At some point, some dude came along and determined that a certain frequency of sound would be known as an “A”. This was a completely arbitrary decision of course, there are an infinite amount of tones possible- also for whatever reason it was decided that there were 12 other such “notes” out there. The frequency chosen to be “A” is 440hz; meaning it is the sound that occurs when 440 little vibrations happen per second. Here’s a little about what that means exactly:
Remember when you were a kid and you attached playing cards to your bike so that they clicked on the spokes of the wheel. When you’re moving slowly, you can hear the clicks very well individually. Suppose you are moving slow enough that 3 clicks occur per second- you could almost count them at this speed. This speed is 3hz (3 vibrations per second). But what happens when you speed up? Well, if the card is sturdy enough, the many clicks will start to blend together and seem to sound more as a solid tone- as you accelerate further, that tone will increase in pitch.
Musical theory is based on specific speeds of these vibrations. For instance, the octaves up and down from “A” are conveniently exactly double or half of 440hz. So 220hz is an A, 110hz is an A, 880hz is an A etc. . . . ..This math is necessary, both scientifically for harmonization to occur and audibly (all A’s have a similar perceptive character).
How this harmonization occurs mathematically? For this analogy imagine a couple buskers downtown. Each dude has one drum and is beating a straight beat at an unchanging tempo. Also remember, in theory, these guys could be sped up like the playing card until they sound like solid tones. . ..Now if they were to play the same beat, they would collectively be louder right? This is like playing two A’s together. If one hairy busker started playing twice the speed of the other, the two rythms would still groove well together, with the faster dude hitting his drum both in time with the slow guy while adding a faster hit between each beat. This would be like playing an A and the octave above it. So finally imagine that the one busker is getting quite hairy and sweaty now playing at three times the speed of the other dude; hitting his drum 3 times for every one from the other guy. This wouldn’t be another “A”, but it would still sound cool together- hence harmony occurs. Even if he tires out and goes half his current speed, doing 1&1/2 beats per the other guys one- they will still manage to hit every other slow beat together. Sounding cool in total, still harmonizing, still mathematically common.
If they kept completely different tempos, lets say they couldn’t hear each other, the two rythms would not line up with each other under any sort of mathematical commonality- and then they would sound terrible. This is what happens when harmony does not occur in tones as well; the tempos of the two quick little vibrations do not match up. Remember there are an infinite amount of tones possible, so finding ones that match mathematically could be extremely difficult. Musical theory addressed this problem by fixing the arbitrary point “A” at 440hz and building everything from that foundation. But it could have been 442hz or 436hz or anything similar and the world would have never known the difference.
Track provided by Clam Balls, yes it is a band.
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