[Smt-talk] Gravity (Was: Car names)

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Wed Aug 1 07:00:07 PDT 2012

You may be making too much of Jacques Handschin's ideas. The fact is 
that a sharpward series of fifths in Pythagorean intonation does raise 
in pitch, by one Pythagorean comma after twelve steps.
     Tonal music uses a majority of flatward R and L neo-Riemannian 
intervals (also combined to produce flatward fifths). Sharpward 
progressions usually restrict to P relations. And these flatward 
progressions do push the pitch downwards.
     I don't understand what you call "modal tone relations" and my 
feeling is that your conception of modality is far away from Handschin's 
(or mine). But I should reread your MTO 17 paper, for which I lack time 
just now. In short, a mode is not a scale.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 1/08/2012 15:08, Thomas Noll a écrit :
> If we assume a directional markedness in the pitch height dimension 
> (e.g. downwards being unmarked) we might assume an analogous 
> markedness along the line of fifths (e.g. flatward being unmarked). 
> Such an assumption implies an interesting question: How do the two 
> kinds of markedness interrelate? Jacques Handschin argues in favor of 
> an affinity between ascending pitch height and sharpward oriented 
> fifths. That same type of affinity would then hold between descending 
> pitch and flatward oriented fifths. This affinity is contrapuntally 
> supported by the ultimate progression between tenor and bass in the 
> cadence (as well as in the Ursatz). But for modal tone relations 
> Handschin's assumption might nevertheless be wrong. There are good 
> mathematical reasons to postulate that the combination between 
> ascending pitch and flatward oriented fifths is the unmarked one.
> Sincerely
> Thomas Noll
>> Curt Sachs writes, in one of his books, that descending motion is 
>> more common, in all musics of the world, than ascending one. He does 
>> not say, however, how common it is to describe such motion as 
>> 'descending'. In general, though, melodies end at the pitch at which 
>> they began: they can but descend what they first climbed. the 
>> 'descending' effect probably results from the fact that they go up by 
>> leaps and come down by conjunct steps.
>>     There is an interesting paper on the verticalization of pitch in 
>> Western music by M. E. Duchez in Acta musicologica 51/1, 1979. She 
>> indicates that the verticalization by no means is universal and that 
>> it appeared slowly and lately in the West (after the 9th century). 
>> The verticalization of pitch may be the consequence (rather than the 
>> cause) of the vertical disposition in notation. It does not seem to 
>> have existed in Latin (or Greek), where pitches were described as 
>> acutus (oxus) and gravis (barus). For some time, no clear distinction 
>> was made between pitch and intensity ('musica alta' was loud, not high).
>>     In harmonic music, singing in just intonation tends to shift 
>> pitch. With respect to the cycle of fifths (Pythagorean tuning) taken 
>> as reference, the pitch shifts down a comma for each ascending major 
>> or descending minor third, and the reverse. Think of a neo-Riemannian 
>> network and of the change of line corresponding to 3d-relations: 
>> horizontal lines are a comma apart in just intonation. Tonal harmonic 
>> progressions tend to shift down – one of the reasons why a capella 
>> choirs shift down: they sing too much in tune!
>> Nicolas Meeùs
>> Université Paris-Sorbonne
>> Le 30/07/2012 03:23, Christopher Bonds a écrit :
>>> A quick comment. Seems like success in relating any kind of musical 
>>> event to gravity depends on the answers to a couple of questions. 
>>> First, whether descending intervals, stepwise lines, root 
>>> progressions, etc., generally always create a sense of closure or at 
>>> least a lessening of tension; and if so, are these style and culture 
>>> independent? Second, if so, could there be other explanations for 
>>> this phenomenon? Third, if some sort of relationship could be 
>>> established between the physical law and gravity, what effect, if 
>>> any, will Einstein's general theory of relativity have on musical 
>>> perception, now or in some future time? Finally, is the concept of 
>>> "up and down" in music universal and innate, or is it something we 
>>> have learned by association?
>>> (For the record, my personal thinking is that the musical brain has 
>>> learned to associate higher and lower pitches with up and down in 
>>> space. Maybe because low sounds are associated with heavier objects, 
>>> which seem to be tending downward more seriously than lighter 
>>> objects (although they accelerate at the same rate when falling.))
>>> Christopher Bonds
>>> Wayne State College (retired)
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> *********************************************************
> Thomas Noll
> http://user.cs.tu-berlin.de/~noll <http://user.cs.tu-berlin.de/%7Enoll>
> noll at cs.tu-berlin.de <mailto:noll at cs.tu-berlin.de>
> Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya, Barcelona
> Departament de Teoria i Composició
> *********************************************************

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