A quick harmonious aside

June 15, 2008

This has nothing to do with Telluride or the DjBGB, but not long ago I wrote an entry juxtaposing meaning and harmony in which it occurred to me that all harmony was mathematical at some level. (No great shakes, to be sure) but I was rebutted by a reader who pointed out that harmony itself was strictly a western concept and that other cultures differ, having as many as 18 notes in a scale.   Well, this afternoon I was reading about Pythagoras who as every knows is credited with many things, among them was the discovery of musical scale and mathematical relationship of musical harmonies.   

To the question of harmony differing among cultures: Pythagoras was a world traveler, and among many lands, he studied under the maji in Babylon and later became a renowned teacher in India for several years. Hindu ascetics who became the Jain sect about that same time, believed in the transmigration of the soul and sacredness of life in all forms, two things Pythagoras held steadfast.  Suffice to say that if harmony were strictly a western concept, our boy would have surely realized the distinction while spending years in the east.  For Pythagoras, harmony was a perception of the soul that strictly obeyed the divinity of numbers, the same relationship that keeps the planets in their distinct orbit. Harmony is harmony, and it is universal.  I’m gonna side with Pythag on this one. 😉


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