Thursday, August 28, 2008

Daniel J. Levitin - This Is Your Brain On Music (1)

I've been away for a couple of days, but that gave me the time to buy and start reading this wonderful book "This Is Your Brain On Music", in which rock guitarist turned PhD neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, explains how music interacts with our brain. I will review it later, but I learned here about the "Diabolus In Musica", Latin for "The Devil In Music", a title of the album by Herb Robertson I reviewed earlier this year, and now I understand where the title comes from.

Levitin writes in his introduction about this diabolical interval, the 6th semitone (or 3 full tones) in our western octave, known to musicians as an "augmented fourth" or "diminished fifth". I quote: "The (medieval catholic) church also banned the musical interval of an augmented fourth, the distance between C and F-sharp and also known as tritone (the interval in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story when Tony sings the name 'Maria'). This interval was considered so dissonant that it must have been the work of Lucifer, and the church named it 'Diabolus in Musica' ".

No wonder the tritone is a crucial element in jazz. I wonder what the church fathers would think about the music reviewed on this blog.

Hence the title of the Herb Robertson, Rick Messbauer, Tom Sayek album (and of the somewhat more popular yet less sophisticated album by Slayer).

© stef

4 comments:

luKe said...

Seems like an interesting read! I thought "Diabolus in Musica" was just the title of a SLAYER album...

Chris Monsen said...

Alex Ross talks about Diabolus in Musica in his book "The Rest is Noise" too.

stef said...

Thanks Chris, looks like an interesting book.

Anonymous said...

I dropped the book because it was pretty tedious in the beginning...

(my blog is at http://survivalofthecool.blogspot.com)