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#1
Just some background information to show my perspective and that I can talk about either side of this debate.

Hi, guys. I'm Anthony. I am an avid 22 year old metalhead. I've been listen to metal of several sub genres almost exclusively since I was 6. I am also currently a entering graduate med school. I also play 4 instruments, classically trained. Despite the fact that I am passionate about playing metal music, I also approach things from a scientific standpoint.

This presents an interesting dichotomy.

The idea of Music Theory and Scientific Theory.

Scientific Theory goes under a peer reviewed system.

Music Theory isn't as concrete. This is due to the word Theory being misused in an everyday setting. However, it gave thought to the idea of Scientifically Supported Music Theory.

What do you guys think? Is it possible to have a Scientific Approach to Music Theory by means of objective supported studies or should a scientist step out of an artists box? Are these two personalities incompatible within the same person during musical creation?

Is Scientifically supported Music Theory is possible? Is it even useful from a scientific or musical standpoint?

Am I alone in these thoughts or are there others who thing within the same vein?

Discuss please. I've checked my post several times for errors for your convenience so I apologize for any errors that slipped in my post, I'm on my phone.
Last edited by Gary120a21 at Nov 6, 2014,
#2
As far as usefulness goes, that is totally subjective.

So one thing that comes to mind when thinking about science and music is the physics behind generating sounds. Harmonic overtone series, etc.

As a guitar player, that is pretty useless to me.

But if I was say, an amp designer or guitar designer, this type of knowledge might help me understand why something has the timbre it does and would help guide me in my path to creating an instrument that produces the tones I like.

When it comes to making music theory scientific.. I think you need to be more specific with your question. Objective studies.. on what? What are we trying to move from subjectivity to objectivity?
#3
Quote by Gary120a21
Just some background information to show my perspective and that I can talk about either side of this debate.

Hi, guys. I'm Anthony. I am an avid 22 year old metalhead. I've been listen to metal of several sub genres almost exclusively since I was 6. I am also currently a entering graduate med school. I also play 4 instruments, classically trained. Despite the fact that I am passionate about playing metal music, I also approach things from a scientific standpoint.

This presents an interesting dichotomy.

The idea of Music Theory and Scientific Theory.

Scientific Theory goes under a peer reviewed system.

Music Theory isn't as concrete. This is due to the word Theory being misused in an everyday setting. However, it gave thought to the idea of Scientifically Supported Music Theory.

What do you guys think? Is it possible to have a Scientific Approach to Music Theory by means of objective supported studies or should a scientist step out of an artists box? Are these two personalities incompatible within the same person during musical creation?

Is Scientifically supported Music Theory is possible? Is it even useful from a scientific or musical standpoint?

Am I alone in these thoughts or are there others who thing within the same vein?

Discuss please. I've checked my post several times for errors for your convenience so I apologize for any errors that slipped in my post, I'm on my phone.


you mean like, you base your music on some scientific equation rather than listening and expressing?

You can certainly try if you feel that strongly about the idea. Personally I'd rather not.
#4
its almost a different meaning of the word theory. its not a theory in the sense of a scientific theory that attempts to explain a set of phenomena, music theory is a theoretical basis for music; its more like a set of principles or rules to organise what is, in a sense, just a load of different pitches of sound. scientific theories can be disproven, but no ones ever gonna disprove that a harmonic minor scale is the whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole-and-a-half, half pattern
#5
Scientific theories are explanatory in nature, musical theory is set of agreed upon standards and regulations to help musicians in matters concerning the organization and manipulation of the natural phenomenon of sound.

These are entirely different categories with little to no crossover.
#6
Let's start off by saying that music = maths. It simply is. There are physical, rational explanations why certain things sounds a certain way.

It's when art crosses over to a psychological science. You need to understand the psychology behind the music. When listening to sounds and music, your ears and brain perform a process similar to a Fourier Transform, and decode the sound. The mathematical relationships your brain detects are then translated into chemical emotions. It's the same reason why hearing a scream is blood-curdling or laughter is uplifting.

Music touches on these emotions. It ultimately stems from our evolution of speech. A lot of musician's don't realise it, but when you learn music theory, you're effectively just building a musical dictionary of emotions. If you understand the maths - the logic, you can use it to construct whatever music you want.

For example, a minor chord sounds minor because of the fundamental harmonic ratio between the root and the minor third (i.e. a minor third or 'augmented 2nd' interval, 6:5). Something about that ratio sounds strange or mysterious to humans. Make a note of that. If you were to splice that interval into a scale degree, you end up with the 'exotic' sound found in the harmonic minor scale, for example. They're not just 'minor' because it's in their name, they share a fundamental musical property that our brains respond to.

That is a scientific approach to music theory. Of course, it's much more complicated than my layman's explanation, but I hope it helps!
Last edited by Joeseye at Nov 7, 2014,
#7
I agree with the other posters overall. I'm also of a similar background (well, yours sounds more ambitious :P) having recently graduated with a M.S. in Biomedical Engineering and also being a multi-instrumentalist (and metalhead).

There are certain facets of music (or sound, more generally) that are amenable to evidence-based scientific study, such as the spectral content of a sound wave via Fourier analysis.

The term "music theory" in the conventional sense, however, doesn't necessarily fit the scientific, evidence-based paradigm of exploring a hypothesis/theory, but rather is a codified system describing patterns that have arisen primarily from the Western tradition (that's not to undermine the value and contribution of non-Western music traditions, of course!).

Anyways that's just my two cents. Happy studies!
#8
I totally disagree. As an axiomatic logical system, science can only address half the universe, that is, the logical side that can be addressed by deriving a chain of rules and proofs from fundamental axioms, with each stage a logically consistant extrapolation of the previous. This approach is useless for meaningfully addressing illogical statements and expressions. Such as perversity, disorder, courage, love, beauty, belief, meaning, nonsense and so on. These subjects are explored with other tools than science, tools more suited to handle the task. Such as language, art, and music. Sure you can apply science reasoning to music, but shit isn't always Reasonable, and endless reductive analysis of music doesn't get you anywhere closer to writing a monster riff. I am increasingly convinced that the ambiguous aspects of language (music included) is a vital portion of being able to cover areas which science cannot. Music is all about hitting you in the Feels, and expressing what it means to be human. Science is mostly mute in these areas.
Last edited by innovine at Nov 14, 2014,
#9
mopping up here

Quote by Joeseye
Let's start off by saying that music = maths. It simply is.


math would involve proofs of some sort, actual deduction. where is that?

Quote by Joeseye
There are physical, rational explanations why certain things sounds a certain way.

It's when art crosses over to a psychological science. You need to understand the psychology behind the music. When listening to sounds and music, your ears and brain perform a process similar to a Fourier Transform, and decode the sound.


do you have a source for this wizardry or did you just want to say 'fourier transform'?

Quote by Joeseye
The mathematical relationships your brain detects are then translated into chemical emotions.


relationships such as? chemicals such as?

Quote by Joeseye
It's the same reason why hearing a scream is blood-curdling or laughter is uplifting.

Music touches on these emotions. It ultimately stems from our evolution of speech.


citation needed

Quote by Joeseye
A lot of musician's don't realise it, but when you learn music theory, you're effectively just building a musical dictionary of emotions.


if this were true, why hasn't anyone transcribed such a useful dictionary?

Quote by Joeseye
If you understand the maths - the logic, you can use it to construct whatever music you want.


can you demonstrate this?

Quote by Joeseye
For example, a minor chord sounds minor because of the fundamental harmonic ratio between the root and the minor third (i.e. a minor third or 'augmented 2nd' interval, 6:5). Something about that ratio sounds strange or mysterious to humans. Make a note of that. If you were to splice that interval into a scale degree, you end up with the 'exotic' sound found in the harmonic minor scale, for example. They're not just 'minor' because it's in their name, they share a fundamental musical property that our brains respond to.


okay so you're saying if i find some other thing with a 6:5 'harmonic' ratio (whatever you think that means) it should also sound 'exotic' and 'minor'? does anyone else find this hard to believe?

Quote by Joeseye
That is a scientific approach to music theory. Of course, it's much more complicated than my layman's explanation, but I hope it helps!


can you point me in the direction of a more complete source provided you're not just talking out of your ass?

------

Quote by innovine
I totally disagree. As an axiomatic logical system, science can only address half the universe, that is, the logical side that can be addressed by deriving a chain of rules and proofs from fundamental axioms


there is no proof in science.

Quote by innovine
with each stage a logically consistant extrapolation of the previous. This approach is useless for meaningfully addressing illogical statements and expressions. Such as perversity, disorder, courage, love, beauty, belief, meaning, nonsense and so on. These subjects are explored with other tools than science, tools more suited to handle the task. Such as language, art, and music. Sure you can apply science reasoning to music, but shit isn't always Reasonable, and endless reductive analysis of music doesn't get you anywhere closer to writing a monster riff. I am increasingly convinced that the ambiguous aspects of language (music included) is a vital portion of being able to cover areas which science cannot.


there is literally a science of language.

Quote by innovine
Music is all about hitting you in the Feels, and expressing what it means to be human. Science is mostly mute in these areas.


poor attempt at philosophy here.

-----

music theory is not a science and has nothing to do with math. there is currently no scientific approach to writing music. you may use models in physics to assist you in creating waveforms you desire but that's only useful for a small number of musicians.
#10
Brings to mind the old "dancing about architecture" line....

Some aspects of music can be described using scientific methods... The specific physics of tone production, the mathematical relationships of certain tones, the wave-forms propagating across an acoustic instrument... That sort of thing.
However, to describe what are essentially works of art, which are by necessity subjective, is rather a chore for the scientific method.
Now, one area of science that is ripe for research is within the realm of neuroscience... That is the perception of music by the human brain and the effects of music upon same....
Oliver Sacks has some interesting observations on this in his book, "Musicophelia".
#11
I have a long, detailed, brainmelting scientific explanation of consonance, dissonance, intervals, just intonation, 12 tone equal temperament, harmonics, distortion, and how they all related to each other to cause a distorted major chord to sound awful, complete with actual pitch numbers.

I'm not going to bother posting it here since it's too much to type up, but I often explain it to people I know and they don't understand it at all.
#12
Proper science consists of hypotheses worked into theories that make testable predictions, and then testing those predictions experimentally to see whether the theory is wrong.

It doesn't really apply to music as a whole. But it might apply to parts of music. If I have a hypothesis on why we perceive a certain tone as a tonic, based on analysis of the music, it could be put to the test.

But this would be a small achievement compared to the scope of all music: its emotional effect, its addictiveness, the way it acts as a meme, the subjective feelings of certain intervals ... There's no 'theory of everything' for music. Even if we could somehow codify the subjective, reductionist science would be an inefficient way of dealing with music. It would be far more complex than our innate understanding, and therefore unnecessary.
Last edited by Jehannum at Nov 14, 2014,
#13
Quote by Gary120a21
J
What do you guys think? Is it possible to have a Scientific Approach to Music Theory by means of objective supported studies or should a scientist step out of an artists box? Are these two personalities incompatible within the same person during musical creation?

Is Scientifically supported Music Theory is possible? Is it even useful from a scientific or musical standpoint?
.


There are many levels that this could be explored in (and has been at various times, primarily from physical properties or from cognitive response (lots of fascinating books on music psychology are available, and well worth a read (my favourite is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sweet-Anticipation-Psychology-Expectation-Bradford/dp/0262582783/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415974790&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=philip+huron+psychology).

There was an attempt to draw up a theory of tone relationships by Hindemith, expanding on the constraints of the "theory of common practise". Also worth a read, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Craft-Musical-Composition-Book-Theoretical/dp/0901938300/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1415974902&sr=8-3&keywords=paul+hindemith) ... very dated now, but pseduo-scientific based on the discovery of additional tone generation (not overtones) resulting from various intervals. (I think they're called combination tones, if I remember rightly)

I have read vague attempts at explaining the cognitive effects of various music intervals, due to the physical beating phenonemon that gets created when pitches unrelated by octaves are added together (i.e. harmony).

BTW: "Theory" is a total misnomer for music. Should have been called "Observations on what famous composers used commonly (i.e. by more than one) in their music over a couple of hundred years, and here's a load of jargon to explain these observations." The big problem today is that, unless you are studying how these guys worked and want to create music in a similar ilk, then those observations are only partly helpful.

There is one area I'm personally exploring ... based around Hindemith and his predecessors ... that is trying to evaluate chord progressions in terms of (in)stability based on which pitches they contain in relastion to a given tonal centre and scale choice. (I do a lot of computer programming professionally). The results do seem to predict a classification from stable to unstable, that, if played in the predicted order, produces a very clear build in tension. But lots more to do yet. And the biggest challenge is allowing for context (predominance of pitches, and duration, massively change the real impact on listeners).

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 14, 2014,
#14
Music theory is a generally agreed-upon means to explain context-specific sound. It is as scientific as it can get.
Last edited by MapOfYourHead at Nov 14, 2014,
#15
Quote by Eastwinn
mopping up here


math would involve proofs of some sort, actual deduction. where is that?


do you have a source for this wizardry or did you just want to say 'fourier transform'?


relationships such as? chemicals such as?


citation needed


if this were true, why hasn't anyone transcribed such a useful dictionary?


can you demonstrate this?


okay so you're saying if i find some other thing with a 6:5 'harmonic' ratio (whatever you think that means) it should also sound 'exotic' and 'minor'? does anyone else find this hard to believe?


can you point me in the direction of a more complete source provided you're not just talking out of your ass?

------


there is no proof in science.


there is literally a science of language.


poor attempt at philosophy here.

-----

music theory is not a science and has nothing to do with math. there is currently no scientific approach to writing music. you may use models in physics to assist you in creating waveforms you desire but that's only useful for a small number of musicians.



First Postulate, or proof. The foundation of the study

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-01-physics-i-classical-mechanics-fall-1999/video-lectures/lecture-13/

1. There is a relationship between objects that are oscillating. This interaction is perceived by the human

http://www.phy.mtu.edu/~suits/scales.html

2. The intervals of a western major scale are quantified into a series of "steps" in relation to an introduced value in Hz

The initial oscillation is considered to be 1

twice the value of the initial oscillation (in Hz) is considered =2

Every number betwixt 1 and 2 is considered to be an interval when resonating in relation to the 1. Music Theorists have categorized these as "consonant" and "dissonant" in order for there to be a black and white distinction between clusters of intervals based on their organized interaction.

http://www.m-hikari.com/imf/imf-2012/57-60-2012/mccartinIMF57-60-2012.pdf


3. There is a nice and easy to understand geometrical representation complete with proofs that describes diatonic interaction.


I use math to improvise all the time Eastwinn, literally every day of my life. Ted Greene built his entire life on recognizing the proportional relationship of intervals with a complex timbre instrument. I'll sit down and think, "oh, I want to play in A minor/ E phrygian dominant with a hindustani classical feel on my fretless guitar then resolve with a picardy third and transition into an A major centered Baroque idea. There's a little bit of development in between those major points, we identify and quantify this development with music theory with applied geometry and intervallic vector calc.

You start with 1, and you recognize the interaction between sounds from there. After a certain point Biopsychology takes the reigns and that's how we designate "good music" from "music I don't enjoy as much" to "how can you even enjoy this noise"


@Theogonia please post your lecture
#16
Quote by Eastwinn

poor attempt at philosophy here.


Citation needed.


I know there is a science of language, I spent a lot of time studying it. I've written nlp parsers of varying degrees of success, or failure. I have also studied algorithmic composition. It's a load of bollocks. My philosophy may be poor, but I am trying to add to th conversation. You sir, are just being a bit of a prick.
#17
Quote by innovine
You sir, are just being a bit of a prick.


seconded. he's just tried to criticise peoples comments rather than adding anything to the discussion.
#18
Quote by bass_man_dan
seconded. he's just tried to criticise peoples comments rather than adding anything to the discussion.



He should provide citation that he actually plays guitar
#19
Quote by Shredwizard445
He should provide citation that he actually plays guitar


He should use Science to explain Modes.
#20
Quote by innovine
He should use Science to explain Modes.


And give us a detailed lecture complete with diagrams that explains how to apply them to the guitar and improvise within them and transition from one to the other.




#24
Quote by Shredwizard445
@Theogonia please post your lecture


I don't really like you, so I'm not gonna put in the effort.
#27
Quote by jerrykramskoy

BTW: "Theory" is a total misnomer for music. Should have been called "Observations on what famous composers used commonly (i.e. by more than one) in their music over a couple of hundred years, and here's a load of jargon to explain these observations."

Can we just lock the thread now
#28
let me be clear. mathematics is a deductive pursuit based on forward assumptions. there are no deductions in music and there are no forward assumptions. it fails on both counts. i know you all like to justify your existence this way, saying "well music is basically math so i must be as smart as everyone thinks mathematicians are" but this is a terrible misrepresentation of both mathematics and music.

continuing, science is an inductive pursuit based on the systematic review of empirical evidence. music theory is not inductive and does not rely on any empirical evidence. it fails on both counts. i know you all like to justify your existence this way, saying "well music theory is basically science so i must be as smart as everyone thinks scientists are" but this is a terrible misrepresentation of both science and music.

if you do not understand either definition i give i will explain. if you try to claim music theory or your composition process or whatever fits either definition, you are beyond repair. i would never admit to playing guitar because it would group me with all.
#29
Quote by Eastwinn
let me be clear. mathematics is a deductive pursuit based on forward assumptions. there are no deductions in music and there are no forward assumptions. it fails on both counts. i know you all like to justify your existence this way, saying "well music is basically math so i must be as smart as everyone thinks mathematicians are" but this is a terrible misrepresentation of both mathematics and music.

continuing, science is an inductive pursuit based on the systematic review of empirical evidence. music theory is not inductive and does not rely on any empirical evidence. it fails on both counts. i know you all like to justify your existence this way, saying "well music theory is basically science so i must be as smart as everyone thinks scientists are" but this is a terrible misrepresentation of both science and music.

if you do not understand either definition i give i will explain. if you try to claim music theory or your composition process or whatever fits either definition, you are beyond repair. i would never admit to playing guitar because it would group me with all.



Music involves math.
#33
Quote by deadsmileyface
no dots on lines is math and dots on lines isnt music


What ??
#37
Quote by GuitarMunky
Music involves math.


okay. so can you either define mathematics as you see it or show how music involves my definition? your categorical statement is not altogether convincing.
#38
Quote by GuitarMunky
What ??

yeah bud, hate to break it to you but dots on lines arent actually music. its just a bunch of dots on some lines. music is sound.
#39
Your idea assumes that there's "right" and "wrong" theory so it doesn't really work.

Music is not maths.

Music does not inherently involve maths.

Noah stop trying to be Will.
#40
Quote by Eastwinn
okay. so can you either define mathematics as you see it or show how music involves my definition? your categorical statement is not altogether convincing.


Considering your definition is wrong, he doesn't really need to do that.
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