Recently I was driving along the freeway, my mind a tangled knot of problems, anxieties and stresses of the day. Suddenly, with the distant mountain range for its stage, was an unutterably glorious sunset. Spontaneously I let out an “Ah!”, my mind’s petty preoccupations arrested and banished in a panoply of glory, beauty and serenity.

Let’s pause now for an experiment. You will need a piano and a trumpet.

A piano has many strings. Each note of the scale vibrates at its own particular frequency; the higher the frequency, the higher the note. Likewise, each string of the piano is tuned to its own frequency, corresponding to the various notes. The longer, thicker strings are tuned to lower notes, while the shorter, thinner, more tightly wound strings are higher notes. The “A” string above middle “C” on the piano, for example, vibrates at 440 times per second, so when it is struck, its vibration produces the sound of “A”, which then carries through the air and reaches our ear as the note “A”.

The piano’s strings are prevented from sounding by a series of felt “dampers” which press against the strings so they cannot vibrate. When the piano’s key is pressed, the damper of the corresponding note is released from its string, so it is now free to vibrate and produce sound. Then, almost simultaneously, a felt hammer strikes the string, setting it into vibration and releasing its note to the world. This note continues until the finger is taken off the key, returning the damper to once again mute the string.

The piano has three pedals. When the right hand pedal is depressed, all of the dampers are released, leaving all the strings free to vibrate until the dampers are returned.