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Science of Musical Sound (Scientific American library) [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

John R. Pierce
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 1984 Scientific American library
John Pierce has provided an exploration of the sources of music production and the psychology of music perception.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Scientific American Library; illustrated edition edition (Jan 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716715082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716715085
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 23.1 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,420,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book serves as a great learning tool!!! 22 July 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Problems in the development of certain theories, like Critical Bandwidth. The minor third by his research proves to be dissonant, because of the geometric origin of note frequencies. Rather than notice this, he makes the opposite conclusion and states otherwise. Overall I recommend that anyone interested in what music is, the science behind music read this book, so long as they are willing to do some research on thei own.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wait!....don't buy it yet. 9 July 2003
Format:Paperback
I do not recommend this book to anyone wanting to know about the science of sound. The author has a chatty style and too much of the book is about him. If you wanted to learn more about sound you would be better off getting a GSCE or A Level physics book. These explain it much better
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's about the audience 15 Oct 2009
By T. Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While the other reviewers here are correct in noting many errors and misinterpretations in this little book, I wanted to insert what I think is useful information about the nature of the book, especially what audience the author seems to address. I bought this book as one of the required texts for a grad course in music perception and cognition the year it came out (92). Looking at it now, it definitely does not seem to be the best book for that context, but I think the professor may have wanted the class to have an easy read that introduces concepts rather than focusing on specifics. (The course had plenty of readings of anatomical and psychological studies and the like.)

In looking back at this book, I realize how easy it is to read, and how the author is able to address basic acoustical concepts in a relatively thorough and comprehensible way. His writing style is largely informal, yet inviting. It's certainly not intended as an authoritative science book, but it covers a broad range of subjects at an introductory level. For example, there is a chapter on "Perception, Illusion, and Effect" that is a mere 15 pages long, including illustrations.

This book is for people who want a basic, relatively thorough, well-explained education in musical acoustics, and who can tolerate a few errors in exchange for an easily understood big picture perspective.
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars nevertheless of some interest, but look elsewhere first 23 Mar 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
1) This book is replete with errors. Two examples:
p.68: "A minor third has a frequency ratio 6/5, so the fifth harmonic of E should have the same frequency as the sixth harmonic of C (a G)." No, the fifth harmonic of E is G#, so presumably the author means "the fifth harmonic of Eb". But a 6:5 minor third is really only one of many possible minor third tunings. The Pythagorean minor third, for example, is 32:27, and the 32nd harmonic of this C is the 27th harmonic of this Eb. (To ignore the Pythagorean scale is to ignore two thousand years of music history; here it is given very short shrift.) The point this chapter misses in regard to just intervals is that beating is a matter of degree. We have only to venture up one harmonic along the 6/5 Eb's series: its sixth harmonic (Bb, 36:5) clashes with the 7th harmonic of C (7:1). They are 49 cents (a quarter tone) apart and well within the "critical band".
p.100: "In his fine piece 'Stria' (1977), John Chowning used partial spacings and pseudo-octaves in the ratio of the Golden Mean (approximately .618)." Sorry, the Golden Mean is not a ratio; the Golden Mean means moderation. Presumably the author intends "the Golden Section". This is small error, but nevertheless inexcusable. The book ought to have been proofread and edited.
For an introductory text I recommend Sir James Jeans's "The Science and Music". For an historical text I recommend Helmholtz's "On the Sensations of Tone". For an accurate text explaining current thought I recommend Juan Roeder's "The Physics and Psychophysics of Music".
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book serves as a great learning tool!!! 22 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Problems in the development of certain theories, like Critical Bandwidth. The minor third by his research proves to be dissonant, because of the geometric origin of note frequencies. Rather than notice this, he makes the opposite conclusion and states otherwise. Overall I recommend that anyone interested in what music is, the science behind music read this book, so long as they are willing to do some research on thei own.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Got me into electronic music 3 May 2006
By Captain Mikee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book in the late 1980s - maybe it wasn't so out of date back then. I was curious about computers and music but didn't know much. A family member gave me this book and it opened up worlds for me. It helped me understand the basic ideas of harmony, and the math and physics behind them. I went on to make electronic music myself, and I don't think I could have done it without this book. I lend it to friends who are curious about acoustics and computer music.

Perhaps as an earnest teenage reader I overlooked the shortcomings mentioned in other reviews. I recently found out that the author named the transistor and was instrumental in developing vacuum tubes and communications satellites while he was working at Bell Labs. Maybe the book is overvalued as a textbook in the light of these achievements - and his status as co-founder of the Center for Computer Music and Research and Acoustics at Stanford University.

My favorite part of the book was the enclosed flexi-disc with audio examples for many of the concepts in the text. When the disc wore out, I wrote to CCRMA and they sent me a cassette version with additional music recordings. I recommend the cassette because it includes the fabulous piece "Lions are Growing" by James A. Moorer.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best about musical sound 3 Feb 2014
By Flavio Sartoretto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting, involving. A "must have" for anyone deeply interested in music. I have also an italian translation. Have a nice read.
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