Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On Hearing Sexual Overtones

Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde has developed the reputation for being the most erotic piece of music ever penned, a belief still shared by many. The American composer Virgil Thomson claimed that Wagner depicted seven simultaneous orgasms in the second act alone.   In 1904, a novel of dubious authorship called The Glimmer of Crime was published in Paris. The hero tells the heroine that hearing Wagner's music "gives me the excessive desire to fuck you to your depths," later adding that Tristan justifies their love "which maintains the mask of fear and in which fucking must have the taste of death."

2 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

"Although Freedman may have honestly believed that everything that happened to him had sexual overtones, the nature of the evidence precludes a finding that the Department’s contrary conclusion was in any way arbitrary or capricious." Brief of Appellee District of Columbia, Freedman v. D.C. Dept. Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-96 (Sept. 1, 1998).

I hear sexual overtones in the music of Tristan und Isolde. I continue to be mentally ill and disabled under the criteria established by the District of Columbia.

Gary Freedman said...

Musical usage of the term "overtone":

An overtone is a partial (a "partial wave" or "constituent frequency") that can be either a harmonic partial (a harmonic) other than the fundamental, or an inharmonic partial. A harmonic frequency is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency. An inharmonic frequency is a non-integer multiple of a fundamental frequency.

Some musical instruments produce overtones that are slightly sharper or flatter than true harmonics. The sharpness or flatness of their overtones is one of the elements that contributes to their unique sound. This also has the effect of making their waveforms not perfectly periodic.

Musical instruments that can create notes of any desired duration and definite pitch have harmonic partials. A tuning fork, provided it is sounded with a mallet (or equivalent) that is reasonably soft, has a tone that consists very nearly of the fundamental, alone; it has a sinusoidal waveform. Nevertheless, music consisting of pure sinusoids was found to be unsatisfactory in the early 20th century.