Good Vibrations: The Physics of Music by Barry Parker (Johns Hopkins University Press, $27.95, 274 pages)
“Music is sound but it’s a very special type of sound.”
An alternate title for this book might have been Music and Math for Morons, but it is seriously easy to understand. Yes, there have been many survey books out in the last few years attempting to explain the science of sound. Most of them have been too high-level for the average reader to understand, including this reader. Kudos should go to Barry Parker for translating a few not always simple-to-understand concepts into plain English.
It is clear that Parker loves having been born into a world that includes music. Reading this book is like listening to a teacher who worships his subject matter. Parker explains rhythm and the major types of music, and gives us an overview of how all of the major instruments – including the human voice – work. He examines the acoustics of classical concert halls, but he’s no snob when it comes to “new” recording techniques. He concludes his survey by explaining electronic (computer-generated) recordings and acceptance of the new world of iPods and mp3s.
Bach or Dylan? It’s all good.
This book was purchased by the reviewer at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.