Symmetry as beauty

  • Cæterpillock 08-19-2018, 12:02 PM
    Does beauty equal symmetry?
    If we leave behind all the social factors, humans have some innate sense dealing with various traits such as neoteny or fitness. Thus, this kind of beauty is easily explained and will not be the subject of the thread. But when it comes to more abstract kind of beauty, aka æsthetics, it is much trickier to define. Some believe the key here is symmetry: humans like symmetric objects(either bilateral or radial symmetry) and riff-based(temporal symmetry) or immitative music(fugues, canons etc.). But this kind of logic seemingly fails to explain the beauty behind melodies, consonant chords, or colour combinations. As for consonance, I've come across a theory that, in short, states following: the simpler the ratio between frequencies is, the more consonant the interval is for the [human] listener(ggl. harmonic polyrhythm); as for the remaining two, I have no clue.  I wonder if I could extend the notion of symmetry even further and apply it in some wild creative way to explain those.
    So, what are your ideas on beauty, lewdfolks?
  • Inkjet Printer 08-19-2018, 12:57 PM
    Your theory of consonance is in line with current theories about harmony. However, in our equally tempered system all intervals are actually slightly dissonant. This is because in true temperament, a song in C is very consonant, but because the fractions don't line up perfectly, the same song in F# is unlistenable because the intervals that sound nice in C are now dissonant. All music we hear is an approximation of consonance, but the differences are so minute that we barely notice it. Music is a lot more complex than this though, dissonance isn't a bad thing per say, in fact, interplay between consonant and dissonant harmonies has been an integral part of music for centuries now. Think of a diminished triad built on the major 7th resolving back to the root, this is a trademark example of a dissonant chord creating tension, after which it releases this tension through going back to the root.

    You mentioned imitative music as an example of humanities preference for symmetry in music, humans like repitition when it comes to music, and I think it has more to do with that rather than symmetry. This is more because we like things that we already know, if something is extremely different from our current tastes, but still symmetrical, we won't like it. Try getting your grandma to listen to Cannibal Corpse and you'll see my point. This also explains why forms of music such as cantus firmus (basing a song on another song that already exists) have been so successful throughout the years.

    I do agree that symmetry is often used in musical pieces, but whether I don't know whether that is because of symmetry, or familiarity.

    Just my two cents haha, I hope you understand all of the terminology I used, if not I can totally explain.
  • Cæterpillock 08-19-2018, 01:33 PM
    (08-19-2018, 12:57 PM)Inkjet Printer Wrote: Your theory of consonance is in line with current theories about harmony. However, in our equally tempered system all intervals are actually slightly dissonant. This is because in true temperament, a song in C is very consonant, but because the fractions don't line up perfectly, the same song in F# is unlistenable because the intervals that sound nice in C are now dissonant. All music we hear is an approximation of consonance, but the differences are so minute that we barely notice it. Music is a lot more complex than this though, dissonance isn't a bad thing per say, in fact, interplay between consonant and dissonant harmonies has been an integral part of music for centuries now. Think of a diminished triad built on the major 7th resolving back to the root, this is a trademark example of a dissonant chord creating tension, after which it releases this tension through going back to the root.

    You mentioned imitative music as an example of humanities preference for symmetry in music, humans like repitition when it comes to music, and I think it has more to do with that rather than symmetry. This is more because we like things that we already know, if something is extremely different from our current tastes, but still symmetrical, we won't like it. Try getting your grandma to listen to Cannibal Corpse and you'll see my point. This also explains why forms of music such as cantus firmus (basing a song on another song that already exists) have been so successful throughout the years.

    I do agree that symmetry is often used in musical pieces, but whether I don't know whether that is because of symmetry, or familiarity.

    Just my two cents haha, I hope you understand all of the terminology I used, if not I can totally explain.


    I didn't say this theory is mine, haha.

    I would insist that the principle behind fugues is symmetry because familiarity demands habit and a fugue is percieved in a sort of more short-time memory manner.

    Anyway, that hasn't tackled the colour question.
  • Inkjet Printer 08-19-2018, 02:21 PM
    Familiarity does demand repitition, but Cantus Firmus shows us that this repitition can be established through multiple contexts, is it still symmetry when a theme from one art piece resurfaces in another?

    As for colour, different colours are just different wavelengths of photons. The cones in our eyes can have 3 different photoreceptors, and every photoreceptor is sensitive to a different set of wavelengths, and based on the descrepancies between how each photoreceptor responds to incoming light, we are able to discern color.

    We'd have to come up with a hypothesis of how symmetry would work in this system, it would be different from sound because it essentially uses three seperate reactions to stimuli, as opposed to only one. What do you think about this? I'm not a biologist so I don't know much about how our eyes work.
  • Cæterpillock 08-19-2018, 02:57 PM
    (08-19-2018, 02:21 PM)Inkjet Printer Wrote: Familiarity does demand repitition, but Cantus Firmus shows us that this repitition can be established through multiple contexts, is it still symmetry when a theme from one art piece resurfaces in another?

    As for colour, different colours are just different wavelengths of photons. The cones in our eyes can have 3 different photoreceptors, and every photoreceptor is sensitive to a different set of wavelengths, and based on the descrepancies between how each photoreceptor responds to incoming light, we are able to discern color.

    We'd have to come up with a hypothesis of how symmetry would work in this system, it would be different from sound because it essentially uses three seperate reactions to stimuli, as opposed to only one. What do you think about this? I'm not a biologist so I don't know much about how our eyes work.


    I agree that familiarity takes its place in Cantus Firmus and, in fact, in all music(perhaps, our perception of music is highly influenced by memes). My point was that in case of imitative music it has to do with symmetry, not familiarity/habit, as in case of the former.

    My guess would be that colour emotional perception depends on environment which homo sapiens inhabit. Thus, colour combinaions, not present in nature, would appear irritating or contradicting. This is a mere speculation, though. I don't have the necessary knowledge either.
  • Inkjet Printer 08-20-2018, 04:43 AM
    If I recall correctly, humans have a hardwired biological response to bright red colors, a potential hypothesis could be that color emotional perception is dependent on the amount of red that is present in a certain wave. If humans have hardwired responses to other colors, then those would apply as well. The emotional reaction might scale depending on the intensity of the reaction of each photoreceptor in response to the incoming light.

    When light hits a photoreceptor, a chemical reaction causes them to send nerve impulses to the brain. According to the hypothesis wherein certain colours that don't appear in nature, are percieved as irritating or contradicting, therefore, certain make-ups of impulses cause for an emotional reaction because they are rare. This is supposed to then somehow work in tandem with the emotional reactions to colors such as red that have already been observed. This requires that the brain has built in reactions to rare compositions of nerve impulses coming from the eyes, and I don't see why that would be the case. These colors are rare, therefore to have a reaction already built in place would be odd, since it would've been there because of an evolutionary process, and this process is unlikely to exist or have any significance because these colors don't appear in nature, and you can't evolve in response to something that isn't there.

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Symmetry as beauty