Basso Molto Profundo

I’m a big fan of ambient knowledge.

In the course of my various pursuits, both musical and non-, I occasionally find it necessary to re-look-up terms and concepts that I learned a long time ago — things I’m sure I know, but which are momentarily beyond my mental grasp, due, I believe, to a combination of The Law of Accelerating Returns as it applies to what I need to know, and the socio-ecogenic ADHD with which I am afflicted.

(And if the sentence above weren’t a description of my real life, I would enter it in The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest!)

Case in point: while writing my previous post, I needed to refresh my memory of how to refer to specific musical pitches using a letter name and a number, such that it’s clear exactly which octave you’re talking about. For example, middle C on the piano is labeled ‘C4’, not to be confused with ‘C3’, which is an octave lower. It’s called scientific pitch notation, evidently — I’d never heard the official name of the system before. But it’s more concise and precise than saying, “the G an octave-and-a-half below middle C,” when you can just say, “G2,” and know that you’ll be understood (by other music nerds, at least 😉 ).

The Wikipedia article linked above also contained the following juicy little tidbit:

Scientific pitch notation is a logarithmic frequency scale. Although pitch notation is intended to describe audible sounds, it can also be used to specify the frequency of non-audible phenomena. For example, when the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed pressure fronts propagating away from a black hole, the frequency of the waves was reported in the press as the B♭ 57 octaves below middle C, or B♭−53, corresponding to one oscillation every 10 million years.”

Whoa, talk about your nerdy examples! That’s some far-out cosmic instrument, btw — I thought I had spent some long hours in the practice room, but 10 million years?!?

Now, I know that you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia, so I searched around for other sources for that wacky little factoid. I found one that has a title I envy immensely: I Know Why the Black Hole Sings.

Turns out, the universe is one vast Mighty Wurlitzer! Awesome! 😀


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