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Time in Music and Culture


Ludwik Bielawski

From Aristotle to Heidegger, philosophers distinguished two orders of time, before, after and past, present, future, presenting them in a wide range of interpretations. It was only around the turn of the 1970s that two theories of time which deliberately went beyond that tradition, enhancing our notional apparatus, were produced independently of one another. The nature philosopher Julius T. Fraser, founder of the interdisciplinary International Society for the Study of Time, distinguished temporal levels in the evolution of the Cosmos and the structure of the human mind: atemporality, prototemporality, eotemporality, biotemporality and nootemporality. The author of the book distinguishes two ‘dimensions’ in time: the dimension of the sequence of time (syntagmatic) and the dimension of the sizes of duration or frequency (systemic). On the systemic scale, the author distinguishes, in human ways of existing and acting, a visual zone, zone of the psychological present, zone of works and performances, zone of the natural and cultural environment, zone of individual and social life and zone of history, myth and tradition. In this book, the author provides a synthesis of these theories.

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3 The zone of note pitches


3.1 The zone of hearing and the zone of musical sounds

Strictly speaking, the zone of note pitches does not belong to the subject of the present work, which is devoted to aspects of musical time. After all, we know that from the point of view of human perception note pitches are not of a temporal character, although physics teaches us that pitches depend on the frequency of sound waves, so consequently on time. So it is worth realising, for the sake of comparison, how pitches considered on a logarithmic scale shape zones of different size, how our perception of notes depends on different zones, especially since we are much better acquainted with note pitches than with the zone of musical time in the full sense of the word.

Experimental psychology has established the area of audible sounds, presenting it on two axes of coordinates: an axis of logarithmic time, or more accurately of vibration frequency, and the logarithmic axis of the strength of notes. The range of hearing is generally well known and appears in all acoustics handbooks. I will cite it here, however, to compare it with other data, especially relating to musical practice (Example 3.1).

The whole zone of hearing forms a single large area. It conditions human orientation in the world of the sounds that people come across in life, not only in music. Humans are capable of defining sound phenomena in relation to the whole...

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