Anyone who's tried to learn Mandarin knows that the key is to get your ear tuned to those fussy inflections that can radically alter the meaning of words. (For instance, “ma” pronounced with a high flat tone means “mother”, whereas “ma” with a rising tone means “hemp”.) Well, it turns out that the effort involved in doing this actually gives you a better ear for musical notes.
So, when China finally inherits the mantle of pre-eminent world superpower from an al-Qaeda bankrupted America, it may be more-of-the-same bad news for the environment and even worse news for human rights, but at least music will be a winner. With millions of school kids in the Western world rushing to learn Middle Kingdom putonghua, the number of instrumental virtuosos per capita will rise astronomically and – when it is written – the definitive “Symphony For The Last Frog” will be the most beautiful and accomplished thing ever composed. (via Monkeyfilter)
(FOOTNOTE: While you’re checking out the linked Scientific American news piece on this, you might also want to peruse their very interesting article on the neurology of music.)
This interesting and nicely designed little site traces the attempts by twentieth century composers to escape the bounds of traditional staff notation and devise more graphical means of presenting their avant garde scores. The results of their endeavours are presented in a series of zoomable scanned images which are accompanied by interviews and sound clips. They're all very idiosyncratic, and regardless of how effective they were at conveying musical ideas, some of them are quite visually appealing... Its just a pity none of them are available as wallpaper-sized jpgs. (via Metafilter)