Pitch is the height of a note; a low pitch sounds....low, and a high pitch sounds high.
Bach: Endlessly Rising Modulation Canon (with score!) (8:17)
We have a range, from 20hz to 20,000 hz in which we can hear vibrations as sound. Above and below those numbers we may be affected by the vibrations but we can no longer hear them as sound.
In the indian system, the octave is divided into seven basic pitches. The root pitch is called SA, then there is RE, followed by GA, MA, PA, DHA, NI, and then we're back to SA. You pick up an instrument, choose a starting point, maybe an open string. That can be "SA"--then all the other pitches exist as relations to that starting pitch.
In the european system we use Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Si (or Ti), Do. These are also know as A (La), B(Si), C (Do), D (Re), E (Mi), F (Fa) and G (So)
Do (C), Re (D), Mi (E), etc. are attached to specific frequencies. You can't choose a starting point, it's already set, sort of...
Pitch (music) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Until the 19th century there was no concerted effort to standardize musical pitch, and the levels across Europe varied widely. Pitches did not just vary from place to place, or over time--pitch levels could vary even within the same city. The pitch used for an English cathedral organ in the 17th century for example, could be as much as five semitones lower than that used for a domestic keyboard instrument in the same city.
On a piano, a semitone is the smallest step you can take, up or down. There are twelves semitones in an octave. If you played them one after the other you would be playing a chromatic scale.
On most fretted instruments a semitone is the size of the step between one fret and the next.
Pitch (music) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
During historical periods when instrumental music rose in prominence (relative to the voice), there was a continuous tendency for pitch levels to rise. This "pitch inflation" seemed largely due to instrumentalists competing with each other, each attempting to produce a brighter, more "brilliant", sound than that of their rivals. (In string instruments, this is not all acoustic illusion: when tuned up, they actually sound objectively brighter because the higher string tension results in larger amplitudes for the harmonics.) This tendency was also prevalent with wind instrument manufacturers, who crafted their instruments to generally play at a higher pitch than those made by the same craftsmen years earlier.
The singers complained, as did the luteists (their strings kept snapping) and in the twentieth century it was agreed that a certain frequency (440hz) would "be" A ("La" in the Do, Re, Mi, series.) However, at least for orchestras
as orchestras still tune to a note given out by the oboe, rather than to an electronic tuning device (which would be more reliable), and as the oboist may not have used such a device to tune in the first place, there is still some variance in the exact pitch used. Solo instruments such as the piano (which an orchestra may tune to if they are playing together) are also not universally tuned to A = 440 Hz. Overall, it is thought that the general trend since the middle of the 20th century has been for standard pitch to rise, though it has been rising far more slowly than it has in the past.
Right, notes going up and down. Just to give you some context, here's two seconds of 440hz.
and here's ten seconds of 220hz, which is twice the wave length and therefore an octave lower (to our ears it sounds like the same note played lower)
First up, most people's idea of pitch--singers singing in tune, a perfect melody (described by someone as "The music they play in films when the cars crash or when the mafia guys start shooting everything up--and everything goes into slow motion.") The singing starts at 00:55.
Andreas Scholl · Barbara Bonney · Stabat Mater · Pergolesi (4:07)
Going the opposite way, there's the semi-sung semi-spoken style--note that the spoken voice also contains pitches--a person who never changes up or down as they speak is said to speak in a monotone--hence monotonous--
Anyway, talking and singing--
Lou Reed & John Cale - Small Town (2:16)
And how about a singer who just sings the one pitch (the one note) while the band do things around him? (In fact it's four notes in this song--total. Note how he moves around the 'discrete pitch'--but very close to just the one.)
Red Right Hand (4:47)
Putting pitches together
In the following piece I'd like you to look out for:
--the pleasure the pianist is taking in the playing of the piece
--the repetition of the Bb (or A#--see the picture of the keyboard above) starting at 01:26. Notice how Debussy uses the same pitch, but varies the notes that move to and from it such that the entire soundworld changes.
--Note that he uses whole tone scales
Debussy "Cloches à travers les feuilles" - Gülsin Onay (5:04)
What tuned Debussy's ears to these intriguing new pitch combinations was hearing a gamelan orchestra at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889. To our western ears, a gamelan orchestra sounds strange, different, sort of out of tune--or tuneless: there's no obvious melody. That brings us to the idea that our ears are tuned by the acoustic environment they grow up in. They say that by the age of ten your sound world is fixed to the extent that a western ten-year-old will find the simple tonalities of pop music 'normal' and everything else strange. But how about if you grow up listening to different tonalities?
Fuchun Primary School Gamelan (1:57)
Playing around the Discrete Pitch
There are pitched instruments (any instrument where, when you play a note you have to play a specific note--with pianos you hit a specific key, with a guitar you play at a certain fret (though you can bend strings), with a flute you open and close specific holes in the body of the instrument (with a bassoon, which is the same principle, you can modulate the sound somewhat by how you vibrate the reed)....and then there are un-pitched instruments, ones where you can play any pitch you like--instruments such as the violin, the cello, or the double bass
where you have to learn where to hold down the string to produce specific pitches, and where you can slide your finger up and down to produce rising and falling modulations that aren't necessarily attached to specific tones (though, as stated above, the movement is usually used to embellish the--sometimes implicit--discrete pitch that the movement is away from or towards.)
And then you can take an instrument that is supposed to produce discrete pitches, grab yourself something round (like the top end of a beer bottle, but smooth off the ends first!), slip it over a finger--and do something like this:
Roy Rogers (2:34)
With computers you can produce any pitch you like, just tell the machine to produce X frequency--and it will, as exact as you like. All kinds of things are being done with this these days, and there are all manner of theories about how certain frequencies have specific effects on the body/brain, like subliminal advertising--you don't know it's happening but that doesn't mean it isn't.
Back in the day, though, they were just amazed that you could make musical sounds out of electrical frequencies. A russian inventor, Lev Theremin, built an instrument which worked by placing your hands into the space where electrical signals were passing--it looks like waving your hands in the air but--as if by magic--musical sounds appear as the hands modulate the frequencies. It takes a lot of practice to modulate the frequencies in a way that produces what we understand as music--here's Masami Takeuchi pitching his theremin with piano accompaniment--note the leap at 00:36--ah, beautiful!
Theremin by Masami Takeuchi (3:13)
A close cousin of the theremin is the Ondes Martenot, which Olivier Messiaen used in several of his works, in particular his Turangalîla-Symphonie.
Here's Jean Laurendeau from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra explaining how it works.
Introduction to the Ondes Martenot (6:58)
And here is the opening of Turangalila--but first, an introduction to the piece.
Turangalîla-Symphonie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The title of the work, and those of its movements [...] were first described by Messiaen in a diary entry in early 1948. He derived the title from two Sanskrit words, turanga and lîla, which roughly translate into English as "love song and hymn of joy, time, movement, rhythm, life, and death", and described the joy of Turangalîla as "superhuman, overflowing, dazzling and abandoned".
We're going to hear the first movement, which is described as follows:
Introduction. Modéré, un peu vif: A "curtain raiser" introducing the "statue theme" and the "flower theme", followed by the body of the movement, which superimposes two ostinato groups with rhythmic punctuations. A reprise of the "statue" theme closes the introduction.
The statue theme, "[i]ntroduced by trombones and tuba [...] has the oppressive, terrible brutality of ancient Mexican monuments, and has always invoked dread. It is played in a slow tempo, pesante."
Here's the part for tubas and trombones:
Also note the following:
1:11 - slides on the strings
1:15 - introduction of the statue theme
1:23 - you can hear the Ondes Martenot
1:44 - many many french horns! (the piece calls for a huge orchestra)
2:11 - birdsong on the piano
Bonus track and also useful as an introduction to the piece...
A talk about Messiaen's abiding love of, interest in, and use of birdsong.
Olivier Messiaen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Messiaen found birdsong fascinating; he believed birds to be the greatest musicians and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated birdsongs worldwide, and he incorporated birdsong transcriptions into a majority of his music.
Birdsong in Messiaen (6:16)
Back to Turangalila
More to look out for:
2:25 - flutes
2:56 - stravinskian effects (according to my ears)
3:40 - 4:20 piano solo
5:14 - a tiny trumpet-like instrument
6:25 - repeat of the statue theme
Okay, here's the piece.
Messiaen - Turangalîla Symphonie - 1st Movt - Aimard, Davis (7:03)
As always, these diaries are experiments in collective production. Your videos are part of the diary experience, so please post them. Instructions on how to post a video into a comment can be found here, post one or two videos per comment with a few words to say how the piece relates to the diary's theme, no words needed, though, if the piece speaks for itself.