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Tuesday Morning Roundup


by Stephen Becker 11 May 2010

THE SCIENCE OF MUSIC: Is humanity’s response to music universal? Put another way: is music created by one culture fundamentally understood by another? Those questions are at the heart of a fascinating article in New Scientist magazine.

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THE SCIENCE OF MUSIC: Is humanity’s response to music universal? Put another way: is music created by one culture fundamentally understood by another? Those questions are at the heart of a fascinating article in New Scientist magazine. As you might guess, nothing has been 100 percent decided just yet. But it’s interesting to see the lengths that scientists are going to to test their theories, including playing music for babies and monkeys to gauge their responses. This is a good read for music theorists in specific and nerds in general.

PAIN IN THE REAR: At the theater, the only thing the audience is asked to do is sit. So why do theaters make it so difficult by installing some of the worst chairs imaginable. That’s a question on Elaine Liner’s mind, which she explored in a recent post on theaterjones.com. The thin, boxy seats at the Wyly Theatre are Public Enemy No. 1 in her book. “Why build a Rolls Royce of a theater and then put the audience in the Yugo of seats,” she asks. To which I can only say: preach on.

QUOTABLE: “I got bored with making art about which I already knew the end result, even before I started.”

Houston printmaker Orna Feinstein, on making the switch from realism to the abstract. She discusses her show at Craighead-Green Gallery with dallasnews.com.

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  • Tom Jones

    Re: There are also conceivable reasons why dissonant harmonies should sound grating. “Unlike the overtones of harmonic intervals, those of dissonant intervals do not overlap,” says Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Interference between these frequencies produces rapid periodic changes in loudness, called acoustic roughness, which induces unpleasant sensations in many listeners. “You’ll get the general idea if you imagine the sound of nails scratching on a blackboard,” Trehub says.

    Except that in the equal tempered scale used in most Western music, most intervals other than octaves and fifths are dissonant in this way. Any distinction of “consonance” and “dissonance” that simultaneously claims to be based on “harmonic intervals” and is NOT using justly tuned intervals (refer back to that Slate article on tuning you linked to a month or two ago) is trying to have it both ways.