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Music And The Power Of Sound:
The Influence of Tuning and Intervals on
by Alain Danielou

This nOde last updated November 24th, 2001 and is permanently morphing...
(2 Men (Eagle) - 13 Ceh (Red) -

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Music and the Power of Sound:

The Influence of Tuning and Intervals on Consciousness
by Alain Danielou
(172 pages, hb,)
Inner Traditions, 1995
ISBN 1-89281-336-9

Chapter Titles

1. internal linkMetaphysical Correspondences

2. The Conflict of Musical Systems

3. The Measurement of Intervals and internal linkHarmonic Sounds

4. The Cycle of Fifths: The Musical Theory of the Chinese

5. Relations to a Tonic: The Modal Music of India

6. Confusion of the Systems: The Music of the Greeks

7. The Western Scale and Equal Temperament

8. The Scale of Sounds

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Selected Quotes

p. 1

"All music is based on the relations between sounds, and a careful study of the numbers by which these relations are ruled brings us immediately into the almost forgotten science of numerical symbolism. Numbers correspond to abstract principles, and their application to physical internal linkreality follows absolute and inescapable laws. In musical experience we are brought into direct internal linkcontact with these principles; the connection between physical reality and metaphysical principles can be felt in
music as nowhere else. Music was therefore justly considered by the ancients as the key to all sciences and arts--the link between metaphysics and physics through which the universal laws and their multiple applications could be understood.

Modern civilization has tended to reject the ways of thinking and scientific conceptions that formed its internal linkfoundations. Western people have largely broken away from the social and intellectual regulations that restricted their freedom, and in doing so they have abandoned the age-old order and traditional knowledge that had been the basis of their development. This is why sciences and arts originally understood as diverse applications of common principles have been reduced to a condition of fragmentary experiments isolated from one another.
gravity of the situation

Thus, to take the domain with which we are here particularly concerned, there remain no data in the West on the nature of music except for a few technical and mostly arbitrary rules about the relations of sounds and the structures of chortis. The strange phenomenon by which coordinated sounds have the power to evoke feelings or images is accepted simply as a fact. Attempts are made to define the effects of certain combinations of sounds, but these effects are discovered almost fortuitously and] no search is made for their underlying cause. Just as one day internal linkNewton discovered the law of internal linkgravitation, it is only through the genius of some musician that we may be able to rediscover the significance of a particular relation of sounds; it is Gluck or Chopin who may suddenly reveal to us the deep, absolute, and inevitable meaning of a chord or of a melodic interval."


"The universe is called in internal linkSanskrit 'jagat' (that which moves) because nothing exists but by the combination of internal linkforces and movements. But every movement generates a vibration and therefore a sound that is peculiar to it. Such a sound, of course, may not be audible to our rudimentary ears, but it does exist as pure sound. Since each element of matter produces a sound, the relation of elements can be expressed by a relation of sounds. We can therefore understand why astrology, internal linkalchemy, geometry, and so forth express themselves in terms of harmonic relations.

Although those pure, absolute sounds that Kabir calls 'inaudible music' cannot be perceived by our ears (they may be perceptible for more delicate instruments, and the internal linkperception of such sounds is one of the stages in the practice of yoga), we may nonetheless be able to produce corresponding sounds within the range of vibrations we can perceive. We can establish relations between these partial sounds similar to the subtle relations of nature. They will be only gross relations, but they may approach the subtle relations of nature sufficiently to evoke images in our mind. Sir John Woodroffe, the learned commentator on tantric internal linkmetaphysics, explains it thus: 'There are, it is said, closely approximate natural names, combined according to natural laws of harmony [chandahs], forming internal linkmantras which are irresistibly connected with their esoteric arthas [forms).'

If we were able to reproduce the exact relations that constitute the natural names, we should recreate beings, things, and phenomena, because this is the very internal linkprocess of creation, explained by the Vedas and also indicated in Genesis, or in the Gospel of John when the 'creative Word' is spoken of. If, however, exact relations cannot be produced, approximate relations have a power, if not of creation, at least of evocation; sound 'works now in man's small internal linkmagic, just as it first worked in the grand magical display of the World Creator.' 'The natural name of anything is the sound which is produced by the action of the moving internal linkforces which constitute it. He therefore, it is said, who mentally or vocally utters with creative force the natural name of anything brings into being the thing which bears that name.' By the artificial construction of harmony we can go beyond the phenomenon of sound vibrations and perceive not sounds but immaterial relations through which can be expressed internal linkrealities of a spiritual nature. We can thus lift the veil by which matter hides from its all true realities"

pp. 4, 5 

"Evocation tlirough sound, like creation itself, takes place not because of the material fact of physical vibration but on account of the existence of metaphysical correspondences. Therefore all psychological explanation of musical experience has to be discarded. In reality, the personality of the hearer counts for nothing in the phenomenon of musical evocation because evocation takes place even if there is no hearer, and if the existence of this evocation is ephemeral it is only because of the imperfection of the relation of sounds. Hearers can be differentiated negatively only by the relative acuteness of their perceptions, their greater or lesser deafness.

'Several centuries before Plato, internal linkPythagoras, imbued with internal linkEgyptian doctrine, requested his disciples to reject the judgment of their ears as susceptible to error and variation where internal linkharmonic principles are concerned. He wanted them to regulate those immovable principles only according to the proportional and analogical harmony of numbers.' The work of the musician consists therefore only in knowing, as accurately as possible, the symbolic relations of all things so as to reproduce in
us, through the magic of sounds, the feelings, the passions, the visions of an almost real world. And the history of Indian music, as that of Chinese music, is full of the legends of marvelous musicians whose voice could make night fall or spring appear, or who, like the celebrated musician Naik Gopal, compelled by the Emperor Akbar to sing in the mode of fire (raga Dipak), made the internal linkwater of the river Jumna boil and died burned by the flames that issued from every part of his body."

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