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    The Sound of Music

    A book by Stephen Gislason emerged from his Music Notes collected over many years. The topics cover a wide range of interests from the history of instruments, music theory, composing to the most current technologies involved in music composition and sound recording. A special chapter on the Musical Brain explains current knowledge in the brain processing of sound as it applies to language and music decoding. A chapter on the Music Business reviews the dramatic changes in music marketed and discusses some of the dilemmas and controversies facing musicians.


    This book emerged from notes I have kept for several decades. I have spent much time studying music theory, electronics applied to sound reproduction and to performance skills. I decided to assemble my music notes so that any person interested in music could benefit from simple, clear explanations. Music descriptions often are complicated and the use of terms can be inconsistent and confusing. As with other subjects I have tackled, I assumed that with a little extra effort more precise descriptions would be welcomed by readers seeking a practical understanding of music.

    The book begins with a consideration of what sound is and how animals use sounds to communicate. Music is not a human invention, but we do elaborate sound communication more than other animals in our production of both speech and musical performances. The discussion continues with noise, an important topic that is poorly understood. A well informed musician will refrain from making noise and understand Ambrose Bierce when he stated: Of all noise, music is the less offensive."

    I include acoustic and electronic instruments in my discussions of music creation. In my world, electronics dominate every aspect of work and play and most music I create and listen to was created, stored and distributed electronically. The art and science of recording is an important study for all 21st century musicians. Increased sophistication about the nature of sound, the art of combining musical sounds, and the effect on the listener's brain are all required for music to advance beyond noise toward a more effective means of human communication. Stephen Gislason 2016

    Some Examples

    Singing, dancing and playing music of all kinds are clearly the best expressions of humans. This is not to suggest that all sounds presented as music are really music, since noise appears to be replacing real music in many popular formats. Real music is intelligent and pleasing. Real music is rhythmic, not always with drums. Musical drumming should be interesting, sometimes exciting, but never noisy or oppressive. Composers in the Europe of old were immersed in music from their early childhood. They followed forms that were fashionable and influenced each other. JS Bach, the great master was influenced by Handel and Vivaldi. Mozart expressed musical ideas from Bach, Handel, Haydn and many other composers at work in Europe. Beethoven studied with Haydn and was inspired by Mozart. Händel was born in 1685, the same year as JS Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. Bach eventually complimented Handel and his music saying that Handel was "the only person I would wish to be, were I not Bach." Mozart admired Bach's genius. Beethoven said that JS Bach was "the master of us all".

    Each musical genius added his own innovations so that the ideas that drove musical composition progressed, despite the resistance of patrons and audiences. There has always been a battle between audiences who want more of the same and composers who were innovative. Many creative composers suffered repeated rejection and penury. Some of the best known 20th century composers of “classical” music were Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov and Otto Klemperer; all four lived Los Angeles after fleeing from the second world war in Europe. Schoenberg and Stravinsky wrote music for films. Homegrown composers often combined orchestral music with popular music. Stylistic distinctions were overcome by creative innovators such as Copeland, Ellington, Gershwin, Bernstein and a host of jazz musicians who emerged as virtuoso performers and creative composers. Musical ideas converged in the US to produce rapidly evolving and eclectic styles. As recorded popular music emerged, song writers and arrangers became the new composers who dominated radio play.

    A topic often discussed among musicians who have not yet made the big time is what are the ingredients of hit songs? The are many ideas. One idea, for sure, is that a lot of people must like the tune. Liking a tune requires hearing the tune often, so that it becomes as familiar as brushing your teeth. Since hit singles became the goal of recording companies in the 1950's, frequent radio play was the route to popularity. The competition for radio play led to big business control of the airways, shady deals and some criminal involvement.

    In Aug. 4, 1958, Billboard magazine began to list the most popular 100 tunes based on sales and plays on jukeboxes and the radio. The first No. 1 it was Ricky Nelson’s Poor Little Fool. Geoff Mayfield recalled: “If you found only one easy listening song in a college student's music library during the early '60s, it would have been Percy Faith's rendition of "Theme from 'A Summer Place.'" With a melody carried by Faith's orchestra string section, the instrumental entered the Hot 100 at No. 96 in the Jan. 16, 1960, issue and rose to No. 1."

    Summer Place enjoyed the hit longest popularity at the time, a record broken in 1968 when the Beatles' Hey Jude topped the chart for nine weeks, becoming the band's longest-running chart topper. No other instrumental to date has led the Hot 100 as long as Summer Place. Some of the hit makers became rich and famous but less lucky song writers and musicians remained relatively poor. Recording companies grew richer, bigger and more autocratic. Song structures and styles became standardized and most hit tunes followed a predictable form. Even today, a song writer should stay with the standard form and introduce only small innovations.

    Stephen Gislason Stephen Gislason

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    Sound of Music Table to Contents

    1. Preface
    2. Sound & Communication
    3. Hearing
    4. Musical Sounds
    5. Animal Sounds
    6. Tuning Sounds into Words
    7. Speaking
    8. Intonation
    9. Prosody
    10. Waves
    11. Amplifiers
    12. Noise
    13. Harmful Effects of Noise
    14. Ear Buds and Headphones
    15. Noise Inside Buildings
    16. External Noise
    17. Sound Control Materials
    18. Music
    19. Music Elements
    20. Music Unites Humans
    21. Emotions and Feelings
    22. Singing
    23. Dance
    24. Learning Music
    25. Sound Descriptions & Synesthesia
    26. Recorded Music
    27. Music and Video
    28. Home Theatre
    29. Celebrity
    30. True value
    31. Instruments
    32. Percussion Instruments
    33. Flutes
    34. Organs
    35. Strings
    36. Guitar
    37. Trumpet
    38. Flugelhorn
    39. Trombone
    40. Reeds
    41. The Master Instrument - The Piano
    42. Piano virtuosos
    43. Digital Pianos
    44. Synthesizers
    45. Moog
    46. New Old Synthesizers
    47. MIDI
    48. Keyboard Controller
    49. Yamaha DX7
    50. Oberheim Matrix-6
    51. Roland D 50
    52. Korg Trinity
    53. EMU Samplers & Proteus
    54. EMU Proteus 2500
    55. Korg M3
    56. Music Theory
    57. Pitch, Intervals, Tonality
    58. Oscillators
    59. Timbre
    60. Scales
    61. Chords
    62. Arpeggiation
    63. Patterns & Riffs
    64. Rhythm, Time, Tempo
    65. Music in the Brain
    66. Mixer in the Brain
    67. Temporal Lobes
    68. Parietal Lobes
    69. Pitch, timbre, familiarity
    70. Innate Musical Qualities
    71. Music is Movement
    72. Two Hands, Two Hemispheres
    73. Lips, Mouth, Hands
    74. Cerebellum
    75. Psychedelic Drugs
    76. Music, Meditation, Cognitive Benefits
    77. Composing
    78. Baroque Roots
    79. Johann Sebastian Bach
    80. Bach, Transcription and Arranging
    81. Mozart
    82. Innovations and Perseveration
    83. Orchestration
    84. Creating Hit Songs
    85. Lead Sheets and Improvisation
    86. The Perfect Song
    87. Composing with MIDI
    88. MIDI Libraries
    89. Modular Workstations
    90. MIDI and Audio
    91. Composer Assistants
    92. Arranger Keyboards
    93. Notation Software
    94. Novel Digital Music Generators
    95. Samples and MIDI
    96. Musical Styles
    97. Classical Music
    98. Chamber Music
    99. Operas and Musicals
    100. Groove and Style
    101. Cabaret & American Songbook
    102. Folk Music
    103. Blues
    104. Pan American Music
    105. Rock and Roll
    106. Jazz
    107. Fusion
    108. New Age
    109. New is Old
    110. Tribal Techno
    111. Audio Recording
    112. Audiophile Perfection
    113. Analog Versus Digital
    114. Microphones
    115. The Sound Mixer
    116. Filters
    117. Analogue to Digital Conversion
    118. Audio Files
    119. Audio Effects and Processors
    120. Compressor
    121. Delays, Echo, Chorus
    122. Pitch Shifter
    123. Reverb
    124. Equalization
    125. Acoustic Room Design
    126. Virtual Studios
    127. Audio Loops, Clips
    128. Dockers & Interfaces
    129. Digital Audio Workstations- DAWs
    130. Choosing Software
    131. Sonar
    132. EMU X3 Emulator Sampling Software.
    133. Sound Samples
    134. Sample Libraries
    135. Multi-Sample Presets
    136. EMU Software Mixer
    137. Modulation + Expression
    138. Low Frequency Oscillators
    139. Behavior Function Generators
    140. Drum Kits
    141. Video Production
    142. Music Business
    143. Everyone Copies
    144. Copying, Cover & Control
    145. Who Benefits? Money Control
    146. Covers
    147. Mechanical License
    148. Digital Rights Management
    149. My Recordings
    150. Johann Sebastian Bach
    151. Cantatas Re-Visited
    152. Digital Bach 21st Century
    153. The Art of the Fugue
    154. B Minor Mass
    155. Beatles
    156. Bread
    157. Chicago
    158. Creedence Clearwater Revival
    159. Dizzie Gillespie
    160. Miles Davis
    161. John Coltrane
    162. Wayne Shorter
    163. Joe Zawinul
    164. Weather Report
    165. Chick Corea
    166. Brazil, Jobim, Bonfa and Gilberto
    167. Manzanero
    168. Pat Metheny
    169. David Sanborn
    170. Rippingtons
    171. Steely Dan
    172. Eagles
    173. Huey Lewis and the Power of Love
    174. Jennifer Rush, Power of Love
    175. John Denver
    176. Joni Mitchell
    177. Linda Ronstadt

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