## THE SONG OF THE FORM

### THE SONG OF THE FORM

Greetings all,

I would like to present an idea in the hopes that pehaps someone here might be a more musically knowledgeable Taichi disciple than I. Or perhaps a skillfull mathematician practicing Taichi...Smiles.

From what I understand, the postures of the form are energies.
Both simple (each of the eight gates) and complex (combinations of the eight energies).

Energy, in essence, is vibration, and kin to sound...

Each energy is encoded in binary numbers through the I-ching, which are easily converted into real numbers.

I am wondering if real numbers can be assigned to musical notes.

In essence, I would like to translate the movements of the form into their respective musical notations.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
psalchemist

Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

Hi Psalchemist,

interesting. A scale has 13 notes, if one counts the repeated base note. I could imagine translating each "energy" into a note. But I don't think it would be "musical" or harmonious, unless one artificially made it so.

By artificial, I mean, let's make "Peng" equivalent to middle C. You make "Lu" = C# (sharp) or Bb (B-flat). That might make some sense, since usually notes that are only a half-tone apart are discordant when played simultaneously. Well, we could then make "An" equivalent to the note D (after/above C). Then "Ji" could be D#. Seems to work fine, but clearly the relationship of Peng to Lu is not the same as that of An to Ji.

But it's here where we start to have bigger problems. The next note "E" is naturally harmonic with "C." But, which energy should we apply it to? Advance? Well, we advance when we do Peng and Ji and, as you noted on you comments in another thread about "to and fro", in (1/2?) of any form. So, that would imply that "E" would be in half the chords.

It would also imply a constant "modulation" in any melody. If you get what I mean, then you might see that, although it might work theoretically, it wouldn't work musically. That is, to turn them into "music", they'd have to be organized in ways that contradict the original theory.

For example, we might need to use the Chinese musical scale, which also had some basis in mathematics. The Han dynasty musical theory has been studied: see http://www.cechinatrans.demon.co.uk/ctm-psm.html

The Han might have used a similar scale (i.e., an octave with 12 notes), but their ideas about harmonics might not (no one knows 'for sure') be the same as our contemporary sense.

Anyway, I think the Chinese did see a relation between mathematics and music and cosmologic theories. Making music from the "energies" will require a particular view of how they work together --that one might have to make up for oneself.

It would be interesting, though.

best,
Steve James
tai1chi

Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

Greetings Steve James,

Thank you kindly for your insightful post...many great points to ponder...

I think I understand what you are saying about modulation...the yin/yang aspect...the open/close etc, occurring throughout the form...had not thought of that...Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

I am very pleased with the website you provided...Should be very helpfull...Although I may have to read it a dozen times or so, before I approach anything close to a grip on it...

It does seem to be exactly what I was seeking.

Thank you very much for your help,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
psalchemist

Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

I admit that I know very little about Tai Chi, but there are several ways one could get around this problem tai1chi described and still be harmonious in a very traditional western (I use traditional for want of a better expression) sense. First of all, one could assign, instead of single notes to energies, interval combinations, rhythmic patterns, or textures, and still have a music that has an aspect which is largely influenced by the energies. Secondly, you could completely ignore the so-called rules of traditional western harmony, which is common practice nowadays in circles of classical composers, and do something akin to what tai1chi describes. One could still produce great music in this way, depending on the definition of great music. Lastly, you describe a translation of the form's movements "into their respective musical notations." There are actually an infinite number of ways of translating this, either formulaically or otherwise. On the subject of Chinese music, I'm afraid I can't comment, as I know even less than I do about Tai Chi.
onenoc

Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Chicago

Greetings Psalchemist, and all,

hey, the connection between tcc and music is fascinating. Anyway, I agree that there are many ways to correlate the components of tcc to produce pleasing music. I think something like that was done when some of the "taiji melodies" were created for use in teaching the form. People like T.T. Liang also chose music (perhaps he even created some) to be done while doing tcc.

But, I was addressing your question more literally: i.e., is there a connection between tones and tcc energies. 13 tones: 13 energies; how can they be arranged? Are the way they are arranged similar to the arrangement of the "bamen" and "wubu" as we find them in tcc literature? Imho, it's too much to assume that they have a one to one correlation.

However, Psalchemist also brought in the I Ching, etc., and that inevitably brings up mathematics. One reason I thought you'd be interested in the link I posted was because of it's reference to Pythagoras. There is a definite relation between the length of a string and the vibration it produces. If you looked at the body as a set of strings --which of course need something solid to allow the control of that vibration and to produce a sound.

I think the site suggests that the Chinese saw this relation between sound, the makeup of the universe, and mathematics. It'd be interesting to learn if it was applied to tcc in the same way that we might do today. It might also be true that we would need to understand a lot more about their science and the aesthetics of that time. For ex., the notes we call A, B, C, etc., are not the same (in terms of their actual vibrations in Mhz) as the same notes of 200 years ago and less.

It adds just another layer of complexity to our attempts to study tcc.

It's also what makes the art interesting, too.

cheers,
Steve James
tai1chi

Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

Hi Psalchemist, and Steve,

On the page http://www.cechinatrans.demon.co.uk/ctm-psm.html
is Table2: Chinese and Western Pitch Ratios Compared

Would you happen to know where one might hear each of these for comparison?

And respective thanks for the original question and posting the page.

Regards,

David J
DavidJ

Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am

Hi David J.,

here's one place to start

http://www.wfu.edu/~moran/G_tar2.html

but, discriminating much of this stuff purely "be ear" can be tough. In terms of places to listen to comparisons of the ratios, I don't know. On the general topic, there's an interesting book by K.C. Cole,
"Sympathetic Vibrations." There's a chapter, iirc, on Resonance, in which he says something like 'The key to resonance is pushing or pulling in time with the way things want to go.' It's a thought that sympathizes with tcc theory, imo.

Anyway, depending on your focus, these sites will also be interesting.

http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/sets/select/dm_music_math.html

http://www.unicamp.br/~jmarques/mus/fractal/index.html

http://www.justonic.com/method.htm

The last one is probably something that someone who uses a synthesizer would like.

regards,
Steve James
tai1chi

Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

Hi Folks,

I really like this idea you're playing with - it will be excellent when you come up with something! There's a book - "Tai Chi Chuan and the I Ching" by Da Liu that gives a good account of the trigrams and hexagrams for each posture. One idea that may be useful(I don't know that much about music other than how to read it) is to consider each posture as more than one note. The energy movement along each meridian during a movement passes though various points - could you assign musical equivalents to these points? Maybe look at at an overlay of the chakra system (very similar to Chinese system)- assigning notes the those points. One other idea is the tempo of the Taiji form - not always even, there are gradual changes of pace that could somehow be noted and utilized in your project. I don't know if any of this is useful to you but I'd like to see what you come up with. Good luck.

Take care,

Jamie
Jamie

Posts: 46
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Hamilton, ON, Canada

Greetings All,

Thanks so much for all of your thoughts on the subject...You all offer many interesting points to ponder.

I now have so many questions it makes my head reel...

I am sure to address all of your postings in detail...once I can manage to get a grip on the information...Mind boggling! Smiles.

Certainly single notes for energies would not be sufficient expression... I agree.
I was considering this as perhaps more of a starting point...Assignment of a single, basic vibration to then expand upon...just one way to go, there are many I am sure.

Greetings Steve,

You wrote:
<<interesting. A scale has 13 notes, if one counts the repeated base note.
I could imagine translating each "energy" into a note. But I don't think it would be "musical" or harmonious, unless one artificially made it so.
By artificial, I mean, let's make "Peng" equivalent to middle C. You make "Lu" = C# (sharp) or Bb (B-flat). That might make some sense, since usually notes that are only a half-tone apart are discordant when played simultaneously. Well, we could then make "An" equivalent to the note D (after/above C). Then "Ji" could be D#. Seems to work fine, but clearly the relationship of Peng to Lu is not the same as that of An to Ji. >> Steve James

I am glad you think single-note assignment might be done.
May I inquire further upon this theory you propose...?
How did you arrived at the middle "C" for the peng energy?
Was this simply a random example?
And how did you continue the series...from comparing the trigrams?...or from the order the energies occur in the form?

You continued:
<<But it's here where we start to have bigger problems. The next note "E" is naturally harmonic with "C." But, which energy should we apply it to?
Advance? Well, we advance when we do Peng and Ji and, as you noted on you comments in another thread about "to and fro", in (1/2?) of any form. So, that would imply that "E" would be in half the chords.>>Steve James

The eight bagua energies are one aspect, the footwork is certainly another...I see multitudes of possibilities...where to start...?!!!

<<It would also imply a constant "modulation" in any melody.>>Steve James
If I understand correctly...really, I would need many instruments just to express all the various aspects of alternations(modulations?) ...I have never written a symphony before, nor even music for one instrument...Bach!, Yanni!...

<<If you get what I mean, then you might see that, although it might work theoretically, it wouldn't work musically. That is, to turn them into "music", they'd have to be organized in ways that contradict the original theory....
Anyway, I think the Chinese did see a relation between mathematics and music and cosmologic theories.
Making music from the "energies" will require a particular view of how they work together --that one might have to make up for oneself.
It would be interesting, though. >>Steve James

I had considered that possibility, but really, I seek a TRANSLATION more than an INTERPRETATION. (as much as is possible, anyway).

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-27-2004).]
psalchemist

Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

Greetings Onenoc,

Thank you for your posting, interesting thoughts.

<<one could assign, instead of single notes to energies, interval combinations, rhythmic patterns, or textures, and still have a music that has an aspect which is largely influenced by the energies.>>Onenoc

May I ask, what you mean by "textures"?

How would you suggest interval combinations be used, and on what basis ( If I am being understandable... ) ?

Rhythmic patterns, I think, would be equivalent to the sounds created by the yin yang theories which would have to accompany the energies as a background? Beyond the scope of chord...I think...It would have to be accompaniement/background...Is this what you were thinking?

You also wrote:
<< you describe a translation of the form's movements "into their respective musical notations." There are actually an infinite number of ways of translating this, either formulaically or otherwise.>>

Thanks for pointing that out to me...I expressed myself incorrectly then.

I would like to translate the energies into notes and or chords (8+5 maybe)...the "movements" would be symphonic, of many components and many instruments.

So you are absolutely correct as far as I can discern. I agree there could be as many combinations as applications...There would have to be some creative interpretation in the translation.

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-27-2004).]
psalchemist

Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

Hi Psalmchemist,

Textures can refer to two things. Firstly, whether some music is monophonic (just a melody), homophonic (melody harmonized, more or less), or polyphonic (two or more distinct melodies being played simultaneously). Or, texture can simply refer to density of notes.

Interval combinations: one could, among other things, set that whenever a certain energy occurs, then one will harmonically hear a certain interval. This can also be done melodically. That is, one could have a rising major seventh every time "peng" occurs. These are just a few possibilities.

Rhythmic patterns in this sense do not need to refer to accompaniment. For instance, an energy could be associated with dotted eights, and whenever that energy surfaces, the listener then hears many dotted eights, whether in the context of the main melody (assuming there is one, as there may not be) or accompanimental figures.

I must say one thing, however. A translation as you describe may not be possible, because just by assigning any texture, rhythmic pattern, accompanimental figuration, interval, or tone to an energy you have already delved deep into the realm of interpretation. Who is to say that the rhythmic pattern assigned is the correct one, for instance.

It seems that you're looking at the Tai Chi form as a code of energies (I could be wrong here). Therefore, one would essentially be writing music to a code, assigning something or the other to each element of the code, and repeating that something at the repetition of each element. But assigning that something alone is an interpretation in and of itself. And, the way "somethings" are assigned to elements of the code must almost surely allow for some freedom of composition in order to produce a musically rewarding piece (yes, I'll admit that musically rewarding is a subjective term which I've used in a rather free manner).

Overall, I think your idea is excellent actually, but that the nature of translating something like the tai chi form into music simply must have a high level of interpretation in it.
onenoc

Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Chicago

Hi Psalchemist,

I agree with Oneroc that the problem is one of correct interpretation, not of assigning notes. You've asked a complicated question that, imo, to which, if one finds a convenient solution, it will probably not be correct.

Let's say that there is a "truth" here --which I do believe-- then it is as complex (or simple) as the universe. It will also illustrate a convergence: as the concept of "yin/yang" can be related to anything. Instead of calling it "correct" or the "truth", maybe I'd say it would be "perfect." The deeper you looked, the more consistent it would become.

OTOH, an interpretation will inevitably be "imperfect" if it is arbitrary. Therefore, ya gotta have a principle. It may be imperfect, but it may help to find other solutions.

You asked why I used "Peng" and if I associated it with "Middle C". Nope, not at all. In terms of "pitch", I think any assignment of energies would be haphazard. However, I think one of the fundamental ideas in cma is of the body as a series of bows. I don't necessarily believe that they articulate or vibrate the way that, say, violin bow strings do.

But, I do think that they illustrate the interaction of rigid and flexible (i.e., yin yang) which, combined with the violin strings and body, produces a vibration. I think Oneroc will agree that there's no such thing as a pure tone; and that all tones (notes) have overtones (at specific intervals) that occur and are necessary.

Anyway, then it is possible to consider the human body similarly: i.e., as a collection of strings that, working together, produce a tone (or "energy"). Now, one can accept the metaphor, and still not try to make "music" in the traditional sense.

From my perspective, the idea of "8 and 5" seem most applicable. For ex., there are 8 white keys separated by 5 black ones on a keyboad. That's true for any "octave" or set of notes. So, let's say that whatever the length of one's particular string, determines the octave (or scale). We still lack a lot of basic information. For example, what are the "steps" or distance between each note? What is a "sharp"? Is it different than a "flat". (Well, they can be, but it takes an excellent ear to tell -on a stringed-instrument.)

Then, as Jamie brought up, there is the idea of tempo or rhthym (including the actual duration of the note). What would be the logic behind it? Has anyone ever asked you to "dance" with tcc? (Btw, Cirque de Soleil was looking for tcc practitioners a while back for a show that's in (or will be in) production.)

I wish I could say that I could figure these problems out. But, I think they are fascinating questions.

best,
Steve James
tai1chi

Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

I have not posted to this board till now because I favor Chen over Yang style (although I've studied Yang style, including workshops on jian and dao with YZD+YJ). I've found the participants here to be very civil, considerate, thoughtful, informative, helpful, etc. and have been enjoying reading the posts for some time.

Since nobody has brought up the following information in this thread, I feel that I should start contributing back something to this forum's participants. Chinese physicians apparently assigned various musical scales to the five phases/elements (wuxing) during the 1980's and now CD's are for sale to aide in the treatment of patients based on these theories. Earth is assigned to the Gong scale (Key of C), Metal to Shang (D), Wood to Jue (E), Fire to Zhi (G), and Water to Yu (A). Therefore music designed to aid recovery from a weakened Earth condition would be predominantly in the key of C although it would modulate on occasion to the key of G (since Fire is the mother/creates Earth according to the relationships of the wuxing), etc..

If you wanted to base a song on the movements of Taijiquan, it would be reasonable to set it in the key of C (since this represents Earth which represents Central Equilibrium in Taijiquan, the energy that is maintained throughout the form). Every shift of weight and turn of the waist could then be assigned to the other elements/phases to produce a musical sequence.

Adding the eight energies associated with the bagua (bamen) would be much more difficult. My only suggestion would be to assign Peng to Qinggong (still key of C but one octave higher) because Peng, like Central Equilibrium, is maintained throughout the form.

I don't know how meaningful any resulting music would be for Taijiquan, but it may be a fun exercise to do.

DP
DPasek

Posts: 174
Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Pittsboro, NC USA

Greetings Steve James, all,

Thanks for your reply.

Although I am struggling to understand all of these ideas introduced, I am very pleased at the scope of differing thoughts. Everyone seems to have new ideas, it's great.

You wrote:
<<... I was addressing your question more literally: i.e., is there a connection between tones and tcc energies. 13 tones: 13 energies; how can they be arranged? Are the way they are arranged similar to the arrangement of the "bamen" and "wubu" as we find them in tcc literature? Imho, it's too much to assume that they have a one to one correlation.>>Steve James

Yes, you're probably right. I think if there were already a direct correllation established, there would already have been a musical translation done......It might be done. Smiles.

<<However, Psalchemist also brought in the I Ching, etc., and that inevitably brings up mathematics. One reason I thought you'd be interested in the link I posted was because of it's reference to Pythagoras. There is a definite relation between the length of a string and the vibration it produces. If you looked at the body as a set of strings --which of course need something solid to allow the control of that vibration and to produce a sound.>>Steve James

That was a completely novel idea to my thoughts on this subject. Very interesting, Steve, definitely a path to explore. Thanks for bringing that to light.

You also wrote:
<<It'd be interesting to learn if it was applied to tcc in the same way that we might do today. It might also be true that we would need to understand a lot more about their science and the aesthetics of that time. For ex., the notes we call A, B, C, etc., are not the same (in terms of their actual vibrations in Mhz) as the same notes of 200 years ago and less.>>Steve James

Do you think we can disregard the origins and still be authentic, in this instance?
If it were focused on the scales of today and the form from today...would these two factors not be harmonious together?

Thanks for all your input.

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
psalchemist

Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

I would first ask, exactly how many discrete postures are there in the form? The answer to this question will constrain the design of the translation method.

It's easy to map each of 13 postures to a particular frequency, duration, etc. If there are actually 10000+ postures, a different approach is necessary.

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chris

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