January 17, 2016
The Astrological Zodiac & Musical Tonality – Roel’s Interpretation
This article is an addition / continuation of the article ‘The Astrological Zodiac & Musical Tonality – Tone Zodiac‘ and contains my personal interpretation of the relationship between the Astrological Zodiac and Musical Tonality …
I am not an astrologer or astronomer (I am but a musician-composer and sound engineer with a keen interest in this subject). This article is in the first place written for musicians that – like myself – are intriqued by this topic and perhaps for some astrologers it might turn out to be an interesting read as well.
- The seasons mentioned in this article are as the are at the Northern hemisphere (North of the Equator).
- The exact dates that cover the periods of the Zodiac Signs might differ, that depends on the system used.
- All dates, numbers and frequencies mentioned in this blog article are an approximation.
With some concepts (such as Kepler’s Tone Zodiac) the astrological, astronomical and/or mathematical values have been the starting point to build a Tone Zodiac. This sometimes mend that music came ‘second’ in order to make a concept work. Important to me though is to be sure the functions of the intervals, the meaning of tones, scales and tonalities are preserved and not “re-interpreted” to prove an otherwise mathematical correct concept with.
In this next section of this article I will go more into detail about the tone-sign combination that I think is the most cogent.
WHAT CIRCLE TO USE AND WHAT TONE TO START WITH?
THE CHROMATIC CIRCLE OR THE CIRCLE OF FIFTHS?
WHAT CIRCLE TO USE AND
The Chromatic Circle (CC) and the Circle of Fifths (CoF) have a different following order of tones so the result when aligning them with the Zodiac circle will differ partly.
The Chromatic Circle is related to the 12-Tone Equal Temperament. This Temperament is the modern standard and most modern instruments were build for it. An equal-tempered chromatic scale is a nondiatonic scale having no tonic because of the symmetry of its equally spaced notes. Each tone represents 100 cents (1/12th) of the total of 1200 cents between Tonic and Octave. The Circle of the Zodiac Signs is divided into 12 sections of each 30 degrees (1/12th of 360 degrees).
The Circle of Fifths is related to the Pythagorean Temperament. This Temperament is based on the “Perfect Fifth” (the 3rd Harmonic of the Harmonic Series and a consonant interval), an important tone in music that leads you (the listener) to the Tonic (root). The tone G leads to C, like D leads to G.
From an esoteric-philosophical point of the view we can imagine the Fourth and Fifth to be the border between the Earthly (tonic, seconds and thirds) and the Cosmic or spiritual (sixth, seventh and octave) realms. The “function” of the Perfect Fifth – being on the Cosmic side of the “border” – is to bring the Cosmic into the Earthly realm. You can read more about the function of the intervals in my blog article “The Function Of The Intervals” that includes fractions (quotes) of Rudolf Steiner‘s lectures given on the 7th and 8th of March 1923 (Stuttgard), the 16th of March 1923 and 2nd of December 1923 (Dornach).
WHAT TONE TO START WITH?
To compare the CC with the CoF, we need to start from some tone.
In most cultures Spring and “springtime” refer to ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection, and regrowth. It is the starting point for what still has to become. So, what we are looking for is a tonality that is “neutral”. The tonalities without sharps or flats are C Major and it’s parallel A minor. Since we now focus on the Major tonalities, C is the tone we relate to Aries and thus start with.
So, lets see what we get when we start with both Circles from C.
|♯ & ♭||0||7♯/5♭||2♯/10♭||9♯/3♭||4♯/8♭||11♯/1♭||6♯/6♭||1♯/11♭||8♯/4♭||3♯/9♭||10♯/2♭||5♯/7♭|
Circle of Fifths:
|♯ & ♭||0||1♯/11♭||2♯/10♭||3♯/9♭||4♯/8♭||5♯/7♭||6♯/6♭||7♯/5♭||8♯/4♭||9♯/3♭||10♯/2♭||11♯/1♭|
Some tones correspond to particular signs (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius = the “Masculine” signs) in both circles. The Hexatonic Scale or Whole Tone Scale of C is what both circles have in common: C – D – E – G♭ (F♯) – A♭ (G♯) – B♭ (A♯) – C.
The other 6 signs (Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces = the “Feminine” signs) correspond to the other 6 tones (B – D♭ – E♭ – F – G – A – B) but the tone-sign relationship is different with both circles..
Interesting to note is that these two scales belong to signs that are in “opposition” a subject (polarities) that I will write a bit more about later in this article. In the example above, the Hexatonic Scale of G belongs to Taurus at the CoF and Scorpio at the CC, while the Hexatonic Scale of D♭ belongs to Scorpio at the CoF and to Taurus at the CC.
Now we have looked at both Tone Circles, we still can’t say with certainty which one is the right one to use when relating the Zodicac Signs to Tonalities. We need to “broaden our horizon” and look to the “bigger picture” to get an answer to that question.
THE TROPICAL YEAR AND THE CYCLE OF THE SEASONS.
Before we continue with the tone circles, lets take a closer look at the Tropical Year and the cycle of the seasons first.
A Tropical Year (also known as a Solar year) is the time that the Sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons, as seen from Earth; for example, the time from vernal equinox to vernal equinox, or from summer solstice to summer solstice. The solar year is divided in 4 seasons. A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weatherstrong>ecology and hours of daylight. During May, June, and July, the northern hemisphere is exposed to more direct sunlight because the hemisphere faces the sun. However, due to seasonal lag, June, July, and August are the hottest months in the northern hemisphere.
ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE TONE CIRLCE AND SEASONS?
In music the addition of sharps and flats is generally seen (and experienced) as an intensification of emotion or the “mood” of the music. Can the changes in weather, ecology and hours of daylight (and how this effect life on Earth) be represented by the key signature (sharps and flats) in music?
! NOTE: I am not the first person who looks at this subject in this manner. Prof. Dr. Hermann Beckh has done so long before me in his work “Das geistige Wesen der Tonarten” (The Spiritual Character of Musical Keys – 1923) and “Die Sprache der Tonart in der Musik von Bach bis Bruckner…” (The Language of the Art of Keys in Music from Bach to Bruckner… – 1937), as referred to by Sigismund von Gleich in his work “Über die Wirkung der Tonarten in der Musik” (About the Functioning of the Tonalities in Music – 1949).
When following that idea, the next sign Taurus (following Aries) should have an intensification of “emotion” relatively to the our starting point C Major, and we do so by adding one sharp. This sets Taurus to the key of G Major (1♯) a Fifth above the C of Aries. If we would use the Chromatic Circle, then C♯/D♭ with 7♯/5♭ should be connected with Taurus, an illogical step up from C.
You might ask, but what if we intensify “the mood” by adding 1 flat instead of 1 sharp? Well, the the next tone after C would then be the F Major (1♭). The interval between the C and (to) the F is a Fourth. The Major tonalities with flats though, are generally perceived as more “pessimistic” then Major tonalities with sharps, that are perceived as “optimistic“. It seems thus more logical to choose for G Major (1♯) as the next step from Spring (when everything starts to grow and blossom) towards Summer then F Major (1♭).
Now our question about what circle to use has been answered! The Circle of Fifths!
I will keep going up in Fifths, increasing the number of sharps, we pass D (2♯), A (3♯), E (4♯), B(5♯) and finish you increase of sharps at F♯. F♯(with 6 sharps) is the enharmonic equivalent of G♭ (with 6 flats), 6 semitones or a “Tritone” above the C. The Zodiac Sign that represents both (F♯ and G♭) is Libra (in English translated as “Scales”).
Is it coincidence that Libra, the Zodiac sign that features a “desire for balance” aligns exactly with the tonic of the ONLY tonality that has an equal number of sharps and flats? I think not!
Libra is the first sign in Autumn from where the signs are changing from sharp to flat and with it changing it’s “mood” and “livelyness”. Now with the tone for tone decrease of flats – D♭ (5♭), A♭ (4♭), E♭ (3♭), B♭ (2♭) and F (1♭) – the intension decreases, returning to C “natural” to start the cycle over again.
COMBINING THE CIRCLE OF FIFTHS AND THE ZODIAC CIRCLE
When we look at the Earth from far above the North Pole, the Earth moves counterclockwise around the Sun. Thus, if we look at the circles bellow, we should start with Aries in the “Circle of Zodiac Signs” and go counterclockwise around, with Taurus coming next. Naturally if you would look at Earth from below the South Pole (Southern Hemisphere), then Earth moves clockwise around the Sun. Then we start with Aries and find Taurus coming next to the right. Many Zodiac circles you find online are “drawn” clockwise. But, since I am blogging from the Northern Hemisphere, I have decided to describe the Zodiac circle as it would be correct in my position.
With the “Circle of Fifths” we start at the tone “C” but go clockwise around (as is common for tone-circles), with “G” next up after “C”.
So, in relation to one another, we follow these two circles in opposite direction!
Now if we like to display the circles below completely accurate (to what is common in Astrology), then we should turn both circles 90°counterclockwise so both Aries and “C” will start from the left-side of the screen (eastern horizon). But since most musicians are used to the Circle of Fifths with the “C” on top, I have chosen for this article to “align” Aries with “C”, instead of “C” with Aries.
Just some “fun-facts” for number-fetishists: if we would start at “C” and go counterclockwise round the “Circle of Fifths“, we would actually use the “Circle of Fours“. The number 4 is a number connected to the Zodiac as well. The Zodiac is divided into 4 groups of 3 signs, that belong to the 4 elements (Fire, Water, Air & Earth). The interval “The Fourth” sounds at the 4th Harmonic and the 3rd Overtone of the Harmonic Series.
Below the Zodiac Circle and Cycle of Fifths together in one table:
|0°||Aries||21 Mar. – 20 Apr.||20.03 Sping Equinox*||C||0|
|30°||Taurus||21 Apr. – 21 May||G||1♯|
|60°||Gemini||22 May – 21 Jun.||21.06 Summer Solstice*||D||2♯|
|90°||Cancer||22 Jun. – 22 Jul.||04/06.07 Aphelion||A||3♯|
|120°||Leo||23 Jul. – 22 Aug.||E||4♯|
|150°||Virgo||23 Aug. – 23 Sep.||23.09 Autumn Equinox*||B||5♯|
|180°||Libra||24 Sep. – 23 Oct.||F♯/G♭||6♯/6♭|
|210°||Scorpio||24 Oct. – 22 Nov.||Db||5♭|
|240°||Sagittarius||23 Nov. – 21 Dec.||21.12 Winter Solstice*||Ab||4♭|
|270°||Capricorn||22 Dec. – 20 Jan.||04/06.01 Perihelion||Eb||3♭|
|300°||Aquarius||21 Jan. – 19 Feb.||Bb||2♭|
|330°||Pisces||20 Feb. – 20 Mar.||F||1♭|
* In a leap year the solstice moves back one day, in Spring from the 21st to the 20th of March and in Winter from the 22rd to the 21th of December. The Autumn Equinox also switches between the 23rd and the 22nd of September. The Spring Equinox always takes place on the 20th.
MINOR TONALITIES, the CICLE OF FIFTHS and the SOLAR YEAR.
In music all Major tonalities have a parallel tonality. The parallel tonality of C Major is A minor, so it is most logical to relate both C Major and A minor with Aries. But, is there a way we can explain this based upon the position of Earth in relationship to the path it takes around the Sun during the Solar Year?
For this we should look at the moment that the Earth if closest to the Sun (Perihelion) and furthest away (Aphelion). The word “perihelion” stems from the Ancient Greek words “peri”, meaning “near”, and “helios“, meaning “the Sun”. “Aphelion” derives from the preposition “apo”, meaning “away, off, apart”.
Opposite to the distance from the Sun is the intensity of the sunlight on the Northern hemisphere. When Earth is furthest away from the Sun, the intensity on the Northern hemisphere is highest.
Due to the earth’s tilted position (on it’s axis) the Northern Hemisphere “leans” towards the Sun during summertime. The Northern Hemisphere is therefor largely exposed to the sunlight while the Southern Hemisphere is only partly exposed to the sunlight. In the winter we see the opposite. The Northern Hemisphere “leans” away from the Sun. The Southern Hemisphere is then for the greater part exposed, while the Northern Hemisphere is only partly exposed to the sunlight.
|Northern Hemisphere Summer|
Southern Hemisphere Winter
|Autumnal (Fall) Equinox|
Vernal (Spring) Equinox
|Northern Hemisphere Winter|
Southern Hemisphere Summer
As you can see from the images above the place where the Sunlight shines upon Earth most directly (the “overhead sun”) changes: from the Equator (in Autumn and Spring) to the Tropic of Cancer (June – Aphelion) and the Tropic of Capricorn (January – Perihelion). If you wish you could watch this “movement” in an youtube video.
If we place the tonic of the most “intense” Major tonality (the F♯) and place it at the Aphelion (Cancer), and place the tonic of the least “intense” Major tonality (the C) at the Perihelion (Capricorn), then we find the A at Aries.
Below the whole cycle put together in one table:
|0°||Aries||21 Mar. – 20 Apr.||20.03 Sping Equinox*||Am||0|
|30°||Taurus||21 Apr. – 21 May||Em||1♯|
|60°||Gemini||22 May – 21 Jun.||21.06 Summer Solstice*||Bm||2♯|
|90°||Cancer||22 Jun. – 22 Jul.||04/06.07 Aphelion||F♯m||3♯|
|120°||Leo||23 Jul. – 22 Aug.||C♯m||4♯|
|150°||Virgo||23 Aug. – 23 Sep.||23.09 Autumn Equinox*||G♯||5♯|
|180°||Libra||24 Sep. – 23 Oct.||D♯m|
|210°||Scorpio||24 Oct. – 22 Nov.||B♭m||5♭|
|240°||Sagittarius||23 Nov. – 21 Dec.||21.12 Winter Solstice*||Fm||4♭|
|270°||Capricorn||22 Dec. – 20 Jan.||04/06.01 Perihelion||Cm||3♭|
|300°||Aquarius||21 Jan. – 19 Feb.||Gm||2♭|
|330°||Pisces||20 Feb. – 20 Mar.||Dm||1♭|
THE 12 ZODIAC SIGNS WITH THEIR MAJOR & MINOR TONALITIES
TONE ZODIACS STEINER & VON GLEICH
I am not the first that comes with the particular combination of tones and Zodiac signs as described above be most suitable. If you have read the historical time-line about Tone Zodiacs in the beginning of this article then you have already seen two Tone Zodiacs that match the tone-sign combination as I have described it above.
|RUDOLF STEINER||SIGISMUND VON GLEICH|
I would not call myself an “anthroposophist” (if I would have to label myself, then “Pantheist” would be the term I could use), but some of the work of Rudolf Steiner (and other anthroposophists) I have read usually turn out to be a pretty good match with how I see and experience music, the world and the universe.
COLOR SPECTRUM, TONE/TONALITY (CHROMATICALLY) AND THE ZODIAC SIGNS
On the left you see the combination of Tones, Zodiac Signs and colors all in one Tone-Zodiac. This Tone-Zodiac combines the Chromatic Circle with the Zodiac Signs placed as with the Circle of Fifth tone-sign combination to maintain the natural spectrum of the visible light and wavelengths, from approx. 6870 Ångström (Red) to 4090 Ångström (violet).
The order of the Zodiac Signs around the circle might be a bit “uncommon” with this Tone-Zodiac. The difference with the common Zodiac Circle is that two opposing signs of each square have swapped places (Taurus & Scorpio, Capricorn & Cancer and Virgo and Pisces). The Earth signs swapped places with the Water signs.
When “drawing lines” between the consecutive Zodiac Signs, a Dodecagram ✹ appears. Within this Dodecagram the “grouping” of the signs (in Polarities, Triplicities, Quadruplicities and Hexagon) applies.
The Hexagon does not represent Fifths and Fourths in this configuration (as it does when it is applied to the Circle of Fifths), but whole tone distances. The Whole-Tone Scale is also known as the “Hexatonic Scale“. The Dodecagon visualized the Chromatic Circle in this Tone-Zodiac, but would represent the Fifths and Fourths in the Circle of Fifths. The Fifths and Fourths are “linked” in this Tone-Zodiac by the lines between the points of the Dodecagram.
For this Tone-Zodiac I have used the same color-circle twice, shifted 90 degrees (a “trigon” or minor third). The “character” of Major and minor tonalities is different, so Major and minor tonalities should be represented by a different color. The “tonic” or “root tone” is the first scale degree of a tonality and determines the actual color. The Major tonality relates to the extraversion and the minor tonality to the introversion of the human personality in correspondence with the related Zodiac Sign.
Now, some of you (reading this blog) that are “into” Astrology might say: “Hey, isn’t the color for Aries Red instead of Green?” Yes, Red is the color that traditionally represent the character of Aries. So, why is Aries listed above as Green then?
Well, the tones above follow the color spectrum as we see it in Nature. In nature: the bigger the wavelength = the lower the frequency. We know that the color of the lowest frequency is Red. When we convert color to sound frequency we find the tone G in Red. If G = Red and we align the Circle of Fifths with G = Red, then Green aligns with Aries.
|MAJOR COLORS (appearance to the “outside world” or “extraversion“):|
MINOR COLORS (“inner world” or “introversion“):
(ALL COLORS WERE CALCULATED USING A4=432HZ AT 16 DEGREES TEMPERATURE AND 45% RELATIVE HUMIDITY)
Read more about sound and color in the article “Light & Sound, Colour & Music”.
Red isn’t the only color mentioned in various books and blogs that belong to Aries. Orange is often suggested as well. The “outer world” of Aries could be represented with C Major (Green) while the “inner world” of Aries could be represented with A minor (Red-Orange). Most colors used in the Tone Zodiac will not match those traditionally associated with Zodiac Sings in most books and blogs. Taurus (Pink:Red+White/brightness = G Major and Blue = E minor) and Sagittarius (Red = G♯/A♭ Major and Violet = F minor) do match as listed. Virgo (Moss Green = B Major), Aries (Orange = A minor), Gemini (Green = B minor) and Libra (Blue = D♯/E♭ minor) do only partly match. The rest does not match with the traditionally ascribed colors.
Various colors traditionally associated with some Zodiac Signs are not part of the natural color spectrum. Capricorn and Scorpio for example are associated with Dark Brown and Black, Cancer with White, Grey and Silver, and Virgo with Grey. Another reason why some of the colors don’t match as well is because some colors are contributed to the Zodiac Signs based upon the Planet that “rules” the sign. With other words colors associated with the Planet. A “perfect match” between Zodiac Sign, tone/tonality and color seems to be impossible.
For me personally though the natural color-tone connection is a logical (scientifically substantiate) one and the Zodiac Signs-tone connection as I described in this article is logical as well. The partial color mismatch with the traditional color-sign combination is – for me personally – of lesser importance.
THE ASTROLOGICAL ZODIAC & MUSIC TONALITY – ROEL’S INTERPRETATION
This is the main article about “The Astrological Zodiac & Music Tonality” – Tone Zodiacs.
This is an article with some ideas about how to create a “tone-collection” based on your astrological (birth) chart that can be used for composing music: “Astro-Music Composition (chart to music)“.
THE ASTRONOMICAL ZODIAC SCALE
If you like my article about the Astrological Zodiac & Tonality and you are interested in Micro-tonal music, then you might also like the article “The Astronomical Zodiac Scale (Temperament)“.
THE FUNCTIONS OF THE INTERVALS
Another article I wrote for my blog named “The Functions Of The Intervals” (referred to in this article) describes might be an interesting read as well?
SOURCES / REFERENCES:
- Über die Wirkung der Tonarten in der Musik” (by Sigismund von Gleich)
- www.flutopedia.com – Color of Sound calculator
- http://wiki.astro.com/astrowiki/ (AstroWiki)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac (Wikipedia)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasons (Wikipedia)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planets_in_astrology (Wikipedia)