Niels Dekker

Monday, 20 August 2007

In the radio show that Milan and I did a few years for Radio 100, we had guests every now and then. One was Niels Dekker, who told some very interesting stories about the mathematical aspects of music. Now I am not good at this stuff, and I don’t know the right English terms, but I will try to summarise one story that Niels told.
Every sound that is made resonates with specific parts of our body. In some cultures this is a well documented science, but in the West it is generally considered unimportant or even nonsense. All western music is made with certain tones, that are based on a certain division of octaves by using root numbers. This means that we only listen to music that resonates with these certain tones. In ancient cultures the octaves were divided by using fractions.
To make a long story short: western music resonates with different parts of the body than the music that the ancients listened to did. And not only that; modern musical scales use much less tones than the ancient scales. Niels explained that the effect could be that certain parts of the body are no longer activated, because the tone that is needed for stimulating these organs is no longer made.
With a computer Niels created the acoustic representation of numbers that are left out in modern musical scales. We played these sounds live that night, and it is not unlikely that some of these sounds were never aired before in a pure form! For example, this is the acoustical equivalent of the number 7:

And this is how the number Pi sounds:

And the number e:

And last but not least: the gulden snede (I don’t know the English term, sorry!):

You get this story because Niels became father of a daughter recently. The birthday card reminded me of the CD with tones you can hear a few lines above this one.
His daughter is named Natasja Isabel. Always looking for a good excuse to make ambigrams I first tried Natasja.

Then Isabel, and finally i made an ambigram that is both names in one word.



2007-08-21 17:50:07

gulden snede = golden ratio