Ramsay - The Horizon of the Musical World

B, namely G#, they come in touch of each other like the two D's. When this three fifths below F major and three fifths above B minor have been developed, the extremes A♭ and G#, though standing like the two D's in duality, are so near that here again one note can be made to serve both. The major series of scales and the minor series at these limits are thus by two notes which have duality in themselves hermetically sealed; but not till Nature has measured off for any one of these scales a sphere of twelve keys in which to move in perfect freedom of kinship by softly going modulations.1
     The mathematical scales, if followed out regardless of other laws which rule in music, would read like a chapter in Astronomy. They would lead us on like the cycles of the moon, for example. In 19 years we have 235 moons; but the moon by that time is an hour and a-half fast. In 16 such cycles, or about 300 years, the moon is about a day fast; this, of course, is speaking roughly. This is the way seemingly through all the astronomical realm of creation. And had we only the mathematical ratios used in generating the notes of the scale as the sole law of music, we should be led off in the same way. And were we to follow up into the inaudible region of vibrations, we should possibly find ourselves where light, and heat, and chemical elective motions and electric currents are playing their unheard harmonies; or into the seemingly still region of solid substances, where an almost infinite tremor of vibrations is balancing the ultimate elements of the world. Music in this case would seem like some passing meteor coming in from among the silent oscillations of the planetary bodies of the solar system, and flashing past with its charming sound effects, and leaving us again to pass into the higher silence of those subtle vibrations to which we have referred, having no infolding upon itself, no systematic limit, no horizon. But music is not such a passing thing. Between the high silence of these intense vibrations, and the low silence of oscillating pendulums and revolving planets, God has constituted an audible sphere of vibrations, in which is placed a definite limit of systematic sounds; seven octaves are carried like a measuring line round twelve fifths; and motion and rest unite in placing a horizon for the musical world, and music comes [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 39]

1 See Plates VII, and XIV.

page 39

with her irrevocable proportions to measure his scales for him. The stars at the C of the first scale and at the B# of the last show the coincidence of 12 fifths and 7 octaves. The number of B# is 3113 467/512; C24 multiplied 7 times by 2 brings us to the number 3072; these two notes in the tempered system are made one, and the unbroken horizon of the musical world of twelve twofold keys is created. The very small difference between these two pitches is so distributed in the 12 tempered scales that no single key of the 12 has much to bear in the loss of perfect intonation. [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 118]

Created by Dale Pond. Last Modification: Monday January 4, 2021 03:29:07 MST by Dale Pond.