Franklin Square Song Collection - online songbook

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Mere Noise.—Why do we not hear all sounds as music? Why are some mere noise, and others clear musical notes? This depends entirely upon whether the sound-waves come quickly and regular­ly, or by an irregular succession of shocks. For ex­ample, when a load of stones is being shot out of a cart, you hear only a long, continuous noise, be­cause the stones fall irregularly, some quicker, some slower, here a number together, and there two or three stragglers by themselves; each of these different shocks comes to your ear and makes a confused,
noisy sound. But if you run a stick very quickly along a paling, you will hear a sound very like a musical note. This is because the rods of the paling are all at equal distances one from the other, and so the shocks fall quickly one after another at regular intervals upon your ear. Any quick and regular succession of sounds makes a note, even though it may be a disagreeable one. The squeak of a slate pencil along a slate, and the shriek of a railway whistle are not pleasant, but they are real notes similar to those which can be produced on a violin.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III