The Harmony of Mathematics

Our bond with music is deeper than the simple response 'I like/don't like what I hear'.

Dr. Oliver Sacks in his book Musicophilia spends a great deal of time exploring the music/brain connection. Philosophers through the ages have examined the role of music in human life. There is something primal in the way we can be attracted or repulsed by the music we hear.

This week a scholar has announced the discovery of a hidden musical message in the scrolls of Plato. According to Jay Kennedy, it is possible that Plato was using musical code to show his solidarity with Pythagorean theory:

"The Pythagoreans realized that when we hear beauty and music, when we hear notes harmonizing, that's because the notes have simple ratios, like 1:2 or 3:4," Kennedy explains. "So the beauty of music is direct perception of the mathematical order underlying the world. They worshipped that mathematics."

Of course, many composers through the ages have spoken of the mystical mathematical quality of music. One of my favorite obsessives is Scriabin. His use of a Whole Tone Dominant Chord suspended over Tonic Root has been named the Mystic Chord. His final planned work before his untimely death at age 43 was the Mysterium, a multi-media work for performance at the highest possible point in the Himalayas. It was Scriabin's hope that it would be "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world."

Music has the power to soothe the savage beast indeed!


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