## Re: Guest Post: Music is trying to kill you.

1

Until I read that article I had totally thought there was some mathematical reason for A to be 440Hz, like it made the octave tunings nice round numbers or something.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:00 AM
2

Chair Helga Zepp-LaRouche, vice-chair Ulrika Chic-LaRouche, secretary Sugvard Harp-LaRouche, and treasurer Axel Grouch-LaRouche.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:19 AM
3

1: I think I did as well. But then again 256 Hz middle C (corresponds to ~432 Hz A)--very digital for a digital age. And per this great piece from the Schiller maniacs it is correct because ... (wait for it) Golden Ratio!

Since music is the product of the human voice and human mind--i.e., of living processes--therefore, everything in music must be coherent with the Golden Section.

It is easy to verify, by following through the indicated series of divisions, that the rotation of the Earth is a "G," twenty-four octaves lower than C=256. Similarly, C=256 has a determinate value in terms of the complete system of planetary motions.

By contrast, A=440 is a purely arbitrary value, having no physical-geometrical justification. A=440 is an insane tuning in the rigorous sense that it bears no coherent relationship with the universe, with reality.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:25 AM
4

Shorter one whole branch of the LaRouchian project: Kepler was right*! About everything! And it's universally applicable! To everything!

*The link in 3 is all "based" on Kepler.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:29 AM
5

My friend who based his home renovation on the Golden Ratio* (and has a little pamphlet thereon in the Golden Ratio-ized guest bathroom) was not enthralled by an article that I sent him explaining that said ratio is rubbish.

* Rich, retired, Texas.

Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:34 AM
6

the rotation of the Earth is a "G"

That's not very stable over the age of the universe. Clearly they should use the hyperfine transition of the hydrogen atom, which is an "F" 22 octaves above the "F" above middle C, and tune A down to 427 Hz.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:36 AM
7

I wonder what tuning the cosmic B-flat uses?

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:38 AM
8

It also reminds me of that dude who was trying to get all the appliances and vent fans and so on in his apartment building tuned so they would form a chord, because he thought the dissonances were driving him slowly nuts. (I wish I could find a link.)

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:42 AM
9
I recognized three main tones in my office that morning, a triad that seemed to be a constant. At the bottom was the deep drone of the heater. Above that was the idling of my computer -- a smug electronic purr. And whenever I picked up the phone, a dial tone sang insistently in my ear.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:44 AM
10

More about the dude in 9.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:49 AM
11

That thing in the article where the British claimed they needed to tune differently because of the temperature of their concert halls seems pretty clearly silly, but it's going to be obviously the case that different halls have different tuning response curves, right? Or are they all so acoustically balanced that you really can't tell?

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:54 AM
12

Also solitons! (The Schiller folks, not Sifu's guy).

For example, sound is not a vibration of the air. A sound wave, we know today, is an electromagnetic process involving the rapid assembly and disassembly of geometrical configurations of molecules. In modern physics, this kind of self-organizing process is known as a "soliton."

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:55 AM
13

12.2 is wrong in so many different ways it's impressive.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 6:59 AM
14

From 3:

This liberal philosophy of "free-floating pitch" owes its present power and influence in large part to the acoustical theories of Hermann Helmholtz

Dammit! Helmholtz! I should have known!

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:00 AM
15

Which is wronger, 12.2 or Graeber's famous fuck-up?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:02 AM
16
Helmholtz's entire theory amounts to what we today call in physics a "scalar," "linear," or at best, "quasi-linear" theory.
Pff. What do you have, like, one and a half free parameters? Super lame.
Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:03 AM
17

15: 12.2 is on a whole different plane of wrong, I think. Graeber was ill-informed and lazy. 12.2 is epic crazy, as far as I can tell.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:04 AM
18

I should really stop commenting in this thread until more other people also do so but that link in 3 is completely amazing.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:11 AM
19

It's been a while since I've strolled through Larouchiana which always cheers me; so I thank Sifu Tweety for that.

We are now, despite the British-controlled puppet-President Barack Obama, impelled to accelerate mankind's practiced ability to bring menacing features of regions internal to the inner planetary circles of our Solar system under human management.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:12 AM
20

The bel canto human voice is for sound what a laser is for light: The voice is an acoustical laser, generating the maximum density of electromagnetic singularities per unit action.

Dude.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:14 AM
21

Please fund my research on magnetic monopoles using highly-trained choruses of teenaged javelin-throwing baritones. This will return the Hapsburg Empire to its former glory by creating the possibility of future acuostico-psychological latifundia.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:24 AM
22

Scott McLemee has done some great stuff on Larouche.

The LaRouchies are prone to heckle and to sing - often, in fact, at the same time. One central doctrine of the movement is that certain classical compositions (sung at the proper pitch) can transform both singer and listener in a golden-soulful way. Here, for example, is a video of Joseph Lieberman being subjected to LaRouchian bel canto yodeling.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:26 AM
23
There is nothing mysterious or mystical about the appearance of the Golden Section as an "absolute value" for living processes. Space itself--that is, the visual space in which we perceive things--has a specific "shape" coherent with the Golden Section.

I mean, come on. It's not some crazy, mystical weirdness. It's super logical and obvious!

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:32 AM
24

15: 12.2 is on a whole different plane of wrong, I think. Graeber was ill-informed and lazy. 12.2 is epic crazy, as far as I can tell.

12.2 may be a whole different plane of wrong, but it's a plane that lots of people are on. Maybe not the specifics, but people get batshit mystical about physics fairly often. (See: ex-boyfriends of mine! members of my book club!) Graeber's is unique territory for being super wrong.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:50 AM
25

23: To be fair, it's not self-evidently more insane and mystical than the proposition that the universe is saddle-shaped.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 7:59 AM
26

12.2 Not even wrong. People who talk like this are substituting "physics" for ectoplasmic vibrations or something. Actual interest in physics would manifest as building stuff, measuring, reading. Certainly understanding that sound is a pressure wave, all properties accounted for by a continuous-medium description.

This is an interest in words that lend authority when spoken, IMO.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:01 AM
27

The golden ratio is of course fertile ground for the sort of people that a younger Heebie would have dumped like a truckload of rubble. Every so often some archaeologist reiterates the point that it is not to be found in the Parthenon or the Great Pyramid or wherever, and is duly ignored by the nutjobs.

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:09 AM
28

Leonardo Pisano (also called Fibonacci) demonstrated that the growth of populations of living organisms always follows a series derived from the Golden Section.

ALWAYS. Quick, someone check the numbers for the babysplosion!

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:19 AM
29

the sort of people that a younger Heebie would have dumped like a truckload of rubble.

On Valentine's Day, no less. I still have fond feelings for him, though. It wasn't acrimonious.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:19 AM
30

24: Graeber's is unique territory for being super wrong.

This is super wrong.

I don't think you've been to enough business seminar/motivational speaker type things to appreciate how extremely common garbled founding/inspiration myths are. Stock of the trade. And they make it into books as well--but generally not books as ambitious or as of as much interest to the "give a shit about facts"-based community.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:21 AM
31

After all, Fibonacci's model of population biology was flawless: organisms that never die, offspring always born in exactly equal numbers of male and female....

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:22 AM
32

The world begins in E-flat in Wagner is all I know.

Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:22 AM
33

I don't think you've been to enough business seminar/motivational speaker type things to appreciate how extremely common garbled founding/inspiration myths are.

Goddamn right, and boy do I not need to fix that.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:23 AM
34

But I've been around boatloads of physics woo. I'm now revisiting the number of boyfriends who probably floated off in that direction. I've added at least two more to the count.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:24 AM
35

And for friends in general...tons. Tons and tons of physics woo.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:24 AM
36

OK, we have established a correlation between susceptibility to physics woo and attractiveness to mathematicians. Anybody want to postulate a causation?

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:28 AM
37

34,35: And if you queried them they'd all be Graeber-level wrong about the origins of various corporations etc. They just don't dwell on it in public.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:31 AM
38

||

NMM2 Chinua Achebe.

|>

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:45 AM
39

Oh, I've just logged a lot of hours with lots of hippies. 37 is probably true.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:46 AM
40

Physics woo:

Solitons come up in a pretty cool system, the nonlinear Schrodinger equation.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 8:56 AM
41

38: Things Fall Apart was an important book to me 20 years ago. I should re-read it.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:04 AM
42

the nonlinear Schrodinger equation

One of the most poorly-named things in physics.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:05 AM
43

Because Schrodinger never wrote it down?

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:11 AM
44

Because it's not a Schrodinger equation; Schrodinger equations tell us the behavior of wavefunctions and are always linear.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:15 AM
45

I don't think you've been to enough business seminar/motivational speaker type things to appreciate how extremely common garbled founding/inspiration myths are.

Oh, lord, yes, not to mention business management woo. Bet you didn't know that you can run a company with fractals and field theory.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:18 AM
46

I don't know QFT, but that equation looks like a potential that depends on the wavefunction. I thought that it's a pretty straightforward analogy to say a polarizability that depends on field strength. That result is still a Maxwell equation, but no longer linear.

Liquid helium people think about it this way, or at least some did ten years ago.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:20 AM
47

45: Oh, wow. And from the first review: "the Chinese understood all this stuff centuries ago (Yin/Yang, space between the dots, the human web)". Ah yes, of course. Daoism, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, all just different words for exactly the same thing.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:25 AM
48

46: That's not a wavefunction, it's some kind of field operator. Hamiltonians always act linearly on states in Hilbert space; the whole structure of quantum mechanics completely breaks if you try to get away from that. But operators often satisfy nonlinear equations of motion.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:27 AM
49

Here is a collection of articles from Opera Fanatic [PDF] (so written by Zucker?) on the debate. Includes mockery of the article linked in 3 as well as some detailed reviews and explanations of scales and pitch. I always forget about tempering and the fact that it does not just auto-magically work musically and mathematically. Also relative arbitrariness of number of tones etc.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 9:33 AM
50

http://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/versa/versa9.html

It actually is in the Treaty of Versailles, you know.

Article 282 (22).

Posted by: Richard J | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:02 AM
51

I hate to think our grandfathers should be such flats.

Posted by: JACK AUBREY | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:13 AM
52

48: ooh, ooh, hence the no-cloning theorem, right?

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:57 AM
53

I'm good with the 415 A, me, as I take my nerdery straight up.

But. If most audiences want bright overtones in their strings, but voices would be better at a lower A, why don't we just build smaller string instruments? Or transpose all our written music down a step or so? This is all played in equal temperament, isn't it?

Linked article is great; I wonder what the Blavatsky A is. She has to be connected to the rest of the anthroposophists, they turn out to be all connected by marriage or embezzlement or both.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:58 AM
54

A few years ago I read this interesting and sad article on an inner-circle LaRouchie's suicide.

Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:59 AM
55

(duh, transposing wouldn't help with the voice/string incompatible optima, never mind).

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:59 AM
56

why don't we just build smaller string instruments
Sunk costs.

Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:14 AM
57

48: ooh, ooh, hence the no-cloning theorem, right?

Yeah, that's one important consequence of linearity.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:14 AM
58

You'd think smaller instruments sold to flatter the singers they accompany would have been a beachhead. Also, classical music isn't very economically rational from the get-go. Also, we know what A our flat grandparents built their violins to play, we should stick to it.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:20 AM
59

The issue isn't the instruments, is it? It's that the orchestra overall sounds brighter (and in theory better) if it's tuned higher. It wouldn't be an issue to tune modern instruments a bit lower, I don't think.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:23 AM
60

Oh, I see what clew is saying. Huh. Would that work?

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:23 AM
61

"Brighter" isn't a claim that we think a pure sine 440 sounds better than 415, but that an instrument designed for a 415 A has preferable overtones at 440. So, unless the material science is really inconvenient, we should be able to build for 395 and tune to 415 and play brightly with the organs and tubas.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:28 AM
62

(Let 61 be 59 1/2, or something.)

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:29 AM
63

61: is it? Seems odd that a whole orchestra would be perceived as "brighter" when tuned higher, since the timbre of different instruments varies so much.

Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:33 AM
64

The Bacon-Wrapped Economy is vaguely relevant, since it cares a lot -- but infuriatingly unspecifically -- about new tech money not supporting old musical institutions.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:33 AM
65

63 was me

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:33 AM
66

63 I took this to be a matter of string dominance over... everything else, really. Most singers find it more painful, the big brasses are mutilating their instruments, some organs are unplayable, honey drums don't care: it's just the goddamn violins. And probably first trumpet, now that I think of it.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:35 AM
67

I think the brightness is a linear function of the pitch of the louder overtones; I don't think it's particularly due to instrument design so much as that people who are used to listening to music tune to one pitch will perceive music tuned to a higher pitch as brighter, since the tones all up and down the scale will be a bit higher. Right? Hence the sort of tuning wars they talk about in the article.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:36 AM
68

Hm, 66 is interesting. Maybe we need more repretoire with less strings! Bring the brass band to the symphony!

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:37 AM
69

I used "less" intentionally, or if I didn't, I'm still sticking by it.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:37 AM
70

66: so other instruments won't sound brighter? Presumably it's testable...

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 11:39 AM
71

58,60 There's a variety of acoustic guitar sizes in Mexico. There's a style, son jarocho, where the small ones and a table harp are prominent. La Bamba is maybe a popularization. Los Lobos' Saint behind the Glass definitely.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 2:40 PM
72

It looks like I bungled the link in 49. This should be correct [PDF].

One quote: ln their dealings witli music, the LaRouchites have shown an eerie gift for spurning the gold while flaunting the dross as a priceless discovery.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 2:55 PM
73

Liquid helium people

Cool.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 3:05 PM
74

The Bacon-Wrapped Economy is vaguely relevant, since it cares a lot -- but infuriatingly unspecifically -- about new tech money not supporting old musical institutions.

New tech money is annoyingly tacky. It's like they're trying to confirm prejudice against the nouveau riche.

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 3:24 PM
75

Very strange "science": Milton Monson's Physics is Constipated (Intellectually that is). This spends an inordinate time on dimensional analysis, as if no physicists has thought about units before.

Anybody have an opinion on the artist Mario Merz? He is very ino the Fibonacci series. I recall counting apples at some one-man show he had at the Guggenheim decades ago.

It is my understanding engineers cannot fully explain why some concert calls have so excellent acoustics. For example, the Troy city music hall, in Troy, NY, is a mystery.

Posted by: Robert | Link to this comment | 03-22-13 10:49 PM
76

67 doesn't make sense to me -- if we just wanted to hear higher notes, we could transpose upwards. We're *said* to prefer the sound of strings under more tension than was usual. Second, pissier hypothesis: this makes the strings more piercing in a big orchestra, thus playing to the vanity of the violins and... making it less challenging for the audience, who are now listening to a tune, not a harmony? This is a very grouchy hypothesis.

74: Well, money one doesn't find tacky doesn't sting so much, so there's some confirmation bias. (IIRC, Dorian Records and Jane Austen's house got rescued by the same woman. I do not find this tacky.)

The bacon article bothered me because it's not very specific about which institutions are suffering, and I would want to know at least a little history of each to figure out if they are, for instance, merely one generation of new-money old, in which case, them's the lumps. Also, complaining because new art supporters expect some art for their money is kind of eliding the centuries in which that's what patronage always meant, centuries embarrassingly full of the Great Art that fills institutions now.

The one a while ago about SValley commuters hollowing out the 1970s cool of SF was even worse, I thought, because it didn't seem to have figured out the participatory stuff. Noisebridge should make an old bohemian happy.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-23-13 11:38 AM
77

From RJ's link: (18) Convention of May 4, 1910, regarding the suppression of obscene publications.

How's that one getting on? Kind of interesting that the prohibition of the slave trade held up better.

Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-24-13 12:49 PM
78

A sound wave, we know today, is an electromagnetic process involving the rapid assembly and disassembly of geometrical configurations of molecules.

Isn't that more or less, well, lightning?

The link is great, and reminds me of the organist in "Cryptonomicon":

This meeting essentially becomes a venue within which the organist, Mr. Drkh, can vent his opinions on the sneakiness of the Japanese, why the invention of the well-tempered tuning system was a bad idea and how all music written since has been a shabby compromise, the sterling qualities of the General, the numerological significance of the lengths of various organ pipes, how the excessive libido of American troops might be controlled with certain dietary supplements, how the hauntingly beautiful modes of traditional Qwghlmian music are particularly ill-suited to the well-tempered tuning system, how the king's dodgy Germanic relatives are plotting to take over the Empire and turn it over to Hitler, and, first and foremost, that Johann Sebastian Bach was a bad musician, a worse composer, an evil man, a philanderer, and the figurehead of a worldwide conspiracy, headquartered in Germany, that has been slowly taking over the world for the last several hundred years, using the well-tempered tuning system as a sort of carrier frequency on which its ideas (which originate with the Bavarian illuminati) can be broadcast into the minds of everyone who listens to music--especially the music of Bach. And--by the way--how this conspiracy may best be fought off by playing and listening to traditional Qwghlmian music, which, in case Mr. Drkh didn't make this perfectly clear, is wholly incompatible with well-tempered tuning because of its haunting and beautiful, but numerologically perfect, scale.

"Your thoughts on numerology are most interesting," Waterhouse says loudly, running Mr. Drkh off the rhetorical road. "I myself studied with Drs. Turing and von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton."

Father John snaps awake, and Mr. Drkh looks as if he's just taken a fifty-caliber round in the small of his back. Clearly, Mr. Drkh has had a long career of being the weirdest person in any given room, but he's about to go down in flames.

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 4:42 AM
79

the invention of the well-tempered tuning system was a bad idea and how all music written since has been a shabby compromise

A not unpopular position.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 5:44 AM
80

It's no surprise that the same culture that produced well-tempering produced Nazism.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-26-13 6:25 AM