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Harmonograph: A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music (Wooden Books) Hardcover – April 1, 2003


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Harmonograph: A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music (Wooden Books) + The Elements of Music: Melody, Rhythm, and Harmony (Wooden Books) + Sacred Geometry (Wooden Books)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Series: Wooden Books
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1st U.S. Edition edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714091
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Anthony Ashton is an economist and journalist.

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Customer Reviews

Well done Wooden Books - clarity, brevity and beauty combined.
Mark Samuels
Being musically challenged, I rely on Harmonograph to make better sense of the intervals Isacoff discusses in his book, and it does so in a brilliant, unique way.
Jeffrey K. Tyzzer
I'm really impressed with how well the Pythagorean Comma was handled.
Sean Boyle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Sean Boyle on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be extremely helpful. I'm a music teacher and have been interested in the physics of music for years, but I've never seen the physics of frequency explained so clearly and concisely. I'm really impressed with how well the Pythagorean Comma was handled.

This book, in a format where chapters are almost always one page long, gets into some pretty difficult concepts and explains them better than I thought possible.

This is the book I loan high school kids who are thinking about doing a science project with music. They love it.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent little book on harmonics and sound, encompassing science and music. It is a much needed counter weight to the effervessence of other recent titles on temperament and harmonics. It is such a beautifully visual book, with graphic depictions of sound waves, you will simply want to look at the illustrations for hours. It hints at the mystical without falling off the edge into either New Age or Cultural Supremacy.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey K. Tyzzer on August 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I discovered the the Wooden Books series less than a year ago through some serendipitous bookstore browsing, and soon purchased them all. Each volume is compact, well-written, beautifully illustrated, and most of all informative. I'm reading my copy of Harmonograph along with Stuart Isacoff's book Temperament (also recommended), and couldn't imagine a more perfect pairing of books. Being musically challenged, I rely on Harmonograph to make better sense of the intervals Isacoff discusses in his book, and it does so in a brilliant, unique way. You won't be disappointed in this little gem.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mark Samuels on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book - not only is it absolutely beautiful, but it actually does the job. After years of struggling with Pythagorean Commas and Syntonic Commas and all the other tricky little bits in music I was given a copy of Anthony Ashton's little book and the pieces finally fell into place. A simply delightful book with truly awesome images and clear concise mathematics. I have given copies to every musician friend I have and they all love it too. Well done Wooden Books - clarity, brevity and beauty combined. More please.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Neil D. Hemann on December 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Let me first say that I like this book and the visuals are incredible. But a harmonograph is essentially a spirograph with a PhD and the resulting pictures will not teach you about music. What they are is a fantastic example of how something both absolutely certain and very abstract like a musical third, which is just a ratio, can be represented graphically. Its almost like being able to make a graph of an emotion. They are beatuiful and artistic but not really an analytical tool in the traditional sense of a graph.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Philip A. Earnhardt on January 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I didn't know what quite to expect with this book; I wasn't familiar with the term "harmonograph" before getting this text.

This is a small book with about 25 topics, each discussed on 1 or 2 pages. It links together many concepts from our past (including the 19th century harmonograph) and the mathematics underneath them. This is one book which satisfyingly explains the concept of an even-tempered scale -- something I had been pondering for a long time.

You could say this book is a group of different stories about the vibrations in music, and the relationship between those vibrations. Vibrations are important for us to understand: our bones float; our bodies are springy and resilient. The math and physics of vibrations -- scientists call it "simple harmonic motion" -- can get rather tricky. Most of use stop our math classes before they get to this point. On the other hand, there are many topics in this field that are understandable without all of those complicated scribbles; this book lovingly explores many of them.

My main gripe is that there are few links for the DIY types to go try this stuff hands-on. There must be some websites which have virtual harmonographs; the author should have found these. And it's a darn shame that so few of these machines are around. I make it a point of seeing lots of science museums; I've never seen a harmonograph.

We forget how many wonderful things before we had computers. Things like the harmonograph have a delightful physicality; that's something we've lost in our "modern" society.

I highly recommend this book to a young high-school student. There are hidden delights in the drawings and historical references. For such a small book, there is a surprising depth of detail.

I can't wait to explore the rest of this series.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Carl G Medwedeff on August 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although, I had never heard of harmonographs until I saw this text in a book store recently, the drawing on the cover caught my eye immediately, as I had seen similiar drawings, created by some drawing device using pendulums, in Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater's THOUGHT FORMS, first published over 100 years ago. Those who are familiar with Stephen Phillips' 1980 work: Extrasensory Perception of Quarks (which is a contempory analysis of Besant & Leadbeater's Occult Chemistry, published in 1908 & 1919) might be well inclined to take Besant and Leadbeater seriously regarding their geometric descriptions of thought forms. Since Besant and Leadbeater assume that there is some commonality between the shape of the thought forms they perceived and those drawn by a harmonograph, this book seems like a good introduction to this long forgotten device, which may provide some sort of conceptual framework to think about thought forms.
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