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Beethoven's Fifth 'Sine'-phony: the science of harmony and discord

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Can science reveal the secrets of music? This article addresses the question with a short introduction to Helmholtz's theory of musical harmony. It begins by discussing what happens when tones are played at the same time, which introduces us to the idea of beats. Next, the difference between a pure tone and a note played on an instrument is explained, which provides the insight needed to form Helmholtz's theory. This allows us to explain why a perfect fifth sounds consonant yet a diminished fifth is dissonant.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Exeter College, Oxford, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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