Drones & Entrainment


A drone is a continual chord or note sounded over the course of a musical passage or full piece of music.  The use of drone can add an "base" for musical intervals to be explored.  Drones's are widely used in North & South Indian music and have been widely used in avante-garde composer LaMonte Young's music and sound installations.  In Youngs's and his Partner Marian Zaeela's "Selected Writhings"(pages 7-8)  he discusses the use of drone in relation to musical intervals:

Tuning is a function of time. Since tuning an interval establishes the relationship of two frequencies in time, the degree of precision is propor- tional to the duration of the analysis, i.e. to the duration of tuning. Therefore, it is necessary to sustain the frequencies for longer periods if higher standards of precision are to be achieved. The fact that this infor- mation is not generally known to musicians may be one reason that only a few examples of pitches of long duration such as organum, pedal point, and the drone are to be found in music. On the other hand, astronomers have known for some time that if a measurement or comparison is to be made of two orbits which involve many years of time, the degree of preci- sion of the measurement will be proportional to the duration for which the measurement is made.*

In the tradition of modal music a fixed tonic is continued as a drone or frequently repeated, and a limited set of frequencies with intervallic rela- tionships established in reference to the tonic is repeated in various melodic permutations throughout a performance in a particular mode. Generally, a specific mood or psychological state is attributed to each of the modes. The place theory of pitch identification postulates that each time the same fre- quency is repeated it is received at the same fixed place on the basilar mem- brane and transmitted to the same fixed point in the cerebral cortex pre- sumably by the same fiber or neuron of the auditory nerve. The volley the- ory of pitch perception assumes that a sequence of electrical impulses is sent traveling along specific neurons of the auditory nerve.

View video of the Dream House in New York city.


Entrainment is when two different motion or signal frequencies become in sync with each other.  This process was first discovered in the late 1600's when Christain Huygens noticed that the pendulum frequencies of two clocks mounted on the same wall or board became synchronized to each other.  We entrain to music in different ways, by tapping or dancing to the rhythm of music.  Shamans use  monotonous drumming to induce trance states that cause increase in certain frequencies in the brain (alpha and theta).

Article on Entrainment

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