Handbook of Acoustics: For the Use of Musical Students

Handbook of Acoustics: For the Use of Musical Students

by T. F. Harris




TEACHERS of Music have often unusual difficulties to contend with. The artist who had to instruct colour-blind students in the rudiments of painting could hardly expect results of an altogether satisfactory nature. But tone-deafness is probably a more common infirmity than colour-blindness. We have been surprised to find that young ladies, accustomed to play their parents to sleep after dinner, have been unable to tell us which was the higher of two notes, successively struck on the piano or pezzicatoed on the violin, when these notes were separated by an interval of a major third, or even, in some cases, of a fifth. Such pupils are by no means uncommon; and, though they may attain to a mechanical proficiency on the pianoforte, all niceties of sound-modulation must be to them a matter of faith. To those, however, who possess a delicate ear, and take an interest in, as well as extract enjoyment from Music, we can recommend the perusal of Mr. Harris's little volume. And to all those who teach or really study music we go further, and recommend its mastery.

In the introductory chapter, "On the Origin of a Musical Sound," we see at once that Mr. Harris does not intend us to rest content with taking things for granted, but that his basis is experimental; and throughout the work experiment and illustration help us at every turn. The first seven chapters deal with simple tones, the mode of their transmission, their pitch, melodic relations, and intensity; with the auditory apparatus that receives them, and their sympathetic relations arising out of co-vibration. The next chapter introduces us to quality or timbre, which is clearly shown to depend upon the number, order, and relative intensities of the constituent partials, or the modification of the fundamental tone by overtones. The influence of partials, and their nature, in the several types of musical instruments are carefully traced; after which a chapter is devoted to "combination tones." "When two musical tones are sounded together, new tones are often heard, which cannot be detected when either of the two tones is sounded by itself. For example: press down the keys corresponding to the notes C2 and A1 on the harmonium, and blow vigorously. On listening attentively a (deeper) tone may usually be heard nearly coinciding with F1, which will not be heard at all when either of the two notes above is separately sounded." Here, as elsewhere throughout his book, Mr. Harris shows, and acknowledges, his indebtedness to Holmholtz. The phenomena of interference, treated in the next chapter, leads us on to new results-to beats, and to dissonance as resulting therefrom. Consonant intervals and their relative harmoniousness then pave the way for a consideration of chords, and fairly land us at the threshold of Music proper. The causes of the consonance and dissonance of chords are well explained; but we doubt whether any scientific explanation, invaluable as we hold such explanation to be, will weaken the force of Browning's words in Abt Vogler:-

"And I know not if, save in this, such gift be allowed to man,

That out of three sounds he form, not a fourth sound, but a star.

Consider it well: each tone of our scale in itself is nought;

It is everywhere in the world-loud, soft, and all is said:

Give it to me to use! I mix it with two in my thought,

And, there! Ye have heard and seen: consider and bow the head!"

A final chapter deals with the tempered scale. The whole scheme of the book is well thought out. A summary is given at the end of each chapter. Questions and examination papers form a valuable appendix.

- Journal of Education, Volume 9

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781499721997
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 05/29/2014
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

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