Concept
Concept

Music, in a Circle

Understanding the intrinsic connectedness of vibrations, is the key to being able to understand another's melodic thought

Have 11 minutes?

Ever wanted to NOT have to memorize the Circle of Fifths, but maybe discover how simple it is to build instead? 
And…while you’re at it, learn why it is as it is, and how you can actually use it to create conversations in Music?


All of Music can be seen within the geometry of the circle, and the connecting lines within

Where the intervals come into the round –

 

The relationships that can be found within the Circle, where calculation, geometry, wave, light, and sound intersect, is vast.

 

Let it sink in.

 

 

or just build it.
Circle of Fifths with Minors and notation

Roll the Dice

Music is a language, and languages have structure, pattern, and expression. 

Creating conversation by chance. Using the dice as a reference point, either as a bass note, a chordal suggestion, a scale or Key framework, or even a skeleton melody line, we can learn to move through the frequencies with ease, expression, and intrigue.

Keys, in Music, hold a list of ingredients and a set of instructions.

The ingredients are the notes, and the instructions are how those notes are put together. Sometimes the same set of ingredients can produce different dishes, depending on how they are combined, cooked, not cooked, or prepared. Music is the same. 

Keys, like recipes, have instructions on how to blend those ingredient notes, in certain orders, with timing and space in between steps.

To understand better how to use the dice to create, explore, challenge and develop your skillsets, and use them to inspire your conversation, please reach out.

Intervals: The Spaces In Between

Understanding intervals is the key to being able to follow, and more or less, complete another's melodic thought

Composition in Music, just like in spoken word, or structure, organization, and all other forms, requires a dance and balance between the spaces. Sometimes original, sometimes repurposed, sometimes entirely reworked, the outcome is one that will become a thing if the combinations flow. The key to creating that flow is to understand what makes it so, and why.  

In Music, the intervals are the spaces between the frequencies. How they flow together is the why behind the what that creates the thing. 

Find some stairs and get someone to read this to you while you follow the, er.. steps
 

Stand at the stairs, starting on the floor/base (not on a step yet), state (aloud) “A”.

Take a step up
Say “B”
Take another step up
Say “C”
Step again
“D”
E, F, G, and arrive (finish) when you get to A again.
Mark it visibly somehow.
 
Now, turn around. 
 
Say “A”
Take a step down
Say “G”
Another step down
Say “F”
And again, down a step
E, D, C, B, and finally
“A”
You’re now on the floor where you started
 

Here’s where the intervals come into the frame –

 
Start on the floor again, stairs going up in front of you.
Now the floor is C (before it was A)
 
Take one step.
Where are you?
D
 
Do you feel like you’ve gone very far?
Maybe it feels like you could either go up a step further, or step back down to the floor?
That SECOND step is useful but not a great place to pause for very long – can you feel your body’s inclination to move beyond the second step?
 
Now step back down to the floor.
You’re on C again.
 
The floor in this case is also known as the FIRST in terms of an interval.
It’s where you started, and where you will end, one way or another.
It’s where your feet begin-where they are ROOTed. It’s where the ANCHOR is, at least at the moment.
 
From the FIRST, the floor, the ROOT, skip the next step (the SECOND step), and land your feet on the THIRD step.
What letter is this step? ………
If you said E, this is making sense. 
It’s most excellent if you have only 7 stairs because of the sense of completion when you reach the next level, however with a longer set of stairs, just give yourself a good visual to represent arrival on that 8th surface, or completion point.
 
Go to that EIGHTH, that completion/landing point. You’ve returned to the root, only this time you’re an octave higher than where you began.

Turn around, it’s time to descend.
Your goal now is to return to where you began, but maybe don’t do it step by step, that’s rather predictable.

 

  • From that top surface, if it’s the same letter as where you began on the floor, take a single step down; now you’re on the SEVENTH step from the floor. Now decide whether you’re going to start down a step at a time, two, three… how about five? (Don’t fall.)

Ok, so if you managed to land safely, take a moment to catch your breath. You’re a fifth step from the top (a FIFTH down from the ROOT – the landing, like the floor, functions as a placd to take root).

Notice how, while you catch your breath, it’s a good place to be, though it does seem to have a sense of something, doesn’t it? 

 
Let’s say you really can’t just sit in the middle of the staircase forever because, well, you’re hungry. You’ll need to return to the floor where you began so you can get some lunch.
Ok, you have some choices: you can step down the rest of the way, one step at a time. You can try a “skipping a step between” pattern… It’s up to you how you descend the spaces between.

Which fits your mood, which seems more like what you want to do? Lot’s of options – some are more comfortable than others, depending on previous choices. Comfort is harmony. 

Comfort is harmony, but comfort is subjective. Sometimes, stretching is comfortable. Sometimes we have to have a solid plan to be comfortable, but sometimes we can be comfortable with indecision, spontaneity, moments of what’s needed (tension). Existence without tension is incredibly bleh, so use it well.

Feel the steps, the spaces in between, as you move up/down/around the stairs. Feel your body’s inclinations, hesitations, preferences. Find someway of hearing the tones of the steps/notes you land upon.

Let it sink in.
 

Perfect and Absolute Pitch

Absolute Pitch Recognition, Interval Discernment, Synesthesia

When I was young, I’d often paint while listening to music. I remember enjoying opportunities when I didn’t have an image in mind, just colors to swirl about on a canvas. 

Sometime around the age of 15, I recall having the realization that I’d pick certain music to listen to, given my mood, and even without labeling, I could easily associate a painting with a certain album or song, or melodic sequence. At the time, I think just assumed my ability to correlate was due to my having created the swirls of color and simply remembering what I was listening to while doing so. However, I came across those paintings years later, and after laying them all out, noticed a pattern emerging. I decided to set them out in groupings by color (dominant color, sequence of color, or whatever else stuck out to me as a consistency). I was curious why there seemed to be such obvious common threads and so decided, as I’d written on some of them what music had inspired them, to find that music once again and study the canvases while listening. 

Half way through the second song and I realized what had been happening, all those years ago-I was painting based on a synesthetic color perception of the tones. This awareness inspired a journey of research that culminated in not only a solid understanding of what was going on in my own head, but an awareness of what others experience as well.

When I met my partner, I discovered that while I could easily match pitch either vocally or with an instrument, with little effort seeking, he could not only match it without seeking, he could identify the note without any point of reference, and he could produce the pitch vocally, with excellent accuracy and no reference pitch. I was absolutely intrigued, and had much to learn!

Turns out, absolute pitch is hereditary. We’ve seen it in our older kids, and now our littlest (3 years) is developing her special memory space for sound and pitch.

Synesthesia and Absolute Pitch: Connected?

[ ] People who have “absolute pitch” can identify notes immediately without relying on a reference tone. Intensive research is being conducted into the neuronal basis of this extraordinary ability at the University of Zurich’s Department of Neuropsychology. The researchers have now detected a close functional link between the auditory cortex in the brain and the frontal lobe in these extraordinary people — a discovery that is not only important in theory, but also in practice.

 

Mozart, Bach and Beethoven are all supposed to have had it: “absolute pitch” — the ability to identify and categorize a note without having to rely on any reference tones. While, with a prevalence of one percent in the normal population, the remarkable ability is relatively rare, it is observed twenty percent more frequently in professional musicians. It is often suspected that this special hearing skill is a key aspect of extraordinary musical talent.

 

 

“Our study shows how two brain regions, namely the auditory cortex and the dorsal frontal lobe, work together for absolute pitch. In the process, we combine two essentially conflicting explanatory approaches for the phenomenon.”

 

 

Two theories on absolute pitch

One explanation assumes that people with absolute pitch already categorize the notes at a very early stage of sound processing. In other words, they process tones in the same way as speech sounds and assign them to particular categories, which is referred to as the categorical perception of tones. This theory assumes that the tones are already processed in the primary and secondary auditory cortex in the brain in people with absolute pitch.

 

Another theory suggests that people with absolute pitch only process the notes later on and associate them with memory information. People with this gift supposedly master the subconscious allocation of the tones to memory information particularly well. These allocations primarily take place in the upper frontal lobe, in the dorsal frontal cortex. “Therefore, both theories make completely different statements regarding the moment and the anatomical location of the special processing and there is evidence to support both theories,” explains Jäncke.

 

As someone who experiences the phenomenon of synesthesia, married to someone who experiences absolute/perfect pitch, I would offer that these two theories do an excellent job of explaining our worlds; both theories  are accurate from our perspective.

 


Connected brain regions explain the phenomenon

In his study, Stefan Elmer is now able to show that functionally the left-hand auditory cortex and the left-hand dorsal frontal cortex are already strongly linked in a dormant state — in other words, when there are no tasks to be performed. This functional coupling could be estimated based on a mathematical technique, which uses surface electroencephalography to extrapolate the brain activity inside the brain. In people with absolute pitch, the neurophysiological activity in the frontal and auditory cortex are synchronized, which suggests a close functional connection.

 

This means that the brain regions that control early perception functions (auditory cortex) or late memory functions (dorsal frontal cortex) are already tightly interwoven in a dormant state. “This coupling enables an especially efficient exchange of information between the auditory cortex and the dorsal frontal cortex in people with absolute pitch, which means that the perception and memory information can be exchanged quickly and efficiently,” explains Elmer.

 

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of ZurichNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Elmer, L. Rogenmoser, J. Kuhnis, L. Jancke. Bridging the Gap between Perceptual and Cognitive Perspectives on Absolute PitchJournal of Neuroscience, 2015; 35 (1): 366 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3009-14.2015
University of Zurich. “Two brain regions join forces for absolute pitch.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2015..

Abstract

“People with Absolute Pitch can categorize musical pitches without a reference, whereas people with tone-color synesthesia can see colors when hearing music. Both of these special populations perceive music in an above-normal manner. In this study we asked whether AP possessors and tone-color synesthetes might recruit specialized neural mechanisms during music listening. Furthermore, we tested the degree to which neural substrates recruited for music listening may be shared between these special populations. AP possessors, tone-color synesthetes, and matched controls rated the perceived arousal levels of musical excerpts in a sparse-sampled fMRI study. Both APs and synesthetes showed enhanced superior temporal gyrus (STG, secondary auditory cortex) activation relative to controls during music listening, with left-lateralized enhancement in the APs and right-lateralized enhancement in the synesthetes. When listening to highly arousing excerpts, AP possessors showed additional activation in the left STG whereas synesthetes showed enhanced activity in the bilateral lingual gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (late visual areas). Results support both shared and distinct neural enhancements in AP and synesthesia: common enhancements in early cortical mechanisms of perceptual analysis, followed by relative specialization in later association and categorization processes that support the unique behaviors of these special populations during music listening.” – Loui P, Zamm A, Schlaug G. Absolute Pitch and Synesthesia: Two Sides of the Same Coin? Shared and Distinct Neural Substrates of Music Listening. ICMPC. 2012;618-623.

The Color of Sound

Synesthesia, the Color of Sound, and the Frequency of Ohm

Can you really see color when you hear music? Some of us do.
For many years, I never actually paid any attention to the fact that when I play music, the notes and the intervals take on, or rather produce a sense of color, of hue, in my mind.

When I did finally pay attention to the rainbows (or rather wash of color) that created themselves as I played, especially when composing or playing spontaneously, I mentioned it to a few people who promptly dismissed my description, or were so confused by it that they just stared at me and responded with “I don’t get it”. 

Then, one day, someone responded, “me too”. And so began my journey into a better way of explaining what was such an innate and natural component of music for me.

It started with identifying whether my perception of a pitch’s color remained consistent. For the most part, it seemed as though it did (doesn’t matter what octave). However, any time an interval was played, a wash of color is sensed, and only by intentional isolation, do I experience an awareness of singular hues. I found this awareness intersting enough to keep researching, but alas, as this was during a pre-Google period, there were not many resources, successfully found by me anyway, that really lent much credence to what I was experiencing.

Fast forward a decade or so and magically, the internet became useful for researching, though not entirely overflowing with much related to my subject matter of interest, there were bits and pieces to be found and I started making connections where I could. One revelation led to another, and what started out as trying to legitimize my chromatic sensory experience, became a full on trip down the rabbit hole of frequency.

I’m still there.


Below are links to some articles and videos that meander around this topic. I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences if you’d like to share.

The Key to the Recipe

Music is a language, and languages have structure, pattern, and expression. 

In Music, we have recipes, just like in life. We all know that our favorite dish, desert, or even entire meal is made up of ingredients, and if we put those ingredients together in a list, and add a set of instructions, we have what we call a recipe. 

Like food that nourishes our bodies, music nourishes our soul and mind.  We hold dear our recipes, passed down from generations, refined, tested. 

In Music, these recipes serve a similar purpose: they create incredibly pleasing, refined, and tested combinations of sound frequencies, from which we spin our stories. We call these recipes, “Keys”. 

Keys, in Music, hold a list of ingredients and a set of instructions.

The ingredients are the notes, and the instructions are how those notes are put together. Sometimes the same set of ingredients can produce different dishes, depending on how they are combined, cooked, not cooked, or prepared. Music is the same. 

Keys have names just like recipes. Keys have ingredients – notes.

Keys have instructions on how to blend those notes, in certain orders, with timing and space in between steps.

Let’s begin with your favorite recipe. Let’s find the Key that, when you hear notes from within its framework, something inside lights up and motivates you to begin creating your nourishing masterpiece.

Perfect Harmony : Consonance, Dissonance, & the Value of Each

What Is Harmony?

To understand harmony, let’s begin by talking about an interval. In Music, an interval is the “space” between notes, when two or more notes are  played simultaneously. 

If we view notes as steps on a staircase, intervals are the distances between those steps. 

Depending on the chosen distance between the notes, we will have a consonant or dissonant harmony created when more than a single note is played simultaneously, or in near sequence.

Harmony is when frequency flows in a manner that math can explain.

From Within the Theory

Why Invest the Time and Effort in Learning Theory?
Theory is the structure of the language of Music.

When we choose to communicate through spoken language, we often find it most effective if we can also communicate through its written form. Often, having the privilege of speaking directly to another is beyond reality, so we turn to the written word to relay and share our ideas and stories.

Music is no different.

Communicate

The language of melody, the sensuality of harmony, and the complexity of stories, coalescing in a pulse that resonates across all of time. Create.