Thursday, January 1, 1981

Earth (c. 4,540,000,000 BC) - Sound - Music

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and is the largest of the terrestrial planets in the Solar System in diameter, mass and density. It is also referred to as the Earth, Planet Earth, the World, and Terra.

Home to millions of species, including humans, Earth is the only place in the universe where life is known to exist. Scientific evidence indicates that the planet formed 4.54 billion years ago, and life appeared on its surface within a billion years. Since then, Earth's biosphere has significantly altered the atmosphere and other abiotic conditions on the planet, enabling the proliferation of aerobic organisms as well as the formation of the ozone layer which, together with Earth's magnetic field, blocks harmful radiation, permitting life on land.

Earth's outer surface is divided into several rigid segments, or tectonic plates, that gradually migrate across the surface over periods of many millions of years. About 71% of the surface is covered with salt-water oceans, the remainder consisting of continents and islands; liquid water, necessary for all known life, is not known to exist on any other planet's surface. Earth's interior remains active, with a thick layer of relatively solid mantle, a liquid outer core that generates a magnetic field, and a solid iron inner core.

Earth interacts with other objects in outer space, including the Sun and the Moon. At present, Earth orbits the Sun once for every roughly 366.26 times it rotates about its axis. This length of time is a sidereal year, which is equal to 365.26 solar days.

The Earth's axis of rotation is tilted 23.4° away from the perpendicular to its orbital plane, producing seasonal variations on the planet's surface with a period of one tropical year (365.24 solar days). Earth's only known natural satellite, the Moon, which began orbiting it about 4.53 billion years ago, provides ocean tides, stabilizes the axial tilt and gradually slows the planet's rotation. A cometary bombardment during the early history of the planet played a role in the formation of the oceans.

Later, asteroid impacts caused significant changes to the surface environment.

Sound is vibration transmitted through a gas (usually air), liquid, or solid;

particularly, those vibrations composed of frequencies capable of being detected by ears.

For humans, hearing is limited to frequencies between about 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (20 kHz), with the upper limit generally decreasing with age. Other species have a different range of hearing. For example, dogs can perceive vibrations higher than 20 kHz. As a signal perceived by one of the major senses, sound is used by many species for detecting danger, navigation, predation, and communication.

Any physical phenomena on earth -- such as



[Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000)
Symphony No. 50 ("Mount St. Helens"), Op. 360: III (1982)



and surf -- produce (and are characterized by) unique sounds.

Many animals (such as bees,


dinosaurs [probably -- sure, why not?],



and primates -- have also developed special organs to produce sound.

In some species, these have evolved to produce song and (in humans) speech. Furthermore, humans have developed culture and technology (such as music, telephony, and radio) that allows them to generate, record, transmit, and broadcast sound.

[Alien - "In space, no one can here you scream" -- i.e. no medium of transmission!]

The mechanical vibrations that can be interpreted as sound can travel through all forms of matter: gases, liquids, solids, and plasmas. However, sound cannot propagate through vacuum. The matter that supports the sound is called the medium.

Sound is transmitted through gases, plasma, and liquids as longitudinal waves, also called compression waves. Through solids, however, it can be transmitted as both longitudinal and transverse waves. Longitudinal sound waves are waves of alternating pressure deviations from the equilibrium pressure, causing local regions of compression and rarefaction, while transverse waves in solids, are waves of alternating shear stress.

Matter in the medium is periodically displaced by a sound wave, and thus oscillates. The energy carried by the sound wave converts back and forth between the potential energy of the extra compression (in case of longitudinal waves) or lateral displacement strain (in case of transverse waves) of the matter and the kinetic energy of the oscillations of the medium.

Sound waves are characterized by the generic properties of waves, which are frequency, wavelength, period, amplitude, intensity, speed, and direction (sometimes speed and direction are combined as a velocity vector, or wavelength and direction are combined as a wave vector).

Transverse waves, also known as shear waves, have an additional property of polarization.

Sound characteristics can depend on the type of sound waves (longitudinal versus transverse) as well as on the physical properties of the transmission medium.

[Sine waves having the same amplitude, but different frequencies]

Whenever the pitch of the soundwave is affected by some kind of change, the distance between the sound wave maxima also changes, resulting in a change of frequency.

[Sine wave with a larger amplitude than any in the previous visual]

When the loudness of a soundwave changes, so does the amount of compression in airwave that is travelling through it, which in turn can be defined as amplitude.

The speed of sound depends on the medium through which the waves are passing, and is often quoted as a fundamental property of the material. In general, the speed of sound is proportional to the square root of the ratio of the elastic modulus (stiffness) of the medium to its density. Those physical properties and the speed of sound change with ambient conditions. For example, the speed of sound in gases depends on temperature. In air at sea level, the speed of sound is approximately 767.3 mph, in fresh water 3,315.1 mph (both at 20 °C, or 68 °F), and in steel about 13,332.1 mph.[2] The speed of sound is also slightly sensitive (a second-order effect) to the sound amplitude, which means that there are nonlinear propagation effects, such as the production of harmonics and mixed tones not present in the original sound (see parametric array).

The scientific study of the propagation, absorption, and reflection of sound waves is called acoustics. Noise is a term often used to refer to an unwanted sound. In science and engineering, noise is an undesirable component that obscures a wanted signal.

Sound pressure is defined as the difference between the average local pressure of the medium outside of the sound wave in which it is traveling through (at a given point and a given time) and the pressure found within the sound wave itself within that same medium. A square of this difference (i.e. a square of the deviation from the equilibrium pressure) is usually averaged over time and/or space, and a square root of such average is taken to obtain a root mean square (RMS) value. For example, 1 Pa RMS sound pressure in atmospheric air implies that the actual pressure in the sound wave oscillates between (1 atm Pa) and (1 atm Pa), that is between 101323.6 and 101326.4 Pa. Such a tiny (relative to atmospheric) variation in air pressure at an audio frequency will be perceived as quite a deafening sound, and can cause hearing damage, according to the table below.

As the human ear can detect sounds with a very wide range of amplitudes, sound pressure is often measured as a level on a logarithmic decibel scale.

Since the human ear does not have a flat spectral response, sound pressures are often frequency weighted so that the measured level will match perceived levels more closely. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has defined several weighting schemes. A-weighting attempts to match the response of the human ear to noise and A-weighted sound pressure levels are labeled dBA. C-weighting is used to measure peak levels.

Equipment for generating or using sound includes musical instruments, hearing aids, sonar systems and sound reproduction and broadcasting equipment. Many of these use electro-acoustic transducers such as microphones and loudspeakers.

Attack - How quickly a sound reaches full volume after it begins.

Decay - How quickly the sound drops after the initial peak.

Sustain - The steadiness of the sound after its attack.

Release - How quickly the sound fades when a note ends.


Music is an art form in which the medium is sound. Common elements of music are rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), pitch (which governs melody and harmony), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The word derives from Greek (mousike), "(art) of the Muses."


In Greek mythology, the Muses (Ancient Greek hai moũsai: perhaps from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- "think") are a sisterhood of goddesses or spirits, their number set at nine by Classical times, who embody the arts and inspire the creation process with their graces through remembered and improvised song and stage, writing, traditional music, and dance. They were water nymphs, associated with the springs of Helicon and with Pieris, from which they are sometimes called the Pierides. The Olympian system set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetēs. Not only are the Muses explicitly used in modern English to refer to an inspiration, as when one cites his/her own artistic muse, but they are also implicit in the words "amuse" or "musing upon."

According to Hesiod's Theogony (seventh century BC), they are the daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. For Alcman and Mimnermus, they were even more primordial, springing from Uranus and Gaia. Pausanias records a tradition of two generations of Muses; the first being daughters of Uranus and Gaia, the second of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Another, rarer genealogy is that they are daughters of Harmonia (the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares) which contradicts the myth in which they were dancing at the wedding of Harmonia and Cadmus.


[Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) - The School of Athens]

Greek philosophers and

Ancient Indians defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies, and vertically as harmonies.

Edgar Varese defined the term as simply"organized sound."

[Edgar Varese - Poeme Electronique]

John Cage even partially questioned the "organized" notion, in such works as his notorious

4'33" --

a work featuring

no intentionally-made sound (yet still, as can be seen from the movements in the printed program, durationally delimited -- although, note the ambiguity of the listing "4 Pieces" -- seemingly a double performance...).

According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez, "the border between music and noise is always culturally defined--which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus.... By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be, except that it is "sound through time"

The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of music vary according to culture and social context. Music ranges from strictly organized compositions (and their recreation in performance), through improvisational music to aleatoric forms. Music can be divided into genres and sub-genres, although the dividing lines and relationships between music genres are often subtle, sometimes open to individual interpretation, and occasionally controversial. Within "the arts," music can be classified as a performing art, a fine art, or an auditory art form.

The development of music among humans must have taken place against the backdrop of natural sounds such as birdsong and the sounds other animals use to communicate.

Prehistoric music is the name which is given to all music produced in preliterate cultures.


In music, timbre (from Fr. timbre ) is the quality of a musical note or sound that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices or musical instruments. The physical characteristics of sound that mediate the perception of timbre include spectrum and envelope.

Timbre is also known in psychoacoustics as sound quality or sound color.

For example, timbre is what, with a little practice, people use to distinguish the saxophone from the trumpet, even if both instruments are playing notes at the same pitch and amplitude.

The Chinese developed a sophisticated understanding of the musical quality of timbre during the Song Dynasty.

They discovered that the timbre of string instruments could be changed depending on how the strings were touched. Strings could be plucked, brushed, hit, scraped, or rubbed to produce different sounds. The Chinese composed music on the Qin, a long, wooden board with strings. Their Qin songs emphasized the timbre, and the changes in sound could be heard throughout the musical piece.

Tone color is also often used as a synonym. People who experience synesthesia may see certain colors when they hear particular instruments. Helmholtz used the German Klangfarbe (tone color), and Tyndall proposed an English translation, clangtint.

The American Standards Association defines timbre as "[...] that attribute of sensation in terms of which a listener can judge that two sounds having the same loudness and pitch are dissimilar." A note to the 1960 definition adds that "timbre depends primarily upon the spectrum of the stimulus, but it also depends upon the waveform, the sound pressure, the frequency location of the spectrum, and the temporal characteristics of the stimulus."

J.F. Schouten (1968, p.42) describes the "elusive attributes of timbre" as "determined by at least five major acoustic parameters" which Robert Erickson (1975) finds "scaled to the concerns of much contemporary music":

The range between tonal and noiselike character.
The spectral envelope.
The time envelope in terms of rise, duration, and decay.
The changes both of spectral envelope (formant-glide) and fundamental frequency (micro-intonation).
The prefix, an onset of a sound quite dissimilar to the ensuing lasting vibration.

The richness of a sound or note produced by a musical instrument is sometimes described in terms of a sum of a number of distinct frequencies. The lowest frequency is called the fundamental frequency and the pitch it produces is used to name the note. For example, in western music, instruments are normally tuned to A = 440 Hz. Other significant frequencies are called overtones of the fundamental frequency, which may include harmonics and partials. Harmonics are whole number multiples of the fundamental frequency — ×2, ×3, ×4, etc.

Partials are other overtones. Most western instruments produce harmonic sounds, but many instruments produce partials and inharmonic tones, such as cymbals and other non-pitched instruments.

When the orchestral tuning note is played, the sound is a combination of 440 Hz, 880 Hz, 1320 Hz, 1760 Hz and so on. The balance of the amplitudes of the different frequencies is responsible for the characteristic sound of each instrument.

The fundamental is not necessarily the strongest component of the overall sound. But it is implied by the existence of the harmonic series -- the A above would be distinguishable from the one an octave below (220 Hz, 440 Hz, 660 Hz, 880 Hz) by the presence of the third harmonic, even if the fundamental were indistinct. Similarly, a pitch is often inferred from non-harmonic spectra, supposedly through a mapping process, an attempt to find the closest harmonic fit.

The timbre of a sound is also greatly affected by the following aspects of its envelope: attack time and characteristics, decay, sustain, release (ADSR envelope) and transients. Thus these are all common controls on synthesizers. For instance, if one takes away the attack from the sound of a piano or trumpet, it becomes more difficult to identify the sound correctly, since the sound of the hammer hitting the strings or the first blat of the player's lips are highly characteristic of those instruments. The envelope is the overall amplitude structure of a sound, so called because the sound just "fits" inside its envelope: what this means should be clear from a time-domain display of almost any interesting sound, zoomed out enough that the entire waveform is visible.

[1985 Tanzania / 1981 Earth / 1980 Solar System]