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5. Current Human Civilization and the Practice of Music

I am thirty-three, with a lot of music behind me.
A North Indian flutist teaches me how to sing a single note in tune,
and the fundamental nature of this act occurs to me for the first time.
I think, “Wow,” and go home to try it by myself.
In the privacy of my room
I see how many years I’ve been sleeping.

W.A. Mathieu

Your Favourite Song Is Dissonant and Out of Tune

Every song you know and every tune you ever listened to is dissonant and out of tune. Every piece of music you ever wrote, performed, or danced to is dissonant and out of tune.

Exception to this is the traditional music of India, China, Arabia, Persia and any other traditional music based on unaltered tunings derived from the harmonic series.

Dr. Sergio Aschero comments that culture and nature are two models with few common points. Groups of purer ethnic origins are closest to the nature of harmony. When this nature is "contaminated" with culture, it begins to "detune".

You may contradict these statements with the common-sense argument that to your ears, it sounds good. It also sounds good to the millions of people born in it, whose ears were conditioned to accept and like it, and who never listened to anything else.

From the inside of your mother to your first birthday and throughout all your life, you have been exposed to only one kind of music, using only one tuning, only one way of arranging tones, and that temperament is equally out of tune and dissonant.

Getting used to disharmonious music does not make it harmonious, it just makes you deaf.

Sound is the essence of consciousness. Calling dissonance music is an unconscious act of unconsciousness. Very few are aware of the influence sound and music have on their physical, mental and emotional bodies, on everything around them and on every aspect of manifestation for that matter.

Yet no one hears. No one really listens. There is a false common belief that perfect frequency perception - the ability to instantly recognize the frequency of any sound - is genetic and you have to be born with it. (Perfect pitch would be a limited form of perfect frequency recognition used for picking up the frequencies of a particular tuning.)

Perfect frequency perception can be cultivated and mastered by anyone. The same is true for interval recognition - the ability to instantly recognize the relation (or interval) between frequencies. (Relative pitch would be a limited form of interval recognition used for picking up the relations between members of a particular tuning.)

As little children we learn the colors, the shapes, tastes and smells of everything around us. But we don't learn sound. Instead, we believe others when they say that only Bach and Mozart were endowed with this gift, and we can't have it because we have to be born with it.

Close your eyes. Imagine a circle. Imagine it's red. Now try a triangle. A green one. And now a blue square. Could you tell someone who never saw these shapes how they look like? How about colors? Could you tell someone who never saw the colors how they look like? And what's the difference between them? Then how do you expect me to explain to you, or to anyone who never listened, what's the difference between sounds, between harmony and disharmony?

I can tell you that your favourite song is disharmonious, and I can show you why. I am doing that by writing these lines; make sure you have understood all the previous chapters, and study with an open mind the next section.

I could also teach you how to hear for yourself, and how to train your ear for perfect frequency perception. Because if you do ear training with any of the products currently out there, you'll end up training your ear to accept and enjoy dissonance. What I can't do, is erasing your program, your conditioning and acceptance of disharmony. This is something you have to do on your own.

Harmony and the differences between tones can be described with words and pictures to a limited extent. Your mind cannot understand sound, just like fish cannot understand water, because your mind is made of sound. Though if you really, really want to, you could experience directly what music really is.

Music is anything but standard. Music is not equal temperament, nor the standard frequency of 440Hz; music is not the 7-white/5-black keyboard nor the frets on your guitar, and definetely not the modern staff notation and the insanity of C, D, E or Do, Re, Mi or Sa, Re, Ga together with their counterintuitive sharps and flats and the whole theory excogitated upon them.

These are but symbols and tools used in the past, discordant, disharmonious, false, inharmonic, sour, unresolved, dissonant and out of tune. They have served us well so let's just say goodbye cause now they need to go inside museums.

I have no personal issues with the above mentioned. It is my belief that this specific structure of music should be endorsed only as a conscious choice. As long as people have no clue what equal temperament tuning, the standard keyboard and notation system really are, they should not accept and defend them.

The reputed teacher and doctor in musicology from your conservatorium is either lying to you, either he's lying to himself and passes this lie onto you. Yes, truth hurts, but don't take my word for it. I don't posses anything that you haven't already got - except maybe for my stubborness of not taking anything for granted.

Be skeptical, but learn to listen. Be skeptical because most of what you hear isn’t true. Humans use symbols, and symbols aren’t the truth. Symbols are only the truth because we agree, not because they are really the truth. Learn to listen, because when you learn to listen, you understand the meaning of the symbols that people are using; you understand their story.

You know that most of our knowledge isn’t true — the whole symbology isn’t true — so don’t believe me, don’t believe yourself, and don’t believe anybody else. The truth doesn’t need you to believe it; the truth simply is, and it survives whether you believe it or not. Lies need you to believe them. If you don’t believe lies, they don’t survive your skepticism, and they simply disappear.

The Limits of All Our Music

All the music human beings have made since the written history falls inside the acoustic limits defined by two series of continuously justified third harmonics - both under and overtones. In Western music theory, the two series would be called "ascending and descending fifths" (3/2) or "fifths and fourths" (3/2 and 4/3).

Exception to this rule makes a certain type of music using tunings that are in no way standard, called microtonal music, or xenharmonic. The most recent label is Transcendent Tonality, although I have personal reservations in using that term to include any equal tempered tonality.

What is important here to remember is that today's traditional music from all over the world falls between the same boundaries.

This includes Indian, Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, classic Arabic, Turkish & Persian and excludes tunings regarded as microtonal.

These type of theories and tunings were thoroughly developed in the last decades, although rare attempts have been made now and then over time. One of these would be the Archicembalo - an instrument invented by Nicola Vicentino in the 16th century, which had 31 notes per 2/1.

For more info on the Terpstra Keyboard visit the official website:

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1. Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz -
The Fifth Agreement