Acoustic Laws

 

 

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by Don Kulak

Fine instrument makers will go to almost any extreme in order to secure the finest in raw materials and workmanship. The market value of a Bosendorfer 9' 6" Imperial Grand or a Stradivarius violin more than justifies their time and expense. What the public is paying for is a tonal quality literally carved out of wood to an amazing degree of accuracy; a sound resonating in near perfect accord with the acoustical laws of harmony. The tone sounds alive, seemingly jumping out of the instrument and striking a common chord within us, as if our whole body is reverberating to the sound.

According to the ancients, there was a scientific reason for these psychological and physiological effects which music and sound have upon us, the basis of which lies in the whole number relationships between the harmonic series and all sorts of natural phenomena.

In the West, these relationships between the harmonic series and natural laws were formally restricted to the realms of mysticism and occultism. The rapidly advancing world of atomic physics, astronomy, and other scientific disciplines, however, was soon to embrace musical acoustics as a microcosm of all life and form in the universe.

This connection of sound, harmonic proportions, to the physical universe, also gave the West a somewhat better understanding of the musical cultures of the east, and the spiritual healing and magical effects of their music. The melodies, of the Mongolian Shaman fall on the exact pattern of the natural harmonic series. Pairs of African Conga drums are a m3 apart or a ratio of 6:7. In India, the Raga Saraswati (Saraswati is the Goddess of Music and the Sciences) uses a scale most closely related to the natural acoustical laws (namely

Hans Kayser, in his books "Àrende, Akroasis, Harmonia Planetarum, and Orphikon, demonstrates that in the fields of atomic physics, chemistry, astronomy, architecture and botany etc. there exists an underlying framework of whole number ratios identical to those of the musical scale, and the harmonic series.

Max Planck, specializing in atomic physics, showed the correlation between the ratios of the shells around the atomic nucleus and the acoustical laws. This was done by observing the radiation quanta which was released when the electrons jumped from shell to shell, showing a similar gradation to that of note intervals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similarly, but on a much larger scale, Johannes Kepler, an astronomer in the Middle Ages, showed the relationships between the musical ratios 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 etc., and the spacing of the planets around the sun. From this, he deducted that the musical and harmonic proportions are innate to the human soul and body, and therefore explains our physical and psychological reactions to sound and music.

One fairly recent publication, authored by Thomas Michael Schmidt, entitled "Musik und Kosmos", continued to identify musical ratios throughout nature. He was particularly concerned, however, with the human body itself. 

The body is subdivided into various parts, such as leg and arm sockets, navel, nipples, knees and elbows. Ratios were then made of these various lengths as they compared to the body's total height.

The research of Mr. Schmidt showed these bodily ratios to also be identical to the musical and harmonic proportions. For example, for a person 172 cm high, the navel would lie at a height of 103 cm. These measurements form a ratio almost exactly 5:3, corresponding to the interval of a 6th. The distance from the navel to the top of the head relates to the total body height as the ratio 3:2, or the interval of a fifth. The height of the arm socket in relation to the navel produces a ratio of 4:3, or a musical fourth. It appears to be fairly clear that these cultures understood, at least intuitively, the scope of sound and its harmonic proportions, and its far reaching effects and manifestation in the physical universe. Sound or rather musical tone and its harmonic components to them represented a certain order, the basic of all things in the universe. It was therefore used to restore this natural order when there was an imbalance, such as physical, or psychological sickness.

©2011 Don Kulak All rights reserved

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