The New Conversion of Music

This week I want to write something on music and on the technological devices innovation, aspects and pattern changed around time that allowed revolutionaries implications on its nature.

Music is sound and sound cannot exists in a vacuum, so the best way to transport notes is air. Is the wind that allows sounds waves – made up of tiny oscillating molecules and atoms – arriving on our curious hears. Although a wave, sounds depends on corpuscular atoms of oxygen and nitrogen which make up air. Now, if you’re reading this article sitting in a balcony where air tires easily and your neighbor is enjoying the last CD of Adele (or whatever expires you more) you will notice that the music carried out dies pretty soon, lost forever in the multitude of molecules and atoms that compose our atmosphere.

Let me reflect on something that is underlying how historical knowledge is important for scientific connections. At the beginning of the twentieth century, music ceased to be a “thing” composed of oscillating molecules and become a process able to be glowed.

visualvibes.jpg
Waves influence our lives if you think that they are part of the electromagnetic spectrum (light, radio, heat) as well as sonic vibration in the form of sound waves or quiet ripples on the water. Italian artist Loris Cecchini take the form of those waves to make them visible in his sculptural series ‘Wallvave Vibration’. PH credit Loris Cecchini Studio.

Music was following the new “light” perception  due to important discoveries made by Albert Einstein and Eugène Minkowski. In 1905 Einstein elevated light to its preeminent position as a true constant of the Universe and then Minkowsky revealed that space and time are alloyed into a unity by the connecting shaft of pure light. But, the fact is that another discovery allowed the transmutation of music process of multiple, distinct and seemingly disorganized fragments into light. All began in 1886 when a German physicist, Heinrich Hertz, detected that in the atmosphere there were an exceedingly amount of long wavelength of visible light. His discovery confirmed James Maxwell’s 1873 theory that defined electricity, magnetism and visible light as different manifestation of radiant energy.

Hertz coined the term “radio waves” for these long and gentle undulations. So even if radio waves are at the far end of the electromagnetic spectrum and are invisible, they are a form of light, but what were exactly  its practical benefit and which kind of uses for society it might have in future was still unanswered.

Hertz replied to reporters that he had no clear ideas at that particular moment on its direct implications for technological innovations, but he was sure someone will find a purpose and future use for this invisible form of light.

One thing he couldn’t anticipate then was that the light no one could see would become soon the music everyone could hear. The turning point arrived in 1895 when the Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi converted agitated and compressed molecules of sound into pure light in the form of radio waves.  So transformed, these silent waves of light could gave a ride on the multiple notes of music because of its new invention: the radio transmitter. But, which were the steps that allowed Marconi to create this unique transitional process?

First, sounds waves needs to struck sensors in the diaphragm of a microphone. These sensors converted the crowded waves of air into a varying electric current able to traveled fast into the innards of a technical marvel called radio transmitter. Afterwards, these signals rushed up a tall and tiny metal rod, that everyone call antenna, from where they propagated into space as light that could cross empty space. The antennae of radio transmitters are shaped in order to vibrate at a frequency appropriate with the silent music that now turned into light. In all its high and power emanation, an antenna can traverse a vacuum and penetrate soundproof walls to reflect radio waves back to Earth after the ionosphere reflection. But we know that almost everything that want to function in time and space must be interconnected and part of a complex system.

Radio transmitter’s antenna is only one tine of the fork because its ethereal emanations must find other tines before they can be converted back to sound. In other words, radio waves must strike another antenna that was set on their same frequency.  Now if you are thinking on the “vintage” antenna radio that your gramps or uncles may have at home, or maybe that you have left in one of the boxes piled up in the garage after multiples relocations, you allow the soundless music to find a voice, the one of our favorite radio speaker. Simply by turning on a button and scanning the different frequencies on the dial, the cycle of what began as air can now turn as air again and again, allowing what was broadcast miles away to be heard as distances do not exists.

By time poets, lovers and mystics have been praising one form or another of music as eternal. So, after centuries, when the first radio wave music escaped Earth’s ionosphere it could become eternal, filtering out through Earth’s atmosphere light began his flight between the stars converting sound into the clarity of pure light. Another implication of this revolutionary process was that music converted into light might be stored either as a light interference pattern on a laser disk or magnetic tape. This affected also the “context” of music listening and attendance.

In the renaissance music was a gift for the elites that had the time and the means to sit passively waiting for the scheduled performance of the theater orchestra, now everyone can have music broadcasted from a Spotify account, a compact disc collection or the favorite radio station choosing the time and the place to enjoy this performance.

What we have today thanks to science and its progression is pretty awesome, even from things we define simple and customary,  but think that thirty-five thousands years ago paleolithic tribes used instrumental reed horn vibrations against the cold and the dark in their homes. Later the equilibrium and beauty of the Greeks harmonies followed the line of Pythagoras and Euclid’s mathematical and geometrical principles. Then in the medieval time music intertwined the plot of spiritual rites to arrive just in the Renaissance when music was a instrumental tool of composers that was fascinated by the precision and power of its sounds for a public that joined their work with fascination and addiction.

In the twentieth century music has been transformed by style, content and trends that accounted it to the innovations of the newel arts and physics.  Arriving just to twentieth century evolution of music wave into light, a Gran Finale that express Einstein’s crowning of light as the quintessence of the Universe.

LH

 

 

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