Janet Kidd, the director of my men’s Barbershop chorus (The Men of Fundy), raised the topic of the overtone series at last night’s rehearsal. It is one of my very favourite topics in music theory, and in fact is the basis in math and physics for understanding everything about why harmony sounds and feels the way it does.
I still remember the very first time I learned about this concept in music — it’s hard to forget anything which comes with the same feeling as being struck by lightning! It’s also the same feeling I had when attending my very first class on the principles and philosophy of Heilkunst Medicine, and as it turns out, it was for the same reason.
The overtone series describes how the production of a sound (by an instrument or a voice, or such) generates not only a pure tone (which in physics would be called a sine wave, and which can normally only be produced artificially by a synthesizer) but in fact a whole “package” of harmonically related tones are produced together. Without getting deeply into the math or physics details of this, overtones are the reason that there is a qualitative difference between the sound of a trumpet playing b-flat, and a clarinet repeating that same b-flat. Likewise, it is the reason that our speaking or untrained singing voice has a distinctly identifiable tonal quality or ‘timbre’, and how we can tell our friends apart when they call us on the phone.
Music is a great topic within which to explore the Heilkunst concept of ‘resonance’, including the appreciation of a resonant and healthy quality of a speaking or singing voice, or the expression of resonance (the artful mix of consonance and dissonance) through the use of harmony in a piece of music. Or at another level, we can look at which types of music a person resonates with over others, as an indication of their state of mind and bioenergetic structure.
My unforgettable first encounter with the concept of the overtone series had such an powerful impact on me due to my own resonance blueprint — a mixture of my love for music, along with my desire to understand the world in terms of its underlying laws and structures is what made this concept so resonant, and therefore exciting for me to learn. Likewise, at another level, my first exposure to learning the principles of Heilkunst had the same impact, due to my resonance blueprint. I had explored many concepts and systems of health up to that point, but nothing had awoken in me anything with such a force until then.
Aside from finding an excuse to talk about some of my favourite topics, I present these stories as another reference point and model to what you are looking for when seeking resonance. I tell patients that they need to work at developing their “inner geiger counter” to be much more finely tuned and responsive to what, in the world around them, creates this type of resonance response, and therefore which path is lit up for them to follow. Think back to any experience, even small, which created this true form of excitation within, and then work from there to find more and more which links back to that same resonance for you.
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