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Musical InstrumentsHistory, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music$
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Murray Campbell, Clive Greated, and Arnold Myers

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198165040

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198165040.001.0001

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Sounds and Sweet Airs

Sounds and Sweet Airs

(p.1) 1 Sounds and Sweet Airs
Musical Instruments

Murray Campbell

Clive Greated

Arnold Myers

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter discusses how sound waves are generated by musical instruments, travel to the ear of a listener, and there evoke the sensation of music. Using the example of an orchestral score, the musical descriptors pitch, loudness, and timbre are related to scientifically measurable features of the sound waves, including frequency, amplitude, waveform, and spectrum. The distinction between travelling and standing waves is explained. The roles of the outer, middle, and inner ears in hearing musical sounds are briefly described. The importance of harmonic frequency spectra in pitch perception is emphasized, and a discussion of pitch intervals includes an introduction to musical temperaments. The relationship between decibel measurements of sound intensity and musical dynamic markings is discussed, and attempts to provide quantitative descriptions of timbre are reviewed.

Keywords:   sound waves, hearing, frequency, spectrum, harmonic, pitch, loudness, decibel, timbre, temperament

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