The Elements of Music: 7 of 7, Spatial Location

This final piece in my series on the elements of music as identified by Richard Restak, MD, deals with the most esoteric concept yet.  There are many lists of the elements, components, building blocks, fundamentals – call them what you will – of music.  Most include versions of the elements I’ve written up to date, but I’m not finding many lists that include “Spatial Location.”

As I investigate spatial location and its relevance to music, I’m finding a lot of stuff that I would put into the “acoustics” category.  In other words, the properties of various locations can certainly impact the sounds emanating from them.  Are the walls carpeted or are they concrete?  Sounds coming from a room will differ based on its acoustical properties.

Acoustical properties are quite complicated.  Sounds are energy waves, and energy waves have fascinating properties that can be exploited in all sorts of ways.  The interactions of various sound waves impact one another.  Consider theaters and the installed sound systems therein, and the differences in sound qualities they produce.

A 2010 article in the journal Organised Sound by Dutch researcher Marije Baalman indicates by way of background information that Dolby 5.1 sound, for example, ideally emanates from speakers placed in specific locations, at specific angles from the other speakers.  Sound source/location is critical to acoustic design.

So this brings to a close my cursory examination of Restak’s 7 elements of music.  I have barely scratched the surface of any of them, and I’ve also learned that some are far more important than others as I consider my day to day musical needs.  Spatial location, for example,  I can virtually ignore for now! Prior to looking into it I had already determined that I shouldn’t  play directly into a wall or a window – the violin sounds better when I allow a little space into which the sound waves can expand before they bounce off of something!

Thanks for reading.


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