Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Music in the wind and Pythagorean philosophy

On the Aeolian Harp.

It was observed above, that as action and re-action are equal, the effect is the same, whether the sonorous body strikes air, or the air strikes the sonorous body. In the case of a musical pipe this is plain enough: but it was not so well known, nor could it be so familiarly proved, till of late years, that the air can begin of itself to produce the effect, and fetch music out of a string, as a string fetches music out of the air.
We have now a curious illustration of this fact from the instrument called an Eolian harp. How far the ancients were masters of this experiment, is uncertain: but it has long been known, that the wind would bring musical sounds from the strings of an instrument. In the Jewish Talmud, where we should scarcely expect to find any thing valuable in philosophy, the wind is reported to have brought music out of the harp of David; which, as it is there said, "being every midnight constantly blown upon by the north wind, warbled of itself." (Talmud in Berae, fol.6.)

This of course gives me an excuse to once more mention the behaviour of sound and light waves or any other waves we can think of for that matter, and the guy who explained a lot about it both philosophycly and mathematically.
Pythagoras was a Greek Mathematician born in 569 B.C. who studied math, music, and astronomy.

Pythagoras left Samos in disgust for its ruler Polycrates. He settled in Cretona, a Greek colony in southern Italy. There he founded a movement with religious, political and philosophical goals. To facilitate his movement, he created a school where his followers lived and worked. He had many devoted followers who were called Pythagoreans. They had to adhere to certain strict rules. Obedience, silence, abstinence from food, simplicity in dress and possessions, and the habit of frequent self examination were required of the Pythagoreans. They also believed in immortality and transmigration of souls.

The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color

To Pythagoras music was one of the dependencies of the divine science of mathematics, and its harmonies were inflexibly controlled by mathematical proportions. The Pythagoreans averred that mathematics demonstrated the exact method by which the good established and maintained its universe. Number therefore preceded harmony, since it was the immutable law that governs all harmonic proportions. After discovering these harmonic ratios, Pythagoras gradually initiated his disciples into this, the supreme arcanum of his Mysteries. He divided the multitudinous parts of creation into a vast number of planes or spheres, to each of which he assigned a tone, a harmonic interval, a number, a name, a color, and a form. He then proceeded to prove the accuracy of his deductions by demonstrating them upon the different planes of intelligence and substance ranging from the most abstract logical premise to the most concrete geometrical solid. From the common agreement of these diversified methods of proof he established the indisputable existence of certain natural laws.

Having once established music as an exact science, Pythagoras applied his newly found law of harmonic intervals to all the phenomena of Nature, even going so far as to demonstrate the harmonic relationship of the planets, constellations, and elements to each other. A notable example of modern corroboration of ancient philosophical reaching is that of the progression of the elements according to harmonic ratios. While making a list of the elements in the ascending order of their atomic weights, John A. Newlands discovered at every eighth element a distinct repetition of properties. This discovery is known as the law of octaves in modern chemistry.

I admit that this is a long artical, but I would feel remiss if I omited Ishi, the last survivor of the Yahi tribe, who befriended the white man in 1911. He was the subject of much study, and was asked about music. Ishi recorded over 60 songs between 1911 and 1914.

According to Ishi, a bow left strung or standing in an upright position, gets tired and sweats. When not in use it should be lying down; no one should step over it; no child should handle it, and no woman should touch it. This brings bad luck and makes it shoot crooked. To expunge such an influence it is necessary to wash the bow in sand and water.

In his judgment, a good bow made a musical note when strung and the string is tapped with the arrow. This was man's first harp, the great grandfather of the pianoforte.

By placing one end of his bow at the corner of his open mouth and tapping the string with an arrow, the Yana could make sweet music. It sounded like an Aeolian harp. To this accompaniment Ishi sang a folk-song telling of a great warrior whose bow was so strong that, dipping his arrow first in fire, then in the ocean, he shot at the sun. As swift as the wind, his arrow flew straight in the round open door of the sun and put out its light. Darkness fell upon the earth and men shivered with cold. To prevent themselves from freezing they grew feathers, and thus our brothers, the birds, were born.


  1. You expect to hear this kind of music in the background of movies and TV shows... seems like that's all the time one has to devote to sitting still long enough to really hear and appreciate what's being said, even if it's only on a subliminal level. Admittedly, I found the first minute or so hard to sit through.

    What a difference from the clash and clatter of modern music! And then... there's that infernal "Rap" noise (I don't classify it as music, more like a rant of some type!) that only serves to antagonize and annoy the senses.

    I used to listen to classical music when I was younger, but now it seems like I need something harsher and faster -- a sign of our times, perhaps? Our lifestyle being the fast-paced, hyper-driven chaotic thing it is, it takes something really dramatic to even get our attention for more than a few seconds.

    We have a lot of those wind-powered generators in Saskatchewan, especially around the southwest corner of the province. Seems the wind is good for more than just supplying an alternative source of energy!

  2. I don't know much about music, although I've heard of "Music of the Spheres" before.

    Maybe your musical "vibrations" do reverberate in all ten dimensions G:.

    Universal harmony.

  3. Highway:

    I believe that music is unchanging and allways reverts toward harmony no matter what. Even if it's Darth doing the Evileye rap, it can revert to something harmonious. A good healthy fart could probably change this Neoconservative chaos into a movement by Bach...G:

  4. I herd universal harmony at the beach once dad. I can't remember exactly what I was smoking though...G:

  5. Back from the future... The increasing chaos, here on planet Earth, can not be ignored by anyone who has experienced inner peace and harmony. The rapidly increasing exploitation of the have nots is obvious, while the expansion of the police state has resulted in an acceptance of their Orwellian tactics on a global level. An acceptance which allows the powers that be to imprison anyone who dares to speak out against the obvious evil's.that we experience in relation to our own government. The famous maxim, that we have heard from the main stream media... "dont ask don't tell" has been broadcasted all over the planet, and we are supposed to believe that it is about gay rights in the military, but in the real world, it is all about dumbing down the masses. I am a senior citizen that should be on the streets where Ray McGovern, Daniel Elsberg, Chris Hedges, Thomas Drake, have been demonstrating for years...G%