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Ovations for the Overtones

By Harold Blevins

religion, articles, christianity

The overtones have been in place since the beginning (Gen. 1). God told Job of the stars singing together (Job 38:7). Man did not know of such until the 16th century, and it was not scientifically proved until this past century. Who caused the stars to sing? Who gave us the equipment to sing and speak praises of God? It is he who gives to all life, breath, and all things (Acts 17:25).

In any library one can find information on the subject of the overtone series. When one note is sounded on a musical instrument (by plucking, strumming, or blowing), many notes are sounded, but only 16 are usually counted by scientists. Pictures are taken of this phenomenon, and one can see such plates in any reference book on the subject.

To illustrate an overtone series, divide a vibrating string (such as a violin or guitar) into two equal parts and cause the string to sound (by plucking or bowing). This will produce an octave (eight notes). If you divide again the result is a perfect fifth. Continue dividing until the notes are very close together; indeed, as close as our notes can - one-half steps. This was discussed in a book by Mersenne in 1636 (Basic Principles of the Techniques of 18th & 19th Century Composition, Allen I. McHose, p. 8).

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), a prolific penman of musical compositions, wrote a musical score called "The Well-Tempered Clavier" (A History of Western Music, D. J. Grout, pp. 382-386). The purpose of the opus was to enable the keyboardist to circle all the musical keys of traditional music. How could this be done, since all but one key sounded absolutely awful? "Shave" just a bit from certain notes, or temper the notes, so that they will "fit" into all the keys. Rather than the redundancy of the repetition of only one key being played repeatedly, now all the sounds of all musical keys can be enjoyed.

Problem: Mechanical instruments are slightly out of tune with themselves. To the ears of the Lord they are noise. "Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. Woe ... [to them] that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David" (Amos 5:23; 6:1-5). Yet, all it takes for the song leader to change keys (modulate) is for him to say, "Let us sing the song a little higher or lower."

Computers copy the sound of mechanical musical instruments realistically; but the musical nuances of the computer-simulating instruments are lacking most definitely. No man can manufacture a musical instrument that can modulate through all the musical keys perfectly, a machine that can sing and speak and exhibit shades of music and convey sentiments, such as sighing, sorrowing, angering, envying, hating, loving, or an inanimate instrument that can delineate dynamics (all volumes - loud to loudest/soft to softest). Only God can make an animate instrument governed by the talents of the singer/speaker and appreciated by the beholder of this beautiful gift of God. Indeed, operatic virtuosi are more concerned about catching a common cold than they are about literal death! No one can invent a mechanical-human-voice-organ that sings as does the musical instrument of God (the human voice). Therefore, we conclude that the human voice is positively precious - not purchasable.

The following illustration may help. Tommy Oust to name a name) had just turned 21. His father wanted him to have a "real" birthday, so he took Tommy to the local inn to celebrate. At the pub everyone bought Tommy a drink, slapped him on the back and welcomed the birthday boy to the age of "social" drinking. Arriving home, Tommy went to his room and began playing his violin (a Stradivarius costing approximately $150,000); you see, Tommy was a very promising violin virtuoso. Suddenly in a drunken rage, Tommy began to pour his drink over the priceless violin and at that moment Tommy's father walked into the room. His father began to strike his son to the very point of death saying, "How could you pour gin over a priceless violin?"

Question: How can men and women pour nicotine and alcohol over the absolutely priceless and irreplaceable human voice?

God created a musical instrument for man with which to sing praises to the Almighty. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16).

Should we make ovations for the Authority that placed the overtones overhead?

"Praise him! praise him! tell of his excellent greatness; praise him! ... ever in joyful song!"

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom. 11:33).

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Published September 1993