Thursday, May 19, 2022

Music of the Spheres

            Let me begin by saying that my research on this topic was severely limited by the fact that Coldplay apparently has an album called “Music of the Spheres,” and most of the internet is clogged with pieces about the album. So, I’m relying primarily on what I remember about the concept. And let me also confess that my “inspiration” for this piece is that I heard the term “Music of the Spheres” mentioned in the television program “Touch,” which I’ve been watching with Kim for the last few days.


            Pythagoras, a few years before I was born, did some experiments that associated musical pitches with the length of a vibrating string. Shorten the length: raise the pitch. He worked out the ratio of string length to pitch. This breakthrough, I believe, was the beginning of the relationship between mathematics and music. His work was elaborated upon by Plato, Aristotle and others.


            At the time, it was believed that our Earth was the center of the universe, and the other heavenly bodies move around us on invisible concentric spheres. Each crystal sphere, of course, is at a different distance from Earth, and each one, according to Pythagoras, vibrates at a different frequency, producing a unique hum, depending on that orbital revolution, just as stringed instruments vibrate at a different pitch depending on the length of the string. These different “tones” are a form of music.


            With me so far?


            So, these vibrating crystal spheres create a Music. Conveniently, this Music of the Spheres is inaudible. The 16th century astronomer Johannes Kepler theorized that this inaudible music could nevertheless be heard by the soul. We don’t hear it – we feel it, much the way music can touch our soul, except without the actual sounds. Kepler agreed with Pythagoras that the quality of life on earth is a reflection of the music of these imperceptible hums generated by the spheres of the Sun, Moon and the planets. I have not heard the Coldplay album, but I doubt that it has that profound an effect on us. Some may disagree.


            It is not clear to me whether the Music of the Spheres is a contributing cause of our quality of life, or whether it’s a response to our earthly doings. I wonder what that crystal Music sounds like with the war in Ukraine, global warming, mass shootings, Kim’s sore knees, and the fact that I’m still waiting for the Jeep I ordered in December. But the Music of the Spheres is usually seen as a positive vibe, at least in the half-dozen times I’ve ever come across the term. Even better than positive. You need to set aside, however briefly, your attention to the shit going on, and listen for that divine Music.


            So, pause, now, for as long as it takes, and listen for the music.


            While some may see this as BS, I had my own connection with the Music of the Spheres on Saturday. I was watering the little chestnut trees we planted a couple of years ago when a hummingbird approached me and proceeded to take a shower in the spray from my hose. I saw what she was doing and turned the nozzle to a fine mist. She thanked me, flew in and out for about ten seconds, and then landed on a nearby tree to preen, looking at me with gratitude. I never heard the humming bird because of the sound of the water, but I know it was there.


            At that moment I felt in total harmony with the universe. The Spheres were playing my song. And when I went inside, the Music continued because Kim had baked me some scones.



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