February 8, 2011

Seeing Beethoven's 9th or a bit of trivia about your eyes and ears

Searching for a review, any review, description, collection of words doing literary justice to Beethoven's 9th Symphony (call it obsession), an article by David Helfand of Columbia University came my way Seeing the Whole Symphony. It is a scientific explanation on the limitations of eye sight vs aural perception. Quite cool.  

"Our eyes are extraordinarily limited instruments with which to observe the Universe."

Using a musical analogy, our eyes see a single octave (eight musical notes, when counting both ends of an octave) of electromagnetic waves (the colors of the rainbow represent one octave) 

"Our ears can detect a full ten octaves of sound waves, giving us a much richer aural picture of the world." 

Ergo, if our eyes were able to see as much as our ears hear, we'd be blinded by delight or everything would look totally different and falling in love at first sight might be more reliable. 

Remember playing that game with your friends in grade school:  would you rather be blind or deaf? I always chose: blind. Now I know why. (Having the use of all senses is still highly recommended by all who possess them therefore my advice: use them)

The vacuum of silence in which Beethoven moved while composing and ultimately conducting the premiere of this, his last symphony makes listening all the more fierce and sweet.

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