Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature

My thanks once again to P.D. for this fascinating link. At this writing I have yet to explore it, but it gives a long list of texts recited on Flash Player, complete with transcriptions and translations. I look forward to using some of them as a springboard for article writing. (The graphic on the left was adapted from something found on Google Images: a photograph of a famous tablet comtaining the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, which is one of the texts recited on the recordings made at the University of London. The source article for the image actually relates to this very recording project under discussion!)

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Music, books, teenagers and depression

Thanks to Avi W. for this link. My only question is why the researchers find this correlation surprising (and as a corollary, why they can't see the direct causal relationship), given the kinds of music most teenagers in the U.S. listen to today. There has been so much clinical work on this subject done before now.

Moreover, it's been known for literally millennia in high cultures (and from the beginning in so-called primitive ones) that some kinds of music, and some elements of music, are mood-altering - powerfully so, in fact. Only those who wanted to justify their musical tastes at all costs have ever argued otherwise.

(The above graphic comes from a recent New York Times article on how music affects the nervous system. An earlier post links to that article.)

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Archaeological Dig into the Mathematical Foundations of Western Music

I owe this link to B.K. This is not an account of a physical "dig" but of a mathematical exploration. One indication of its scope can be found in one of its subtitles: "The Seventeen Tones of Western Music - Really!" (Or eighteen, to complete the octave as derived in a particular way, as therein sharps are not the same as flats. This is the basis in fact of much of present Middle Eastern modality, including Jewish modality in the ancient Middle Eastern coummunities.)

One reason why I doubt Mr. Benton's conclusions as to the basis of Western music is that while the biblical modes in Suzanne Haik-Vantoura's chant vary all the tones save the stable E and B in one mode or another, one need not go beyond the just-tuned 12-tone (or 13-tone) scale to account for all the accidentals involved... at least not so far as I have yet perceived in actual test. It would be impractical to try an 18-tone vocal scale given the limited ranges of the instruments (ten or twelve strings, according to Josephus) that supported that chant.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

More links on music perception and ancient music

This entry is basically a summary of news items sent to me over the past few days.

From the New York Times, we have the article "To Tug Hearts, Music First Must Tickle the Neurons" and the article "What Makes Music Expressive?"

From the BBC, we have the article (with the legacy recording) "Recreating the sound of Tutankhamun's trumpets" (one of which was recently stolen and returned).

Finally, from Scientific Blogging (Science 2.0) we have the article "Lost Sounds Orchestra: Ancient Musical Instruments Brought Back To Life" (a download page may be found on ASTRA Project on the Grid).

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ScienceDaily: A man lost in musical time

I find the comments in response to this article by ScienceDaily, pro and con, at least as interesting as the article itself. The safest conclusion for me is that more work needs to be done (and maybe some terms redefined, too).

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)