“We shall therefore borrow all our Rules for the Finishing our Proportions, from the Musicians, who are the greatest Masters of this Sort of Numbers, and from those Things wherein Nature shows herself most excellent and compleat.” Leon Battista Alberti (1407-1472)
Most of us can remember learning the Pythagorean Theorem in middle school: a2+b2=c2, which describes the relationship between the 3 sides of a right triangle. The man credited with the invention of this theorem is Pythagoras, Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician of the 6th Century BC. Pythagoras is also revered for having offered wisdom about music and how it relates to the cosmos. He found that the pitch of a musical note is precisely related to the length of the string that produces it, and he also determined exact numerical ratios that represent the intervals between harmonious sound frequencies. Pythagoras described these mathematical relationships in music as unchanging and universal. He then looked to the sky to muse on a similar relationship between celestial bodies.
In a theory known as Harmony of the Spheres, he proposed that the Sun, Moon, and planets each resonate a unique musical note, unheard by the human ear, that are in harmonic resonance with one another and create a sonic field which sustains life on Earth. This ever-present music is in perfect harmony with the entire cosmos and governs all rhythms of nature on our planet. In his dissertation The Composition of the Soul, Plato, one of many great intellects who was inspired by Pythagoras’ hypothesis, called this harmony “the one visible being, containing within itself all living beings of the same natural order”. The Pythagorean philosophy was certainly a combination of science and mysticism, inspiring esoteric spirituality which intends to describe the universe as one integrated, living organism.
Aristotle discounted Pythagoras’ theory as untrue, saying that if the enormous power of the stars and planets had their own sound it would surely shatter us. Could he have misunderstood Pythagoras’ idea, which describes the necessity of the vibrational relationship between these enormous celestial bodies to sustain our existence? Fast forward to the 20th century and we meet Nikola Tesla — Siberian-American engineer, inventor, physicist and futurist — who famously said “If you want to understand the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Tesla agrees with Pythagoras that everything emits its own unique frequency, and that the entire universe is sustained by the harmonic resonance within and of itself — the universe is a grand divine orchestra. As a musician, I certainly love this idea. What do you think?
Photo By Maxime Raynal (Bateau et voie lactée) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]