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#2261388 - 04/14/14 04:07 AM Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth?
FSO Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 852
Loc: UK, Brighton
At least, one that isn't born of its definition? For instance, a four-voice fugue has more voices than a three-voice fugue. I'm unsure even if the description of my question is accurate, but it'll have to do smile Um...I can think of a few static facts that aren't universal (mainly to do with emotions, preferences {not flaming, but the fact that I perceive myself as enjoying the work of one composer over another *is* a fact} etc.) and I can think of a few notions that *may* be universal (mainly to do with the mechanics and mathematics of waves and perception of those waves {the higher the sum of the lowest common factors between all of the frequencies of waves [? I may have stated that sillilly and wrong...um...I mean, octaves are always 2...the harmonic series and what-not] and the lower the regularity of the instances of these frequencies the more disorienting the music}), but, um, I'm struggling to come to terms with a universal, static (by which I mean perduring) truth. Obviously, it couldn't lie within which composer or work, performer or instrument is "better" (though I personally believe if every person atomised and defined "better" without compromise, then all those definitions were brought together, a good approximation could be made, whether people would admit it or not wink )...perhaps that some cadence or other will always evoke the same emotions, at least on some level, stuck with me for a while...but all I had to think of was Pavlov's dogs to realise how silly that was (let alone how some people react to "dissonance" {for that matter, can someone explain to me what calling a piece, or chord, dissonant means, please? I mean, things can be more or less dissonant than each other, that much is true, but, um, there's no such thing as absolute dissonance; if two frequencies played for long enough there would be a moment of unison, no matter how discombobulated their wavelengths {in the physical realm, at least. Of course, you could make two theoretical wavelengths never synchronise}...that is to say, dissonance is just a more complex, or simply different, order you haven't understood yet; if one listens to one tonal system, say 12 tones, then another, say 17 tones, there's a period of adjustment...*regardless* of the order in which they are listened)...um...tempo, for a bit, gave me pause for wonder; the faster a piece the more urgent it feels, perhaps, but then this fell to nonsense too when I considered the extreme of that proposal. This may all seem like nonsense, it may even *be* nonsense laugh but...it seems important to me; is there a fundamental, underlying and physical component to music that is objective? Failing that, is there a shared subjective one? There's no doubt in my mind that there are objective transcendental truths about music, but, um, I'm curious about physical ones; ones most people would class as "real". I don't expect anyone to give me a valid one, of course, but I'd be interested to know whether any of you think one *could* exist, whether it's establishable or even recognisable or not, as if one operates under the notion that there *is* some kind of universal truth about music we need never worry about creating one within a work, and if there is *no* universal truth there's no responsibility within the failure of a work; that is to say, the beauty of a subject with no comparison is unknowable, whether someone calls it ugly or true, um...but masonry, no matter how finely crafted, can never be made of anything other than stone and, as such, any allusion it makes to being living is farce and destined to fail...the capacity of one's value is limitless, the rigour is endless of the other, with respect to all musical works throughout time, so...um...it seems important to me to at least consider in *your own* mind whether or not there *could* be a rigid principle which would determine some affects (yes, *affects* laugh ) of what one can only perceive as a personal, and thus individual, experience. A decade ago I started thinking about it assuming that there had to be one; that the definition of music couldn't survive without one, whether it was discovered or not, but I've not come to any firm conclusions...um...nowadays I suppose I lean towards the notion that there *couldn't* be a transient, physical musical fact, but that's only an opinion; I haven't thought of a way to prove it yet. Um...I'd love your opinions on the matter, if you have them and care to share them, and thank you if you read *all* the way down here laugh I hope you're well as you read this. Sooo...yeah, ta smile
Xxx
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Sometimes, we all just need to be shown a little kindness <3

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#2261391 - 04/14/14 04:17 AM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York
No grin

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#2261415 - 04/14/14 05:36 AM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 848
Loc: Scotland
A partial answer to one of your questions. In the major/minor tonal system a German 6th sounds and behaves quite differently to the exact same notes as a dominant 7th in a different context. Examining why this is the case gives a deeper understanding of how the tonal system works. It's too consistent and striking an effect to be explained away simply as subjective or conditioned response. The tonal system is dynamic and the relationship of each note to the others has different tensions - notes in some chords want to move in a certain direction and a composer can choose to go along with this or to subvert it.

I think it is in the volume on symphony that Tovey explores this issue.

John
_________________________
Vasa inania multum strepunt.

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#2261549 - 04/14/14 12:17 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: drumour]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: drumour
A partial answer to one of your questions. In the major/minor tonal system a German 6th sounds and behaves quite differently to the exact same notes as a dominant 7th in a different context. Examining why this is the case gives a deeper understanding of how the tonal system works. It's too consistent and striking an effect to be explained away simply as subjective or conditioned response....

I don't see at all why you would say that. I think it's one of the most major instances where we can almost 'prove' otherwise.

The idea of the notes of the two chords being "exactly the same" is a completely artificial result of well-tempering on the piano, or, more broadly, of keyboards, however they're tuned. Keyboards, in the big picture, are all relatively recent inventions, completely culture-bound and have nothing to do with how music was generally done for the thousands or millions of years before. The notes of those "exact same" chords weren't the same. The way in which they weren't the same was, for the most part, that whichever notes of each chord 'moved' for the next chord would lean in that direction.

In case someone might astutely point out that these kinds of chords might not have existed prior to the existence of keyboards grin (and I'm not sure that they exactly did, but it wouldn't matter because the principles of "same" notes being different did exist)....

The same thing applies nowadays, when the chords are played by non-keyboard instruments -- like, in orchestras, chamber groups, and choirs, probably even if a keyboard is playing along with them although maybe not to as great an extent. This doesn't necessarily apply to all orchestras, choirs etc. -- but I'd bet it applies to almost all high-level ones, and also to many that aren't that high level. It's a natural function of human music-making.

Oooops, I think I just expressed a universal musical truth. grin

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#2261557 - 04/14/14 12:29 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Mark_C]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1713
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Originally Posted By: Mark_C

...The same thing applies nowadays, when the chords are played by non-keyboard instruments -- like, in orchestras, chamber groups, and choirs, probably even if a keyboard is playing along with them although maybe not to as great an extent. This doesn't necessarily apply to all orchestras, choirs etc. -- but I'd bet it applies to almost all high-level ones, and also to many that aren't that high level. It's a natural function of human music-making...



I wonder if that's true. Certainly it is (or should be) regarding string quartets, orchestras playing pieces scored exclusively for unfretted stringed instruments (e.g., Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings), and unaccompanied choirs.

I don't know enough about "keyed" wind and brass instruments to know whether those instruments are locked into tempered scales once they've been tuned. Maybe one of our wind players on the board can 'splain.

Shouldn't be a problem for the trombones, though. smile
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2261573 - 04/14/14 01:09 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
phantomFive Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1124
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: FSO
At least, one that isn't born of its definition? For instance, a four-voice fugue has more voices than a three-voice fugue.

I think you'd be helped here by distinguishing between 'reality' and "how it's described."

The fugue is what it is, a performance of it is a performance. Whether you decide to describe it as a three part or a four part doesn't matter, as long as the person you are describing it to understands.

When you say, "it's a three part fugue", and someone disagrees and says, "no it's a four part fugue," it doesn't matter who ends up 'winning' the argument, the fugue itself will not have changed.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2261579 - 04/14/14 01:21 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: ClsscLib]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
I don't know enough about "keyed" wind and brass instruments to know whether those instruments are locked into tempered scales once they've been tuned....

Most aren't. I'm not sure if none of them are "locked in" -- for example, I wonder particularly about flute. But I know that most of the others aren't.

Quote:
Shouldn't be a problem for the trombones, though. smile

....and especially not the trombones. ha

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#2261604 - 04/14/14 02:05 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Mark_C]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1713
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
I don't know enough about "keyed" wind and brass instruments to know whether those instruments are locked into tempered scales once they've been tuned....

Most aren't. I'm not sure if none of them are "locked in" -- for example, I wonder particularly about flute. But I know that most of the others aren't.

Quote:
Shouldn't be a problem for the trombones, though. smile

....and especially not the trombones. ha


Maybe the valve trombones, though...
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2261634 - 04/14/14 03:18 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
prout Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 673
The only static, universal observed phenomenon regarding music is likely the harmonic series that occurs in nature and therefore existed before life itself.

Wind blowing through a hole in a rock or over the lip of a cave will produce the harmonic series just as a real trumpet (valveless) or cornet produces the same type of harmonic series.

Animals, including humans, heard this and imitated it -their 'music'.


Edited by prout (04/14/14 03:23 PM)

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#2261642 - 04/14/14 03:40 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Mark_C]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2693
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
I don't know enough about "keyed" wind and brass instruments to know whether those instruments are locked into tempered scales once they've been tuned....

Most aren't. I'm not sure if none of them are "locked in" -- for example, I wonder particularly about flute. But I know that most of the others aren't.

Flutes can bend notes, so the answer is no.

I liked your first answer to the OP's inquiry better. It's all relative and too much contemplation of such questions detracts from practice time. Is FSO living in Colorado or Washington these days or some other state where certain "medicines" are available by prescription. The question itself reminds me of the 70s.

It's difficult for me to understand writing where it's all one big paragraph and comes complete with Ums.


Edited by Steve Chandler (04/14/14 03:44 PM)

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#2261651 - 04/14/14 04:06 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1243
Loc: Reseda, California
Universal musical truth?:

You gotta do it for love, 'cause you'll never get paid what it's really worth. ;-)
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2261683 - 04/14/14 06:08 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Steve Chandler]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19644
Loc: New York
Steve: C'mon -- completely uncalled for.
I appreciate that you liked what I said, but your post still turns my stomach a little.
FSO: Don't worry about it.
I thought you raised good questions, and as for the rest, well, everybody has their own style. smile


More about how those augmented 6th and diminished 7th chords aren't the same even when they 'are':

Even on keyboards, in skillful hands they aren't the same either. Just as the notes that will be moving for the next chord are made to "lean" on other instruments and in voice, the most masterful pianists do likewise. Obviously it can't be with the pitch, but they do it by the balancing and voicing of the chords and by shaping of the melodies in each voice. Part of the miracle of the highest level of pianism is to create illusions, various kinds of illusions. Maybe the most well-known is the illusion of a crescendo on one note or one chord; this would be another -- the illusion that depending on how you balance or voice the notes of a chord and how you shape the melody of each voice, the pitch of a note might give the impression of being a tiny fraction higher or lower. This is all part of what we often call "color."

To ClasscLib, about valve trombones (which I didn't know existed): Even on those, the pitch can still be 'bent,' just as on other wind instruments. How??

Embouchure.

(Gesundheit)

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#2261701 - 04/14/14 06:53 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Mark_C]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Steve: C'mon -- completely uncalled for.
I appreciate that you liked what I said, but your post still turns my stomach a little.
FSO: Don't worry about it.

How is what Steve said "uncalled for"? The "medicine" reference was clearly in jest, and there is nothing wrong with anything else he said.

There is a difference between making observations, such as FSO failing to acknowledge the reader and rambling on with unstructured, unflowing posts, and actually putting someone down. In this case, it doesn't matter if FSO is "offended" by these observations; it is inconsiderate to post in the way that she does, and it's a shame that her writing is so very poor here.

Also, there is absolutely not a "static and universal musical truth".
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2261709 - 04/14/14 07:05 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Mark_C]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4760
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
I thought you raised good questions, and as for the rest, well, everybody has their own style. smile

This is why I've stuck around here so long, and why I can't stick around other sites. There's a variety of personalities here which are great to be around. Other sites are really quite dull by comparison.

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#2261715 - 04/14/14 07:10 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: JohnSprung]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7501
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Universal musical truth?:

You gotta do it for love, 'cause you'll never get paid what it's really worth. ;-)

I think that's the strongest universal truth we're going to get. laugh
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2261942 - 04/15/14 04:57 AM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 848
Loc: Scotland
Keyboards don't know the difference between dom 7ths and German 6ths. Yet, for all the thousands of times we hear that combination of notes as a dom 7th, in a huge variety of dom 7th contexts, as soon as the context is provided for a German 6th it sounds so different as to be opposite. You'd think the difference would be more pronounced when played by groups of instrumentalists who can fine-tune on the fly - but that is not the case.


John
_________________________
Vasa inania multum strepunt.

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#2262006 - 04/15/14 08:15 AM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7753
It seems to me that a static and universal musical truth is that humans across time and culture seem to have this idea that something we call "music" can occur. That strongly suggests to me that we are hard-wired for music, but exactly how that works is mysterious.

The harmonic series as demonstrated by vibrating bodies must be some basic element of it all, in terms of pitch stuff. And we embody and are surrounded by stuff doing the kind of periodic things that seem to form the basis for rhythm in music.

But why do we play with all that, and make music? At the moment I'm typing this, I'm thinking it may be connected with our general bent for abstracting from physical reality, and that seems to be some kind of hardwiring. Tomorrow may bring some other thought...

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#2262021 - 04/15/14 08:54 AM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: wr]
prout Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 673
Originally Posted By: wr
It seems to me that a static and universal musical truth is that humans across time and culture seem to have this idea that something we call "music" can occur. That strongly suggests to me that we are hard-wired for music, but exactly how that works is mysterious.

The harmonic series as demonstrated by vibrating bodies must be some basic element of it all, in terms of pitch stuff. And we embody and are surrounded by stuff doing the kind of periodic things that seem to form the basis for rhythm in music.

But why do we play with all that, and make music? At the moment I'm typing this, I'm thinking it may be connected with our general bent for abstracting from physical reality, and that seems to be some kind of hardwiring. Tomorrow may bring some other thought...



At dusk in view of a setting sun, a solitary lark, sitting high in a dead tree, sings long, highly melismatic lines, never repeating, for about twenty minutes. My wife and I have witnessed this on our land.

On Statia, an island in the Netherlands Antilles, the first evening we were there, we stood ankle deep in the Caribbean Ocean watching the sun set. A herd of cows (the entire island is free range, no fences or herders) joined us in the water to watch as well. We were silent, but they sang (mooed actually).

Why?

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#2262105 - 04/15/14 12:26 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: wr]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
Originally Posted By: wr
It seems to me that a static and universal musical truth is that humans across time and culture seem to have this idea that something we call "music" can occur. That strongly suggests to me that we are hard-wired for music, but exactly how that works is mysterious.

We are definitely "hard-wired" for music. Luckily, it's not so mysterious.

Our attraction to music is certainly a product (or byproduct) of our evolution. There are a few competing hypothesis, but IIRC the most plausible is that it's a byproduct of the development of spoken language and/or our auditory processing systems.

It probably won't be too long for this hypothesis to pull in more evidence.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262111 - 04/15/14 12:37 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: Atrys]
prout Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 673
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Originally Posted By: wr
It seems to me that a static and universal musical truth is that humans across time and culture seem to have this idea that something we call "music" can occur. That strongly suggests to me that we are hard-wired for music, but exactly how that works is mysterious.

We are definitely "hard-wired" for music. Luckily, it's not so mysterious.

Our attraction to music is certainly a product (or byproduct) of our evolution. There are a few competing hypothesis, but IIRC the most plausible is that it's a byproduct of the development of spoken language and/or our auditory processing systems.

It probably won't be too long for this hypothesis to pull in more evidence.


Evolution? Absolutely. In the case of non-human animals (maybe them as well), it was/is likely territorial or mate-search related - 'my song is bigger than your song'.

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#2262129 - 04/15/14 01:09 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4760
Loc: USA
That's hardly an explanation.

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#2262136 - 04/15/14 01:15 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: JoelW]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
Originally Posted By: JoelW
That's hardly an explanation.

It's a start and is currently the best science can offer (which is a better explanation than anything else).

Just because you don't understand the mechanisms of natural and sexual selection doesn't mean it's "hardly an explanation".


Edited by Atrys (04/15/14 01:15 PM)
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262137 - 04/15/14 01:17 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4760
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Atrys
Just because you don't understand the mechanisms of natural and sexual selection...

It isn't wise to make assumptions.

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#2262138 - 04/15/14 01:20 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: JoelW]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
Originally Posted By: JoelW

It isn't wise to make assumptions.

You clearly have no grasp on selection processes if you're dismissing scientific hypotheses of our appreciation for music based in these principles.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262145 - 04/15/14 01:30 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4760
Loc: USA
Show me the science.

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#2262149 - 04/15/14 01:35 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: JoelW]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Show me the science.

There is a whole lot of information available on natural selection and human evolution on the internet. It's very easily accessible; Google is usually a good start.

Aren't you finishing up, or finished with high school? Your science and bio courses should have covered this material (or least an introduction to evolution).
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262151 - 04/15/14 01:36 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
I'm guessing you're going off to university (you may be already). You'll be required to take core-ed classes; plenty of opportunity to learn about evolution there as well.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262154 - 04/15/14 01:41 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4760
Loc: USA
You've yet to do anything except shout "evolution" repeatedly. If you want to be taken seriously with your claim about how music arose, there must be research. It isn't enough to just think of a hypothesis. We test them. This is how we get theories. You should know this.

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#2262155 - 04/15/14 01:43 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: JoelW]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 919
Originally Posted By: JoelW
You've yet to do anything except shout "evolution" repeatedly. If you want to be taken seriously with your claim about how music arose, there must be research. It isn't enough to just think of a hypotheses. We test them. This is how we get theories. You should know this.

I did not formulate these theories, obviously. They were formulated by scientists and, as I said, there are currently a few competing hypothesis. Are you Google-handicapped or something? It takes literally seconds to find the latest information about this.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2262157 - 04/15/14 01:45 PM Re: Is There a Static and Universal Musical Truth? [Re: FSO]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7501
Loc: New York City
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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