Music and religion make up large parts of my life. Recently, Matt Petersen, friend of the family, made some comments about the trinity and music. He suggested that the trinity could resonant like a perfect chord. Interestingly, Matt is not the first person to think about this, and the fundamentals of music and the Godhead have been related for many years in the Christian faith.
The only problem is that what you might assume is true is not. And what isn't true needs some explanation. Hang onto your hat, we're going on a musical journey.
The fundamental step of music theory is really understanding the scale. I have remarked about this before, but I have never spent a lot of time on this in the blog.
So, what is a scale? A scale is simply a series of notes. Therefore, we must ask, "what is a note?"
A note is nothing more than a sound wave that is periodic. For our examples, we'll take about sound waves that are made by a string. If a string goes up and down that is termed "one cycle." As the string moves up and down, it creates little ridges of pressure that we hear as a sound wave to our ear.
The number of cycles in a second is call Hertz, like in the rental car. 60 Hertz is how fast the electricity in your wall swing from positive to negative. However, we are not concerned about electricity. We want the musical scales.
So, let look at our vibrating string. There are a bunch of instruments with strings, but for me, the easiest thing to describe is the piano, since this is a very straightforward instrument. If you go to a piano player, he or she should quickly point out the "C" note that is in the middle of the instrument. This is called "Middle C" because it is musically in the middle of the treble and bass clefs in musical notation. It is in the middle of the piano keyboard.
Now, when you hit a note, the string will vibrate. The vibration of the common middle C in most tunings is 261626 (2,6,1,6,2,6). Now, I've left out a decimal point to make the point that the number is very interesting. With the decimal point, we get 261.626 cycles per second or 261.626 Hertz. If you go and make the vibrations twice as fast you will get 523.251 Hertz. However, this is a bit difficult to remember, and since musicians want to play music and not memorize numbers, many instruments are tuned against concert A, which is the "A note" above middle C. This has a very nice 440 cycles per second, and no decimal points.
However, let's go back to middle C. If you can get a string vibrating at a nice interval of this vibration, it will "sound in tune." The easiest ratio to get is another vibration running either twice as fast or twice as slow. If it is twice as fast, it is an "octave" above the note. If it twice as slow, it is an octave below the note. So, if you hear a note, you can quickly find the octave above or below simply by knowing that it vibrates twice as fast or twice as slow. And it doesn't stop there, if it vibrates three times as fast, it is two octaves above the middle C.
In Western Modern Music, we simply say that this note that is exactly twice as fast is call "C" just like the note that was originally played. It is the same note, only played 1, 2, 3 or 4 times slower or faster. From a mathematical prospect, this makes a lot of sense. Music and math are very related, and a good mathematician often make good students of music theory.
You don't need to know what an octave sounds like. I am simply trying to get you understand that any note (which is just a vibration at a given frequency) can go a even integer faster or slower, and this new vibration is an octave. (For purposes of this post, "note" "tone" and "pitch" will be used to mean the same thing, although strictly they may not be.)
The octave is a new development in music theory. We use it extensively today to explain the whys and hows of music. However, the fathers of music is not the modern world but the Greeks. Things get a little confusing here, if we go far enough back in time, because the Greeks made all of their music around the "tetrachord."
What was the tetrachord? The musical instrument of choice was the lyre, and it had 4 strings. The top and bottom strings were four (tetra) notes apart. So a perfect fourth divided by two middle notes is a tetrachord. However, it quickly apparent to Western Music that the octave was to be the hero of our music. (Even the Greeks knew about the Octave, but it was simply considered the interval between two tetrachords and a spacer note.)
In the middle ages, the "perfect" scale was considered the Ionian scale, which is often called the major scale. There were 7 notes in this scale, and these notes were named by the monks.
These notes are very familiar to those that have seen "The Sound Of Music."
Which will bring us finally back to "Do." As we describe previously, C that is twice as fast as the original C is still called C. Therefore, if you have a Do twice as fast as the original Do, it is still called Do.
It is commonly recognized that Guido of Arezzo invented the modern musical notation around 1000 AD, and he was the father of the these notes as called out as Do, Re, Me. (Commonly thought to be derived from a Latin Hymn.) Before our good friend Guido, it really wasn't possible to know how exactly any song went. However, Arezzo invent the familar musical notes and staves that we use today (or pretty close to it).
The beauty behind a good musical notation is that music that was written 300 years ago and then just discovered can be played exactly as if the author demonstrated it. Although we might not personally know Mozart, by having his written music, we can hear exactly what he wrote. Arezzo was a genious.
So, we have a little background and history of the scale and the Ionian or Major scale of Western Music. Yet, we have hardly scratched the surface.
But this will need to wait for a later post.