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Natural Harmonic Music

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Natural Harmonic Music

What is Natural Harmonic Music?

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Technical Description of Natural Harmonic Music
by Denny Genovese

"All truths begin as blasphemies"
                  -George Bernard Shaw

This article covers three parameters of music that are treated rather uniquely in what is referred to here as Natural Harmonic Music. These Parameters include Pitch, Rhythm and Timbre.

Pitch

The music created and promoted by World Harmony Project uses a scale which is different than the one in common use throughout Europe and America. It is an enhanced version of the scale from which the common scale originated, before it was modified in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in response to the limitations of early keyboard instruments. The scale we use is also more developed and complex than the historical European scale system, in order to meet the more complex nature of twenty first century life.

The scale used by the World Harmony Project is more resonant than the common (twelve tone equal tempered) scale, because all of it's pitches are part of the complex sound that we hear when a single tone is struck on a vibrating string. Thus all of the pitches blend well with each other, while providing a variety of tonal relationships. In contrast, all of the pitches of the common scale are compromised averages of approximately 30 different pitches which they are intended to represent, and none of them have the subtle acoustic properties of the original pitches. Twenty first century technology has overcome the limitations possessed by early keyboard instruments, so there is no reason to continue suffering those compromises.

Historically, the scale we use has been described as Extended Just Intonation, and we have used that term in the past. However, as microtonality and tuning theory has been further explored over recent decades, this term no longer seems to be accurate and descriptive enough. There are so many forms of just intonation in current use that using the term now would be equivalent to describing a polar bear solely with the term "mammal".

The current term, Natural Harmonic Music (though perhaps sounding simplistic at first) is descriptive on both technical and literal levels. It is technically accurate since it denotes the Natural Harmonic Series, a term used  in both music and physics. It is accurate literally as well, since it denotes a scale in it's unprocessed form, exactly as it appears in vibrating systems throughout nature.

Another virtue of this scale, based upon the Natural Harmonic Series, is that it is infinitely expandable. A composer may utilize as many pitches as desired by simply selecting a range, or subset of the infinite number of pitch relationships that are available in the Natural Harmonic Series.

An in-depth look at this scale and it's possibilities are described in my New College Thesis, THE NATURAL HARMONIC SERIES AS A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO JUST INTONATION.

Rhythm

Rhythm may be seen as a low frequency vibration that can be described by the Frequency of pulses, the Duration of each of the pulses, Groupings of pulses and the Loudness characteristics of the individual and groups of pulses. If the Frequency (Meter in musical terms) were increased enough to bring it into a range above twenty pulses per second, the rhythm would be heard as a pitch.

Similarly, if a recording of musical sound were played back slowly enough, the pitches would be heard as pulses.

Combinations of simultaneous pitches are heard as chords. If a recording of musical chords is played slowly enough, it may be heard as combinations of rhythms (multiple frequencies of pulse trains played simultaneously) which are called Polyrhythms. This suggests that polyrhythmic textures may be composed according to the same harmonic considerations as combinations of pitch. This concept was proposed in 1920 by Henry Cowell in his book NEW MUSICAL RESOURCES, and discussed in my New College Thesis, THE NATURAL HARMONIC SERIES AS A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO JUST INTONATION.

Timbre

Harmonic Content of individual sounds is another parameter for the application of principles of extended Harmony. A complete chord progression can be expressed by modulation of the Timbre of a single sustained tone and this may be done rhythmically. Timbre modulation may also be accomplished through sequences of tones generated by different instruments. This is most easily done with electronically produced sounds, but is possible to some extent with acoustic instruments as well.

 

 


 

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Revised: August 21, 2012 .

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