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)