With roots somewhere deep in prehistory, a field of study known as Speculative Music has been slowly evolving, disappearing then re-emerging. At times it enjoys the status of the high arts and sciences of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. Then just as suddenly it will descend into the murky underground of the esoteric arts; alchemy or magic. In a nutshell, “Speculative Music has to do with looking at the cosmos musically, and looking at music cosmically”. (- Joscelyn Godwin, Musical Quarterly, spring-summer, 2011). That music could inform us about the cosmos, or that the cosmos might inform us about music – these are Sound Possibilities.
See this post for more about Speculative Music and the informative writings of musicologist Joscelyn Godwin: Speculative Music and Harmony of the Spheres.
The sixth century Roman philosopher Boethius offered a useful set of categories in his treatise De Musica that help illuminate this relationship between music and the cosmos:
- Musica Mundana (music of the universe, music of the spheres)
- Musica Humana (music of the body, mind and soul; biorhythms)
- Musica Instrumentalis (singing and music played on instruments)
For more about these ideas from Boethius and how music was studied along with aritmetic, geometry, and astronomy, see: Musica Mundana, Musica Humana, Musica Instrumentalis in Introduction to Sound Possibilities Part 2.
Sound Possibilities explores this relationship, encouraging the development of new musical applications that may help heal individuals, society and the world at large.
Music can be a powerful tool. My father was a woodworker and I learned from him that we should always use a tool appropriate to the task at hand, and furthermore know how to use that tool properly. It is not at all unusual when beginning a new project to encounter the need for a new tool, so trips to the hardware store were frequent. Sound Possibilities is the hardware store of ideas involving the use of sound and music as tools for building a better world. Hopefully you will find new tools here you can use, and will also share with us discoveries from the workshop of your own musical experience.
Music and sound are considered throughout this forum from many angles; from physics and mathematics to the esoteric, philosophical and speculative. Social contexts and cross-cultural influences from the sacred to the secular are included with the intent that new applications for music are needed in our time. In Canada, Australia and Europe, it is not uncommon to see careers in music aligned closely with the social sciences more than with the business of entertainment. Consider the implications of that; music as service rather than as a commodity.
You may gain more value from Sound Possibilities by considering the following:
* Keep an open mind. Like the Dalai Lama says; “the mind is like a parachute, it works best when it is open.”
* Nothing is carved in stone. “Hold the truth lightly”, someone said, “learn to be comfortable with contradictions and paradox, and you may yet learn much”.
* We take a sincere interest in the wisdom of sacred teachings, religious forms, mythologies, epic poetry and song cycles of ancient cultures. We take such subjects seriously, if not always literally. It is important to attempt to understand the cultural context in which these various matters arose in order to appreciate the significance of the metaphors and references they contain.
* While we are continually amazed at how much modern science has managed to accomplish so far without blowing us all off the face of the planet, we do not subscribe to the ‘myth of progress’ (the belief that newer always equates to better). But we also make a concerted effort to not over-romanticize the past. Cyclic time may prove more informative for us than the linear time most westerners are familiar with. “To everything there is a season…Turn, turn, turn”.
But it could be even stranger still. In some ways time is a river that runs both ways. The full implications of the Age of Relativity that unfolded in the early to mid 20th century have yet to seep into our collective consciousness. With every passing decade, new discoveries make it incumbent on us to re-vision the past. We are constantly overthrowing old paradigms for new ones. Even as the past shapes our future, the present and future continue to re-shape our past. The quantum theories that emerged from the work of Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Gustav Hertz, Louis de Broglie, Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg have changed everything. Newtonian mechanics worked fine on the pool table, but when it comes to the sub-atomic and the intergalactic, the music of the spheres, string theory and multiple universes; when it comes to whether light behaves as a particle or a wave, it’s a whole new ball-game.
Quantum Physicist Amit Goswami tells us; “There is no object in space-time without a conscious subject observing it”. Physicist/Poet Carlo Rovelli’s latest book on quantum gravity is called “Reality is Not What It Seems.” Over 80% of the universe is now considered to be composed of ‘Dark Energy’ and ‘Dark Matter’, about which we know next to nothing. Reflecting on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, American physicist Nick Herbert (b. 1936) has stated that “no local reality can explain the type of world we live in….” and “One of the best-kept secrets of science is that physicists have lost their grip on reality.”
So check your reality at the door, you may pick it up when you leave, or there is the sound possibility that you may find you no longer have a need for it.
* Finally, the technological and material successes of the modern and post-modern age are undeniable. However we constantly have to revisit how the less visible, non-material parts of our lives are being subtly, unconsciously, sometimes purposefully, altered by an ever-increasing reliance on a materialistic world-view. The reductionist and purely material view of scientism is only beginning to finally encounter the outer limits and shortcomings of its own methods and techniques and acknowledge the need for a more integrated approach in areas like brain/mind research, education, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, social engineering, economics and governing. Music and sound are familiar tools that operate across all kinds of boundaries; physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and generational. Sound Possibilities looks for ways to measure the “as yet” immeasurable, and to acknowledge the undeniable power of sound to heal, even as we are only beginning to comprehend how that works.
Sound Possibilities encourages the consideration of ideas, new and old, familiar and strange, rational and imaginative. A sense of humor will be useful at times, as will a sense of reverence and wonder. What we are after is new forms, new pathways, new applications and fresh understandings that may draw on much of what has come before, but also that which is, even at this moment, being discovered. Thank you for your interest and please join in the conversation by leaving comments and sharing your own experiences or thoughts with us.