What makes a musical note different from any other sound? How can you tell if you have perfect pitch? Why do 10 violins sound only twice as loud as one? Do your Bob Dylan albums sound better on CD or vinyl? John Powell, a scientist and musician, answers these questions and many more in HOW MUSIC WORKS, an intriguing and original guide to acoustics. In a clear, accessible, and engaging voice, Powell fascinates the reader with his delightful descriptions of the science and psychology lurking beneath the surface of music. With lively discussions of the secrets behind harmony, timbre, keys, chords, loudness, musical composition, and more, HOW MUSIC WORKS will be treasured by music lovers everywhere.
In this enlightening book, Powell, a British scholar and professor, sets out to explain how we experience music. He selects examples from all manner of disciplines--music composition, simple mathematics, physics, engineering, history--and offers his insights, such as how Bach’s Prelude in C Major is similar to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” In the first half, he defines the elements of music like pitch, frequency, harmony, rhythm, and decibel. Building on this foundation, Powell hits his stride in the book’s second half as he demonstrates, using both classical and pop music, how musicians create sound and how we listen to it. Some of the information can get scientific but Powell conveys the material with enough humor (“I think the decibel was invented in a bar, late one night, by a committee of drunken electrical engineers who wanted to take revenge on the world for their total lack of dancing partners”) and cocktail party facts (“when we listen to Mozart’s music nowadays, we are hearing it a semitone higher than he would have intended”) to keep the book light and fun. Included in the book is a 10-track CD. (Oct.)