What is the fastest music that humans can play and appreciate?


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/30/what-is-the-fastest-music-that.html


Well, if we’re talking about genre, then that’s all up to one’s personal preferences (which can vary based on the situation), I’d think. For instance, disco music may not be generally appreciated at your grandmother’s funeral.

But, if we’re talking about clear intent as far as the musical subject and delivering on that, then Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” might fit the bill.


What is the fastest music that humans can play and appreciate?

Freebird! Has to be Skynyrd’s Freebird, just has to be…

If I leave here tomorrow / Would you still remember me? / For I must be traveling on, now / 'Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see…


Likely influenced by the associated picture, I read the title as “What is the fastest music that humans can play that cats can appreciate?”… which, judging by the unimpressed cat, was probably too fast.

Anyway, as many composers have said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them.”


What is the fastest music that humans can play and appreciate?


I find Manowar’s interpretation illuminating:


Too serene.


I don’t know but my old band clocked in around 240 bpm on a few songs in studio. Stuff gets real hairy when you’re playing live and the adrenaline kicks in and your drummer steps on the gas pedal. Feels kinda like being on a rollercoaster without the lap bar.


I remember in college me and a friend were tripping balls and listened to Charlie Parker’s “famous alto break” from “Night in Tunisia” over and over, trying to pick out the individual notes, which could just barely be done by our novice ears.

That said, it’s pretty obvious that at faster speeds the notes become more like textures than melodies.


Pretty interesting stuff, especially the part where he demonstrates how at high enough speeds, rhythm becomes pitch. I wonder what would happen if instead of simple clicks, each “tick” were a higher-frequency but very short duration tone? At some very rapid tempo, would the perceived “tick pitch” overpower the pitch of the individual ticks?


Sort of… digital to analog?


Sixteenth notes. Anything faster than sixteenth notes is just showing off. Also, the finale from Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony:

Here’s some more sixteenth notes, from a kind of side-story to Ghost in the Shell:

I could tell there was something odd in the rhythm in the first four bars, but I simply couldn’t count the notes, and neither could my son, a musician. (After that it settles down into 4/4.)


He asks whether musicians are running their “internal clock” at 200bpm with 16 divisions per beat, or 400bpm with 8 divisions. IANAM(usicologist) but that seems like begging the question; it assumes this is how playing works because that’s the conventional theory of how it works, rather than looking at what’s happening and asking what the explanation is.

Suppose you’re making sound by letting a chain slip through your fingers at 800 links per minute. You can let the chain out four links at a time to make a 200bpm rhythm, but that doesn’t mean your internal clock is running at 200bpm; the “clock” comes from the physics of the instrument. With most instruments played fast, I don’t think the player is at any level thinking “OK, it’s been 112ms, time to play the next note”; they’re vibrating their arm at a steady rate, and counting (or subitizing) those movements.

It’s like how Morse operators can send faster by using a key that generates a constant stream of “dits” as long as the contact is made, and you hold it for however long it takes to send however many dits you want. So, some instruments (like “straight” telegraph keys) have physical limits on how fast you can play, but it would seem that the only fundamental limit is whether the notes are too fast for you to perceive them as separate.


Hüsker Dü



The ticks are high frequency, short duration tones. The frequencies making up the tick end up as part of the harmonics that get perceived as timbre. Changing the duration and frequency of the pulses will just change the texture of the sound.


Let me tell you a secret- all music is just showing off.




What the…?