Musick Moves Inanimate by Magick Numbers and Persuasive Sound | Ancient Origins Members Site


Musick Moves Inanimate by Magick Numbers and Persuasive Sound

Musick Moves Inanimate by Magick Numbers and Persuasive Sound

In 1697, William Congreve, a British playwright, wrote that: “Musick hath Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak. I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd, and, as with living Souls, have been inform'd, by Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.”  The study of the magical, mathematical properties in music goes all the way back to an ancient Greek mathematician named Pythagoras, the ‘father’ of modern geometry. He was the first to recognize the unique qualities of the musical intervals, or the space between notes on a musical scale, that he called the ‘perfect’ fourth and the ‘perfect’ fifth. His name for these intervals, ‘perfect’, stays with them to this day. Other intervals are designated either major or minor.

Two Native American flutes crafted from branches by Robert Willasch. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Two Native American flutes crafted from branches by Robert Willasch. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Perfect Intervals: The Pentatonic Scale

Even if one has never studied music theory, it's easy to understand what intervals are. Imagine a piano keyboard: A steady progression of white keys starts at the left and, one by one in an even row, proceeds all the way to the right. The black keys divide the white keys in a systematic pattern - first two, then three, then back to two, then three - and so on. Choose any five of these black keys, beginning with one of the groups of two, followed by a space, and then a group of three. This grouping of five notes, two black keys followed by three black keys, forms what is called a Pentatonic scale (penta meaning five).


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