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

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at paris-sorbonne.fr
Mon Jul 30 09:47:41 PDT 2012

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 
     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)
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20120730/e0e7a910/attachment-0004.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list