Music can move us in wildly different directions. One kind of music can elevate our minds to an exalted contemplation of the divine; another kind of music can reduce our bodies to mindless blobs of pulsing protoplasm. Some of what we consider to be music’s effects can more accurately be attributed to the verbal content of the accompanying words, or to the visual content of the accompanying spectacle. The effects of music under such extra-musical influences are less difficult to understand than are the effects of “pure music”, i.e., music to which words are not attached, and which is devoid of any visual component. It is the effect of such “pure” music which is not easy to explain.
There is one aspect of pure music which is rooted in the very physics of sound. The consonance between the fundamental and the octave and the fifth and the third, intervals which form the major triad, is an organic outgrowth of the relationship between those intervals and the corresponding segmenting of a vibrating string or column of air. Here it seems, the mind is unconsciously aware of the physical relationships between these intervals, and it finds satisfaction in the sounding of these consonant intervals.
I play organ, and I don’t believe it is I alone who find great pleasure, at the end of an organ work, in the final resolution of all earlier dissonances into the grand and wonderful consonance of ranks of pipes sounding forth their glorious major triad, proclaiming to the universe that here, at last, is harmony. Sometimes I will sit and hold that chord for long periods of time, just luxuriating in the satisfaction and completeness and integrity of the sound.