Rob from Sonata HiFi

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The Sound of Music…

OK, don’t panic, this is not going to be an ode to the Von Trapp family singers, but more a look into the relationship between sound and music.

A great man once said, “sound is music, and music is sound”, which neatly sums things up.

Music is an art form, some would say the art form that all other arts aspire to.

Why ?

Well, maybe it’s because music has no physical form, unlike a sculpture or a painting. Music is ethereal and its creative energy and message is expressed through an invisible medium… Sound.

The only way, until relatively recently, we humans could experience the musical art form was to be in the presence of its creator (the musician) or to be the creator ourselves – either singing or playing some type of instrument.

You needed to be close enough to be able to hear the music, to engage with the creative energy through the sound that it produced and experience it in a unique, singular fleeting moment, because after that moment had passed, it was gone forever and diffused into the air, leaving just a memory.

So, whether it was a choir, an ensemble of instruments or a single performer, the expressive and emotional message of their art was brought to you through the audible vibrational energy of matter.

Sound energy needs some kind of medium to propagate through, be it solid, liquid or gas. As the old movie poster said, “in space, no one can hear you scream”…

Fortunately for us, we are surrounded by a breathable gaseous atmosphere. Air.

Those miles of air molecules above our heads are pushing down on us with a defined amount of pressure and the human body has evolved over time to be able to survive in this ‘normal’ pressure zone.

Sound energy causes the movement of air molecules, pushing them closer together (compression) and pulling them further apart (rarefaction), this causes the pressure level to increase or decrease in relation to the normal level.

The pressure changes move through the air at a defined speed and produce the longitudinal formations we know as sound waves and those waves impact upon our ears, causing movement in our hearing mechanism, leading to electrical nerve impulses in our brains – it’s the brain that tells us what the sound is and how to react to it.

It’s the soft grey matter between our ears that decides if we run from a sound or dance to a sound, but the physics of all sound is exactly the same – sound is music and music is sound.

I’m Robert Wilson, sometimes known as ‘Dr Rob’, and I’m a sound engineer.