Not by Happenstance – Harmonic Resonance

Is there hope for healthy harmonious harmonic oscillation happening happily not by happenstance?

All of matter (and therefore energy) can be expressed in either waves or particles. However, when speaking in terms of waves, we can plot the motion, potential/kinetic energy, direction, magnitude and get an idea of how this energy in motion will interact with the universe around it. This wave motion is ubiquitous, governing energy/mass at all orders of magnitude! Frequencies of brain synapses (regulating action potential in the brain [2]) are governed by the same resonant properties as the largest celestial bodies!

So what does this mean for me, you ask? Acoustic Resonance.

Acoustic resonance is all around us, affecting every nuance of the human experience. So these waves interfere with our lives, do they interfere with each other?

Yes, of course they do. It is wave interference (constructive or destructive) that gives instruments timbre, and audiences the overtone series! (Great short article on the overtone series by Ryan Leach [7])

Overtones are a byproduct of simple harmonic motion. Imagine a pendulum, as it oscillates back and forth it creates distortion-represented by a waviness within the sine wave itself. With every subsequent oscillation the shape distorts, and the wave begins to resonate not only at its fundamental frequency, but also its harmonious partials!

Because our traditional western tuning (440hz A) is based on an overtone series, all notes are complimentary-even when brashly dissonant. Reverberation causes wave interference which creates novel and complex wave shapes and patterns. These new wave forms in turn create their own overtone series-again interfered creating novel and complex wave shapes…and so on. At this point, the sound itself becomes an instrument that should be taken into account when writing or mixing (all of the time honestly). Whether you are writing recording or performing, the room you are in is your biggest enemy in getting the best quality sound out of your equipment. For a great article on how to tune your room (any room) to maximize frequency expression and abate destructive interference, check out Ethan Winer’s article [8].

Acoustically, this self-inflicted interference created by standing waves is crucial to creating a round musical palette when writing and arranging. For example, strings and wind instruments have mostly harmonic partials in their overtone series- giving a strong sense of pitch and chordation. If you have almost enough melodic texture and don’t know where to go next in a writing session try adding pitched percussion; Marimba and vibraphone both have overtone series full of inharmonic partials that lend well to rhythm while still maintaining a sense of tonality. So now the meat is done, what about the potatoes? Cymbals, stereo sweeps, and modulated white noise are all rife with inharmonicity, adding a much needed dash of color and ambiance.

As harmonic resonance governs matter (of all phases), is it justifiable to say that the sub-atomic particles that comprise our carnal bodies resonate in a sea of harmonic overtones (given they were disturbed from their equilibrium)? What would this imply about the seemingly solid, stationary, and subjective world that we each individually occupy?

During equilibrium we seem to be slighted into forgetting our harmonic motion as the Earth rotates (from a geocentric perspective) at 1670 km/hr! This all while hurdling around the Sun upwards of 29 km/SECOND, we quietly rest on our node- seemingly motionless! [4][5]


[3 Seriously, watch this video to get a sense of the planetary oscillations…Amazing!]

Similarly, it could be extrapolated that music found to be naturally stimulating or pleasing is merely a fractal-ic representation of subjective experiences (or as I have dubbed episodic variations on a theme) as we collectively wobble through space on our Pale Blue Dot (For some good reading check out this Carl Sagan must-have [6])

Next time you crank up your favorite oscillator, take a second to ponder what aspect of harmonic existence you are conjuring from your subconscious…

Much Love










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