “noise”. Sound with no distinguishable fundamental frequency, such as the hiss of a steam pipe, or ocean surf, or the roar of a jet plane, is called “white noise” because it contains all of the frequencies and harmonics of the sound spectrum. It is comparable to white light which contains all colors of the spectrum within it. White noise, then, stands at the opposite extreme of the sine tone; between them lies the incredibly rich and endless palette of our sound world, from the deep tones of the pipe organ to the crystal clear tones of the upper register of the piccolo. (p. 17)

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Sound’s story. 2) What is sound… the mechanics?

Sound is a wave movement that we can hear. It has to travel through a medium. And it has to create resonance in a receiver (e.g. your ear) in order to be ‘heard’. Three of the most commonly known mediums that I wish to refer to in this paper are air, water, and earth. Those three mediums are made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms. Within a given medium the density of that medium is influenced by its own mass, temperature, and pressure. The density and temperature affect the speed at which sound can travel through it. In the air, sound travels at approximately 1100 ft/second, in water it travels at approximately 5,000ft/second, and in the earth at approximately 8,000 ft/second. The number of times a wave passes a certain point per second is its frequency, which is measured in Hertz (Hz). Frequency is commonly referred to as ‘pitch’, i.e. the actual sound that we hear (e.g. the musical note ‘a’ or ‘c#’). The distance between each wave motion is its wavelength; it is a measure of the distance between each pulsing compression of molecules within a given medium. The relationship between a sounds’ wavelength and its frequency will give us the speed at which it is traveling, aka its velocity. Longer wavelengths are able to travel further distances than shorter wavelengths. Sound can travel faster through a dense medium than a less dense medium as the energy has less far to travel between the more tightly packed molecules and therefore less of its kinetic energy is lost in the transformation to heat energy.

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