The Sound of Silence in Negative Harmony

What is negative harmony?

Don’t you just want the sausage? You don’t have to know how it’s made, do you?

Well, here is the explanation.

The result, with this song, is odd. It creates a tension of weirdly optimistic passages that ultimately add up to being quite sad.

42 Comments on The Sound of Silence in Negative Harmony

  1. I can barely wrap my head around the difference between sharp & flat …. & you’re trying to make my head explode w/ this?

    … gaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

    (j/k … fascinating concept btw)

  2. I think I get it, but can’t explain it. What I think confused me was that the melody was changed. Negative harmony shouldn’t require any change to the melody (I think).
    I am in the minority here (Then I must be entitled to something). I think this rendition is excellent. I plan to listen to this many times.

  3. @grool ~ exactly what I was thinking while listening to this. definitely Chad & Jeremy
    … good find

    @Burr ~ lol

    try to really listen … the harmonies are negative. when it should be high, it’s low. when it should be low, it’s high. if you focus on the ending inflections you can quite clearly hear it

  4. ΜΟΛΩΝ,

    Probably in yet another minority but I would listen to Chad and Jeremy any day of the week over Simon and Garfunkel. S&G were unquestionably very talented and have some good stuff but I much prefer C&J for some reason. Maybe cuz their music is simpler and more sincere sounding, to me anyway.

  5. Anonymous, thatn should read

    You *VILL listen *UNT you *vill *LIKE it!

    Can’t you just see the monocle unt ze bald head?

  6. I’m a rank amateur musician, mostly guitar, some harmonica, a little piano. I used to be able to read music, not so much anymore. I’ve been told I have a very good ear for key and pitch.

    I read most of the link’s information. Never have I seen a better connection of mathematics and physics applied to tonal creation.

    Most people like music because it makes them feel something, but WHY does it produce feelings? Of course some of that is just Art, that is, that listening to an opera can invoke the same emotions as looking at a painting… you may not understand what it all means, but you know it makes you feel.

    Now then, every experience between humans of the same piece of music is not unique. Some people express the same feelings concerning one song that they have all heard, leading perhaps to the conjecture that most of us are all wired quite the same, in spite of individuality. Case in point: why do the sound of minor chords make us feel sad, or frightened, or think of Jewish folk songs (heh)?

    Then, ultimately, what is music, if not a series of instrumental and vocal sonic frequencies? These frequencies can be empirically verified and measured in standard values that can be recognized and standardized by those trained well enough in the field (e.g., sound engineers, master musicians, physicists, etc.), or to the rest of us, listened to and enjoyed (or not) to the point of emotional expression (or not).

    It is the frequency that allow us to recognize vibrating air as music. It is frequency that eventually moves our emotions. It is the same for visual art, in that the wavelengths, the frequency, of light that exposes the art to us, and to our emotions. Frequencies are expressed as numbers, and can be manipulated as such.

    The discussion of ‘negative harmony’ helps to expose the physics, the math, the SCIENCE behind the music.

    Personally, I would tend to believe that negative harmony is that which cancels the other note(s) out, much like sound-canceling headphones, like inverse ratios, like matter v. antimatter. That is, negative harmony, much like the song cited in the headline of this article, is silence. Physically, perhaps, musically, alas, no.

    Thank you for posting this story. It opens a wide range of possibilities for me.

    @Different Tim: “have Neil Young and Bob Dylan do a duet.”

    My God, man, have you no mercy? Do you seek to disrupt the entire space-time continuum and reverse the Big Bang? (I have a better one for you, though, Tim. Have Neil and Zimmy perform “Dueling Harmonicas.” All matter will cease to exist.) 😉

  7. @Jewel “Sounds like a crappy Catholic hymn”

    I had the same thought, like a slightly jazzed up Gregorian chant.

  8. I’ve been a musician most of my life and understood the written explanation, but it really clicked when I listened to the song. Thank you! Never heard of negative harmonies but I find it fascinating!

  9. This is excellent. It’s just changing the direction of note progression in the same chords. Can be used to harmonize with larger groups. Very cool.

  10. I enjoyed this very much and will look at the explanation again. Self taught cords and melody by fake books. I often try to harmonize stuff in my head. I’m not very good it’s just for my enjoyment. I’m playing Christmas Time is Here (Charlie Brown music) a lot lately.

  11. Bah. Am I the only one with American ears?

    This musical theory is worse than the hated metric system, the Wankel rotary engine and muther truckin’ WIND FARMS.

    This is what happens when you have too much soy in your diet. Coltrane did it with nothing but nicotine and heroin. Like an American.

  12. Ahhh those 7th chords, they always did change up a simple song on the geetar…C7,G7…D7…blues, twangy.

  13. Ann Nonymous, I guess there have been a few more than one version. This one wasn’t the one I thought it was, but it gets the message across. First time I saw it was here at iOTW. Another example of good stuff being posted here.

  14. Yeah, yeah, yeah Music is math perceived through tonal registers.
    You can invert numbers and do the same tricks all day with a calculator.
    This guy did it with sound.
    Clever, not earth shaking
    The great thing about music is that some idiot with some crazy idea and three chords and balls can do alright for himself.
    Lazlo and the Lazy Bastards are a testament to that fact

  15. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ January 27, 2020 at 8:13 pm
    @Different Tim ~ throw in Yoko & you’ve got gold!

    There’s a special place in Hell for evil musicians where they are forced to listen to solos of Yoko Ono, accompanied by a score of demons playing accordions, for eternity.

  16. If you play it in reverse with the speed tweaked up slightly, it’s Kate Smith and Roseanne Barr singing a duet of the National Anthem.

    Try it.


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