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On the Sensations of Tone (Dover Books on Music) Paperback – June 1, 1954
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Scientific Teaching Series
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I have a Dover printing from the 1980s, which I love, and bought a couple of new copies to give to musician/techie friends who hadn't heard of it. Alas, while the current printing (which can be identified by an orange colored spine, where the older Dover printings had a spine the same grey-green color as the front cover) still contains the statement on the copyright page "This Dover edition, first published in 1954, is an unabridged and unaltered of the second (1885) edition of the Ellis translation", it's not true. Some of the illustrations have been vandalized! This is quite obvious on page 40, where there's an engraving of a resonator box with a tuning fork on the top. On my 20th century copy, and on the digital version on Google Books, it's very clear. In the orange-spined 21st century reprint, someone took it on themselves to modify the image to make the tuning fork unrecognizable and the diagram incomprehensible. I don't see how it could be a printing error - it's not a distortion of a single image, nor a doubling of the whole image, but a small amount of graphic copy-and-pasted over the original. The best guess we have is that it was done for copyright protection, but in a book like this, that would amount to scientific and historical vandalism.
Part 2 discusses the theory of consonance. Again, the Fourier analysis point of view is the key. The consonance or dissonance of two tones is determined by the interaction of the partials of the tones, giving mathematical precision to the idea that "two consonant tones flow on quietly side by side in an undisturbed stream; dissonant tones cut one another up into separate pulses of tone" (p. 226). Thus one can claim that "ultimately, then, the reason of the rational numerical relations of Pythagoras is to be found in the theorem of Fourier, and in one sense this theorem may be considered as the prime source of the theory of harmony" and so "the enigma which, about 2500 years ago, Pythagoras proposed to science ... 'Why is consonance determined by the ratios of small whole numbers?' has been solved by the discovery that the ear resolves all complex sounds into pendular oscillations ... and that it regards as harmonious only such excitement of the nerves as continue without disturbance" (p. 229).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a book every engineering student who likes music should read.Published 17 months ago by Gene Frantz
What a great mathematical physicist and at the same time a pioneer physiologist Helmholtz was. He formulated some basic results in fluid mechanics and the conservation law of... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Ash
This book covers a lot of material in a lot of detail. It is amazing to me how Helmoltz was able to explore acoustics in such depth despite how crude the instrumentation was that... Read morePublished on April 23, 2014 by Aero-Mech
This is a classic work that ties together tones, the way musical instruments work, the physics of sound, and the anatomy of the ear. Read morePublished on November 22, 2013 by Terry M.
This is a beautiful book, containing Helmholtz's limpid descriptions of the experiments he designed to elucidate the neuroscience of music. Read morePublished on November 10, 2013 by Catherina Gere
Not only is it good for learning about this revolutionary subject in it's infancy, it's quite good for technical terms and vocabulary boosting, even if some of the vernacular is... Read morePublished on August 2, 2013 by S. O.
This book is a translation from German into an English that's difficult for me, born in the mid-20th century, to understand. Read morePublished on June 23, 2013 by Steve Freides