From the PREFACE.
It is held by a good many people - and I am not concerned to contradict them - that the time spent by music-students in acquiring a knowledge of Acoustics is time wasted. The fact however remains that many students do so spend some of their time; and musical examinations, by asking questions on the subject, force them to continue doing so. And I suppose everyone will agree that, if a subject must be studied, it is best to study it intelligently.
The experience of a good many years, both in teaching and examining, has convinced me that very few students ever succeed in grasping the underlying principles of Acoustics at all. They acquire the jargon, and store their minds with text-book facts; but they seldom grip the scientific basis on which the theory of sound is built. And in support of this contention I will advance two conclusions - it would be easy to give a dozen - to which I am driven by the answers to questions set in examination-papers. Firstly, it is obvious that the majority of students (I am speaking always of music-students) believe that wave-curves - so familiar to anyone who has ever opened a book on Sound - are the actual pictorial representation of something which occurs in the air; and the true meaning of the essential word 'associated' has never dawned on them. Secondly, I have never yet been convinced by an answer to any question on equal temperament that the candidate really understood the bearing on the question of the twelfth root of two.
The truth is, of course, that the understanding of the principles of Acoustics, as distinct from the cramming of a number of facts, depends entirely on the grasp of a few elementary mathematical conceptions; and no book on the subject, so far as I can find, recognizes the fact that to the ordinary music-student mathematics, however elementary, is not familiar ground. So I have tried in this book to explain, in separate chapters, each fundamental mathematical idea at the point where the understanding of it becomes vital; and I have done my utmost to put such explanations into language which can be comprehended by anyone whose knowledge of ordinary arithmetic goes as far as vulgar fractions.
Any student who can understand Chapters III, VI, X, XIII, XV, XVI, and XVII should find the rest of the book easy reading; but those to whom the above chapters are incomprehensible can never hope, in my belief, to understand the drift of the subject or the principles on which its laws are founded.show more