Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher realm of knowledge, which comprehends mankind, but which mankind cannot comprehend. –Beethoven
This is version 1.0 of The Grand Unified Theory of Music. In later versions, I hope to be able to suggest an easy way to connect your computer, a sequencer and sound sample library together. Maybe the music will be played by acoustic instruments and sound better than these cheesy synthesizers. As people read this book and suggest corrections and improvements, I will be able to easily make the changes on the 53music.us website.
This entire book has been about fine-tuning the numbers that underlie the music we hear. Whether you embrace a mystical system of sound or not, the fact is that in-tune music sounds profoundly better than the music we’re used to hearing. You are of course free to attach mystical significance to playing the ancient melodies in their original tunings… or not. I’m skeptical of esoteric systems. You can spend the rest of your life pulling obscure numerological patterns off the internet. I am not skeptical of the science of sound that underpins the 53-eq template. In 12-eq, our mind can make adjustments and hear the music and the natural harmonies it is imitating. But we are not only our minds! In our unconscious effort to adapt to them, these 12-eq approximations leave our bodies and emotions tired and tense. In 53-eq, the approximations of the overtone series are so accurate that no human performer can come any closer to harmonic perfection than the tunings found in 53-eq. And so the numbers all work out, and as a result the music we create can always be in tune, and at last our bodies can enjoy the relaxation and rejuvenation of music that actually adds up correctly.
So, do any of these mystical traditions really help us understand how to play in-tune music? Perhaps, perhaps not. At the very least it gives us an important historical perspective. In the battle between science and spirituality, I find that the one thing the opposing camps have in common is a sense of awe and beauty. The way patterns and harmonic relationships emerge from the 53-eq template is a wonder to behold. The numbers just work out so beautifully, and the template is so embracing of our ancient musical roots and modern possibilities, that sometimes I just sit in awe. The ancients, all of whom felt that a similar sense of awe, developed elaborate systems attempting to unite the cosmos and the music we hear. This urge to unite, to find what things have in common, is an impulse shared by scientist and mystic alike. I think it is a version of a larger impulse, which is to love. Whatever your beliefs, the 53-eq template did indeed make it possible to create this “Grand Unified Theory” of much of ancient music. That fulfills something deep in us, regardless of our belief systems.
I like to think that the research I have compiled here about 53-eq tuning is a door opening to incredible new musical possibilities. It’s the skeleton; your creativity will bring it all to life. You’re like a painter who has been working with a box of twelve crayons. I am offering you a box of 53 crayons. Imagine the new tone colors you can paint now! The inventive directions we can all take together are mind-boggling. As Emerson said, “In every work of genius we see our own rejected thoughts.” Even great geniuses like Isaac Newton and Arnold Schönberg, when exposed to 53-eq, failed to pursue it. Helmholtz and his followers said it would be too hard for composers and musicians to create music in 53-eq. That may have been true in the 19th century, but with computer technology, I no longer think this is true. As I’ve said, to me, 53-eq is The Mother Lode. When you enter to mine the creative possibilities of this ancient and almost never-used tuning template, I cannot even imagine what you will unearth! I have dug up hundreds of ancient and new scales. Each one of the old scales and modes has been used as a vessel into which countless composers have poured their hearts thousands of times. Elaborate traditions have been built around most of these scales. New musical constellations are being discovered as well; people continue to create scales and modes never before dreamed up. Point your telescope into this universe of new possibilities where each scale is a radiant star inviting you to explore all the ways its rays can inspire you. Think of all the incredible music that has been created by the binary star system of Major-Minor for 500 years. Now open the aperture to the entire night sky and begin to reawaken that universe of musical possibilities St. Augustine once called “so ancient and so new.” Please let me know how your explorations are going; I’d love to hear what new ideas come to blossom as you gain mastery in the Garden of 53.
If you understand the essence of religion, it’s about love. Though it’s a cliché, it’s the truth, and it’s what I’m trying to do with my music. – Rahman (India musician)
If you would like to learn more about the ancient tunings worldwide and contemporary musical ideas for 53-equal tuning, you can buy the entire book, The Grand Unified Theory of Music.
A free introduction to what The Grand Unified Theory of Music offers is on this website and includes both text and a few musical examples from each webpage. If you would like to learn more about this chapter and the full contents of this entire e-book, you can buy The Grand Unified Theory of Music for $25, with hundreds of embedded musical examples of scales and chords from all over the world — and ideas for how to set up your computer system —
You’ll get a personalized password you can use to see the entire e-book. Inside the full book, you will also get a link to the complete pdf file of this e-book, which you can read on your Kindle or similar device. The links to the hundreds of mp3 sound files – the same ones you can hear on the website — will also be included. This is “Version 1.0” of The Grand Unified Theory of Music. Because it is an e-book, additions, corrections and improvements in the sound may be added at any time. The Grand Unified Theory of Music is Copyright © 2018 by Christopher Mohr. All rights reserved.
One person per password. Sharing this password with others is a violation of copyright. Do not allow others to use your password or link to the pdf file!