(This article includes audio examples throughout. You can also download them in a ZIP file).
There are subjective and objective reasons why you might prefer one song over another. Subjective reasons include:
Alone, these factors have little to do with the intrinsic musicality of the song. They merely project subjective values upon what is heard.
True music is measured by the degree to which its melody, harmony, rhythm, and texture in and of themselves evoke an objective response in us. For example, a minor chord sounds sad without us ever needing to be conditioned to feel that. Infants can distinguish between harmonious and dissonant chords well before their enculturation. A beat can make us clap or tap our foot without having to be taught to do so, as seen in babies who bend their knees and bounce to the music instinctively. Similarly, an odd pattern of strange sounds can make us tilt our heads in curiosity.
Some objective responses stimulate the intellect, some the physical body, and some the emotional and spiritual aspects of our being. So in addition to the aforementioned subjective reasons for musical preference, there are also objective ones:
Songs typically represent a mixture of all the above. When a song combines several factors, it has greater impact and wider appeal:
We know that people differ in the degree to which they respond to a song. Some may not identify with the tradition being represented; some find its intellectual complexity confusing and irritating; some only desire groove and find little appeal in a slow emotional ballad; some do not have within their souls the aspects that a song is aiming to resonate; some never had a meaningful or emotional experience linked with a particular song that, for someone else, has much sentimental value.
So when different people respond differently to the same song, understand that in regard to the objective factors, the difference involves only the degree to which that factor is present in that person. A quirky and complex experimental piece might arouse much interest in one person, little interest in another, and strong disinterest in a third. When a song has groove, one person will dance uncontrollably, another will only tap his or her foot, and another with no sense of rhythm will fold his arms in boredom. When a song resonates the emotion of happiness, one person will have tears in her eyes, another will merely feel uplifted, and another might not care for feeling happy at the moment. It’s about varying degrees on the same scale.
On the other hand, the subjective factors have no such consistency:
Strong antipathy against certain music is usually due to a combination of lack of resonance, negative conditioned associations, clash against one’s tradition or subcultural affiliation, and dislike of the bodily responses induced by a song’s texture and rhythm (such as strong dance beats coming off as licentious to the prudish, or distorted guitars grating the ears of those who prefer comfort and gentleness).
So the question arises, what does musical preference say about a person? Here are some possibilities:
These factors don’t provide much insight into your inner emotional, spiritual, archetypal composition. For that, we must look at the resonance factor, whereby something in music resonates something in you. In other words, pure communication from song to soul.
Our internal compositions differ; we don’t all have the same emotional resonance spectrum. A song can only resonate what is there to be resonated, and if a portion of one’s inner spectrum is absent, then the corresponding qualities of the song will not be noticed, let alone felt. Like two people with different types of color blindness, it’s possible for one person to see something in a song that the other cannot, and vice versa. This kind of difference is not due to a difference in subjective projection or association, but inner perception of what is objectively there.
So what we’re really talking about here is soul resonance characteristics, meaning the unique spectrum of emotions, themes of experience, and pathways to fulfillment that you most deeply respond to and yearn for. These can be glimpsed by asking yourself the following questions:
The answers may correspond to the music you resonate with most. Esoterically, the answers to these questions also correspond to the “story of your life.” The same soul resonance characteristics that are touched by music are also touched by your inner responses to life events. In fact, it is these resonance characteristics that synchronistically attract such events in the first place through quantum-metaphysical processes. Thus the theme of your life, the nature of your soul, and the musical qualities of the songs you resonate with all share correspondence.
Music encodes the soul’s responses to certain themes of experience, or realms. But how does it do so? Let’s examine the components of music, starting with texture.
Texture conveys information about the setting, atmosphere, and origin of a sound. Consider the sound of a wine glass being struck by a fork versus the beep of a fire alarm at the same pitch. The same musical note can evoke different settings, atmospheres, and origins via different textures. Texture cues the brain into invoking sensory data linked by association to that texture.
This association happens in several ways:
What constitutes texture exactly? It has to do with the unique fingerprint of harmonic overtones that ride atop the fundamental frequency of a tone and how these evolve or decay over time. Some digital synthesizers use this principle to combine multiple frequencies (fundamentals and harmonics) to create a unique texture emulating that of a flute, piano, guitar, trumpet, and so on.
Two sounds that share the same pitch have the same fundamental frequency, but their harmonic fingerprints differ. A wine glass or tuning fork have a pure fundamental with few overtones, while a distorted guitar will have many overtones and thus sound thicker or richer at the same pitch.
Texture is further conveyed by sound’s reverberation. Reverb’ is similar to echo. A sound played in a large stone cathedral will have a long, rich, dense reverb versus the same sound played in an elevator. Reverb is produced by a change in the sound’s harmonic overtone structure as it interacts with the environment. Stone, metal, wood, plastic, leather, and cloth all absorb and reflect sound differently, subtracting certain overtones from a sound before reflecting it back. The distance and angle of these surfaces further modifies the amplitude and timing of the individual overtones being reflected. Thus the reflections are altered in a unique way according to type of space the sound is played in. This cues the brain into imagining the nature of that space, and hence the setting and atmosphere. So reverb is another aspect of texture, one that paints a picture of the space in which the tone is sounded.
So when you hear a warbling piano with lots of reverb, you might think of an old piano playing in a large dilapidated building which, by the associations built up via all the horror movies we’ve seen, gives an impression of creepiness, ghosts, haunted houses and such.
Texture isn’t really a fundamental musical element, it merely accessorizes a song by providing informational cues about how it should be interpreted. Music is not even a requirement, as texture alone can turn a momentary tone into vivid imagery via association. Therefore texture by itself is not capable of directly resonating the soul; at best it might induce an objective visceral reaction in the body, e.g. nails on a chalkboard. Most of the time, though, texture is an associative device, a sign that points.
However, the soul can resonate with the theme of experience represented by a particular setting and atmosphere, which themselves may be associatively evoked by sound’s texture. So if your soul resonates with themes of monastic spiritual living, then the texture of a choirboy singing a note in a space that sounds like a cathedral may appeal to you. The resonance you feel is not with the musical structure of that sung note, but the context that its texture represents.
If we wish to discover what within music produces direct resonance in the soul, we have to turn off the texture to prevent associative cueing from acting as a substitute. If a song can draw out the same feelings even when performed solely by something as elementary as sine waves, then it must contain something intrinsic to its musical structure that stirs corresponding points of resonance in the soul.
Of the four components (texture, rhythm, melody and harmony) it is melody and harmony that resonate the soul directly. Melody occurs when tones are played in sequence, harmony when they are played simultaneously. Melody tells a story, harmony gives the context or backdrop for that story’s events. Together they encode a particular theme of experience, namely the “story of your life” mentioned before.
If we produce a single tone, or note, little is evoked because it lacks context and variation. It just is. But when two notes are sounded together, each provides context for the other. This combination is known as an interval, the simplest of harmonies. More complex harmonies involve more notes played simultaneously, and these are called chords.
In harmony, the frequencies involved comprise a certain ratio. If one tone consists of air vibrations that oscillate at 200 cycles per second and the other at 300 cycles per second, together they comprise a 2:3 frequency ratio. It is this ratio or interval that carries a certain feeling when perceived. The 2:3 ratio (perfect fifth interval) has a regal and powerful feeling, 4:5 (major third interval) a merry one, and 5:6 (minor third) a somber or melancholy color.
Chords, in being made of several notes or intervals stacked atop one another, evoke an even richer palette of feelings… up to a point. From a metaphysical perspective, the purest interval is unison, which is not really an interval but a single frequency. Two tones in unison have the same pitch and are therefore One. The next simplest interval, 1:2 is the octave, representing the “As Above, So Below” principle. The subsequent intervals of 2:3, 3:4, 4:5, etc. increasingly move towards sounding dissonant for they are increasing distortions away from One (1:1). Readers of the Law of One series will be familiar with the concept of distortion.
Same with chords; the more complex the chord, the more dissonance and impure ratios are involved. By the time we get to seventh, ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth chords we are quite far away from the metaphysical realm and now firmly in the arena of life entrenched in the physical domain. These chords evoke feelings that resonate the soul’s contortions to life in 3D. These chords have “character” the same way a person “who has been through some things” or a banged up rusty car is said to have character. It’s no surprise that blues, jazz, and classic rock make frequent use of these chords.
If even further intervals were added so that a chord consisted of dozens if not hundreds of notes at the strangest and most dissonant of intervals, that represents distortion so far away from divinity that it begins sounding like matter itself; in fact, atoms, molecules, stars, and planets give off vibrations that exhibit this character.
To recap, harmony in the absence of melody, rhythm, and texture can still evoke a feeling in the soul as evidenced by a minor interval or chord sounding sad and a major one happy. How is it that sadness is encoded by just two numbers: 5 and 6? Isn’t it amazing that something as seemingly subjective, rich, and profound as human emotion is inextricably linked to something as cold, objective, and intellectual as mathematics? That’s the paradox of music. Clearly, music is a bridge between physics and metaphysics.
Whereas harmony is the vertical stacking of tones, melody is their sequential arrangement. Melody depends on time since the notes come one after another and each carries a certain duration. Therefore melodies automatically have some element of rhythm as well. As explained earlier, rhythm is associated with the physical body. It parallels the pumping of the heart, the repetition of breath, the pounding of the feet upon the pavement, the movement of hands in the air, and the pacing of speech. Faster song tempos are known to speed these up, slower tempos can slow them down.
Note that linear time and physical bodies are the two things that together define what it means to have a corporeal existence. You have a body with all its rhythmic biological patterns and you live life from one event to the next. Thus melody and rhythm are the two aspects of music that parallel experience in the physical and etheric planes.
Pure harmony, on the other hand, is timeless and bodiless. The ratio between two frequencies is a dimensionless constant. It is independent of time, space, dimension, and scale. It doesn’t matter whether the frequencies are low or high, whether the vibration takes place in air, water, or aether. A ratio is a ratio regardless of these variables. Even on the surface of a black hole where space has contracted to zero and time to infinity, ratio remains intact.
Thus harmony and its associated feelings are transcendental; they exist beyond space and time. That is how harmony can reach upward through the levels of existence and stimulate the higher half of the soul, namely the astral body, which unlike the etheric body is independent of linear time and space.
Harmony is an astral language. The astral body is known in occult lore to contain archetypal patterns, and presumably each has a corresponding musical pattern. These archetypal patterns are precisely the soul resonance characteristics discussed earlier.
When one harmony progresses into another, that represents a change in the state of the astral body, whether due to some experience evoking a certain response or the soul undergoing a shift in perception of a given situation.
Whereas melodies chronicle the external events of life, harmonies describe the inner subtext as well as the behind-the-veil metaphysical context for those experiences. Harmony provides the inner stream of consciousness, melody the visual storyboard.
Context is important. To illustrate, a happy melodic progression matched with sad underlying harmony encodes sorrow lurking beneath lighthearted appearances. Someone is striving for victory and putting on a smile but deep down they know it’s all in vain; the ending is tragedy. This bittersweet juxtaposition is a potent device used in many songs.
So melody and harmony respectively encode inner and outer streams of experience. The manner in which these play off each other captures the essence of a particular realm. If you resonate with certain music, you are resonating with the realm it embodies, and that says something about your soul.
Not all cultures employ rich harmony in their traditional music. Some only emphasize melody and rhythm. This kind of music is called monophonic, meaning melody without accompanying harmonic progressions.
One example is Indian classical music, where a lone melody plays atop a steady drone. Other examples of monophonic music include Irish bagpipes, some forms of Tuvan throat singing, early Medieval liturgical chants, and some Turkish and Middle Eastern music. Nowadays it can also be found in a good portion of electronic tracks centered on rhythm and texture rather than melody and harmony; these tracks fill the sonic void with an underlying drone or rhythmic monophonic bass line.
In traditional monophonic music, the drone acts as a fixed point of reference allowing the melody to be more clearly distinguished. Without it, notes in a melody are either heard in relation to one another, or relative to an imagined base line that might be different from the one the songwriter intended.
For example, the notes C and D# are a minor third interval apart, and played together they create a melancholic effect. When they are played sequentially, then in absence of any other musical cues the brain juxtaposes the second note with its memory of the first, and the effect is like playing both together; it evokes the same sadness. If we now add in a low fixed drone of pitch C and play the sequence again, the sad effect remains.
But if we change the drone to G# and repeat the experiment, now the sad effect disappears. Why? Because the brain no longer juxtaposes drone C with note D# as before to make a sad sounding minor third. Rather it first hears the interval G#:C (perfect fourth) and then G#:D# (perfect fifth) — neither of which sound sad. Thus the drone functions as a “tonal center” that gives orientation to a melody. A different tonal center gives a different interpretation of a melody.
Melodies that have no tonal center and whose notes have no obvious relation to each other, have no musicality or harmony, whether explicit by the stacking of tones, or implied by the juxtaposition of sequential notes in memory. If harmony is associated with the astral body and melody with the etheric, then atonal music represents a body devoid of both. It is a series of events not threaded through by any conscious and emotional perception. Recall how in some science fiction films, the noises a robot or computer makes was typically a random series of beeps, representative of the machine’s lack of sentience or humanity.
It doesn’t matter if the notes are chosen according to some abstract mathematical principle; if the principle does not pertain to those active within spirit, soul, and body then the result is not musical. If someone were to cook a meal made from periodic table elements whose atomic numbers follow the fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89) that would be incredibly innovative and pay homage to the golden spiral principle of nature, but it wouldn’t be food and you would slowly die from eating it. And yet, humans are adept at developing acquired tastes for that which kills them slowly, such as alcohol and tobacco, and the same may be said of certain music.
Is it surprising then, that atonal music came into vogue in the late 19th and early 20th century during the heights of the industrial revolution and scientific materialism? Its appeal is primarily one of intellectual intrigue and identity, but the factor of soul resonance remains absent except for attempts by some to induce a sense of fear, alienation, and anxiety through dissonance.
Compared to Eastern monophonic music, most Western music since the Renaissance period is polyphonic and makes great use of harmony. Intervals interweave and/or chords progress with the melodies played atop them. Whereas in monophonic music the tonal baseline is fixed, here the baseline changes as desired, and so the orientation of a given melody changes accordingly. The same melody can be given different perspectives depending on which chords accompany it.
To listeners used to monophonic music, the shifting baseline or changing tonal center of polyphonic music creates an unsettling, ungrounded, vertiginous effect. There are some profound mysteries contained in this. As it turns out, cultures that enjoy monophonic music also happen to be ones that place greatest importance on tradition and cultural stability. The constant tone subliminally represents the keynote of their culture, the line that every generation walks. It may be said that the tonal center is the keystone of a given realm, the prime numerical index that distinguishes that realm from another. This is no more evident than in Hinduism where the syllable “Om” is said to be the underlying drone of reality, the vibration that gives rise to our manifested existence. It is the hum of the Logos as it sings Creation into existence cymatically through the Demiurge.
So then, what does it mean for a tonal center to change? If each tonal center is the baseline of its own realm, then a change represents a transition from one realm to another.
Notice how the same life event can be viewed from different perspectives depending on what realm or perspective your consciousness is rooted in. If you are rooted in materialism and vanity, then losing your body in a boating accident will be devastating. If you are rooted instead in your higher spiritual mind, you might see this as the natural conclusion to a well-planned curriculum. In the same way, a melody can take on different hues depending on its underlying harmony and tonal center.
Now, given any pitch, you can build a scale of notes upon multiplying its frequency by various ratios. This pitch then becomes the tonal center (or tonic) of that scale. By stacking various notes of that scale, you can create chords. Both the scale and chords are rooted in that tonal center. So when a song is said to be “in the key of C major,” that means its tonal center is C and the scale from which the chords and melodies are built happens to be the major scale.
In contrast, monophonic music keeps the same key throughout a song, sounds the tonic constantly, and plays only one melodic line. The complete opposite is true for polyphonic music. It may change key, not always sound the tonic, may stack notes into chords, and play several interweaving melodies at once.
When the key changes throughout a song, that is known as key modulation; it means shifting the aforementioned tonal center throughout a song, sometimes even within the same melody or musical phrase. Melodies themselves can stray outside the scale they started in. A melody might go up in the happy sounding major scale and descend in the sad sounding minor scale. The chords accompanying the melody might also shift from one key to another while this occurs, if so desired.
Modulation is the transitioning between musical universes. It takes you out of one realm into another.
The most rudimentary form of modulation, frequently used in pop ballads, is where a chorus repeats but raised in pitch by some interval. This is humorously termed the “trucker’s gear shift.” It’s a cliche we’ve all heard: just when you think the song couldn’t get any more sappy, it jumps in pitch (usually after a dramatic pause) and that’s when the camera pans to some woman in the audience shedding a tear while the crowd cheers and the vocalist wails on. The raising of the tonal center parallels breaking the sound barrier and entering an altogether new level of intensity. That is only one example of modulation.
When a melody remains in the same scale and its accompanying chords progress in the same key, the song stays bounded in the same realm. Every resonance this song induces in the soul belongs to the same set. These resonances parallel experiences that take place in only one realm. It has its uses, but can be a bit one dimensional. Monophonic music is an extreme form of this.
It makes sense, then, that Western civilization has seen the greatest turnover in cultural, political, scientific, and social paradigms. Just consider how much has changed since the late Middle Ages, since the birth of polyphonic music in Western culture. Western society is not a monophonic culture that holds steadfastly to an ancient drone and remains anchored in one realm. It is as volatile as its music.
Since modulation involves movement from one chord or interval to another of a different scale and/or tonal center, then since there are many chords and intervals, there are an even greater number of possible modulations. And every one of these modulations carries its own unique feel as well.
So in addition to simple intervals or chords each having their own feel, a particular transition from one to another also has a unique feel, and that includes transitions from a chord in one key or musical universe to another. The profound implication is that since even the latter can induce resonance in the soul, then in some way the soul must be familiar with transition between realms.
The trucker’s gear shift is popular because it represents the reaching of a new plateau in life, which on Earth typically means reaching a new level of success, realization, or triumph. That is a peak experience that many souls incarnating here seem to be striving for. It’s the transition from a lesser to a more exciting realm of experience. Since this is such a common theme among human incarnations, the potential to resonate with the corresponding modulation is equally common. Hence its use in pop music to build and amplify sentimentality and thus revenue.
Other modulations are less familiar. Going from C:G to C#:F# (or E:B to F:A# as in the example) has a dark, mystical, occult feel to it. This is partly due to the involvement of an interval known as the augmented fourth, basis of the tritone chord which the medieval Church banned for sounding too diabolical.
Whatever experience this modulation parallels, it is not something confined to the Earthly domain. But the fact that we can respond to it at all shows that our souls have endured exposure to dark, mystical, occult realms. If we really enjoy that feeling, then the resonance must be particularly intense, and perhaps we have a foot in that otherworld. If we merely feel odd and shrink away from it, then maybe we’ve caught glimpses of those realms and much prefer the comfort of our life back home.
Hence, we frequently find the tritone or C:G to C#:F# modulation used in gothic, black, or doom metal but almost never in country music or pop ballads because the latter are firmly planted in everyday life on Earth. Note that the tritone or augmented fourth is only diabolic when sounded simultaneously or played as a melody in the same key, for that juxtaposition brings out its inherent dissonance. Dark music uses this to imply doom or dread. But in a modulating sequence such as C:G to C#:F#, two augmented fourths (one going low to high, the other high to low) end up neutralizing each other like some matter-antimatter collision, generating instead an eerie musical wormhole between realms. That is why this chord sequence is the very epitome of realm transition.
Strange modulations may also be found in horror and fantasy film soundtracks. The Harry Potter theme by John Williams tries really hard to modulate in a manner evoking a sense of occultism, magic, and mystical wonder.
Other modulation are merely strange in an innocent elfin, elemental, or sylvan way. One example is C:E to D#:G. Since these are two major third (happy) intervals with no evil tritone to be found among them, they are otherworldly but in a more lighthearted sense.
That is not to say monophonic music with its absence of harmony and modulation is inferior. What it lacks in ability to stir the astral body, it gains in stimulating the etheric and physical bodies. There is a secret science to monophony that allows it to alter physicality through manipulation of the etheric intermediary, or alter physiology through deep level manipulation of neural circuitry and the etheric body.
The frequency and texture of a tone is known to affect the growth of plants and the health of the human body for better or worse. Hindu and Chinese legends speak of music being used to alter the weather and even induce human combustion. Gurdjieff discussed “objective music” and “inner octaves.” In the opening scene to Gurdjieff’s biopic Meetings with Remarkable Men we see a musician resonating canyon stones into full agitation via overtone singing; perhaps the filmmaker knew something about that technique. Overtone singing is the humming of a note and changing of the mouth/teeth/lip position to filter out certain harmonics, creating the effect of a high-pitched melody wandering atop a drone, just like with bagpipes. Asian overtone singing and Irish bagpipes are likely vestigial holdovers from a time when monophony was used to manipulate physical matter. Tibetan monks have allegedly demonstrated levitating a heavy boulder several hundred feet into the air using the power of sound.
As the drone is sounded, each note in a melody forms a certain interval with respect to it. Some intervals we are familiar with, such as the 5:6 frequency ratio comprising the sad minor third interval. Other intervals sound like the tuning is off, but really they consist of the drone plus a microtonal note that isn’t in our twelve tone chromatic scale, which according to Hindu music theory nonetheless has a definite and unique color or impact.
The melodies in monophonic music usually pass through such intervals quite quickly without dwelling on them to where harmony becomes prominent. The listener hears the melody first and foremost. This allows for the sonic equivalent of acupuncture, where each note is like a needle positioned on a specific meridian point to activate a certain function. To treat a condition, acupuncture uses a set of such needles on meridian points related to that condition. Likewise the Hindu songs known as ragas use a specific scale and rhythmic pattern known to collectively have specific effects on the listener.
All of these feats were accomplished through monophonic music. As mentioned, melody affects the etheric and physical bodies and pertains to events of the exterior world. Those with occult knowledge have taken this principle to an extreme to heal or harm the body and to manipulate matter, energy, space, and time.
As you can see, even without harmony, music can be quite powerful when engineered according to a secret science. Without this science, music is imprecise or accidental in its objective effects.
But what this secret science consists of, exactly, remains a mystery. Nonetheless, Alain Daniélou has contributed much to its decipherment. In his book “Music and the Power of Sound,” Daniélou shows how Hindu, Greek, Arabic, Chinese, and Western musical systems all derive from a common meta-system. For example, the notes, scales, and chords used in Western music are but small subset of all the ones available in this meta-system. Arabic music chooses a different subset, Chinese yet another.
Indian classical music is the most sophisticated and complete, for it uses notes that don’t even exist in Western music theory. It employs microtones, which are notes that reside between the notes we know. This is what Gurdjieff meant by “inner octaves”, namely the spectrum of microtones between notes.
At best, Western music uses microtones in a crude way when accenting notes by bending, slurring, or vibrating them. Drummers do an equivalent technique with rhythm when they purposely play ahead or behind a beat on certain notes, thereby altering the rhythm in microscopic ways in order to impart a subliminal groove that makes an otherwise clinical beat come alive. Such accents add a sense of passion to music. Good artists make use of both microtonal and microtiming variations to put “soul” and “groove” into the music they play. [This directly parallels the subtle expansion and contraction of electron orbitals in atoms that accompanies the production and absorption of longitudinal or scalar waves, which are biologically and etherically active (literally the ghost in the shell). These expansions or contractions are beneath the threshold of what would trigger a jump in orbit and the production or absorption of a regular transverse EM wave (photons), hence their effects are sub-electromagnetic, sub-quantum, or virtual. The same can be done in music by subtly bending the timing or pitch from its common value, as opposed to deviating all the way which would simply produce another common note or beat].
It is precisely this passion that Hindu monophonic music aims to tap with its bending of notes and the use of microtones foreign to Western music. However, this passion is not quite the same as the full bodied feelings that only harmony brings. It takes place at a different level of the soul, a more instinctual or reflexive rather than introspective level. The “passion” and “soul” response arises at the border between the etheric and astral, which is not quite at the level stimulated by sweeping emotions and epic archetypal themes resonated by harmony and modulation in polyphonic music. Rather, without any pejorative connotations implied, it’s more at the visceral reflexive level of what animals feel. Animals have etheric and astral bodies, but their astral bodies are not as developed as those of humans. That is why human feelings comprise a superset of what cats and dogs experience.
The melodic and rhythmic accents that monophonic music adds to notes in order to create feeling and passion, these share a mechanism in common with animal vocalizations. We can understand cat meows because such accents are relatively universal to mammals. We can tell a sad meow from a happy one, from a question mark, from an exclamation mark, from an impassioned groan, and so on. We share those same inflections integrated into our speech; think of all the ways “hmm” can be vocalized to convey different meanings. Rock and blues vocals place heavy emphasis on such inflections to convey attitude, passion, or agony sort of like moaning cats or growling dogs, only with lyrics.
Interestingly, dogs howl to drawn out notes and cats will respond to certain melodic inflections played on a guitar but neither will respond to intervals, harmonies, or chord progressions. Yet humans respond to all of these. It stands to reason that there are even higher beings whose feelings are supersets of ours, who can feel things most humans cannot. And yet, their feelings ought to be encodable in music as well. If you were to hear such music, perhaps non-human feelings could be stimulated in you if they happen to be present within your soul in embryonic or residual form. Maybe that is what certain strange sounding modulations achieve.
In Hindu music, the scale of notes and their timing, slurring, and vibrato are highly intentional and specific. Research suggests the ancient Vedic culture received their knowledge and heritage from the Aryan Hittites that invaded India in the first millennium B.C. (see the works of L.A. Waddell). These Hittites descended from even earlier proto-Hittite-Phoenician-Amorites who possessed global navigation and megalithic technology and thus surely knew the secret science of sound. They also founded the ancient Mayan, Chinese, Minoan, Sumerian, and Egyptian civilizations and were possessors of vast knowledge in mathematics, music, and other arts and sciences.
The meta-system of music that Daniélou investigated may have been known for several thousand years, but cultural fragmentation produced musical fragmentation away from the meta-system. Perhaps this was done on purpose. Maybe Western music was covertly turned into eventual polyphonic form, with equal temperament tuning making feasible the playing of harmony in various keys, in order to induce rapid cultural, social, political, and scientific turnover. Maybe if Europe had stayed with monophony, we’d still be riding donkeys.
In ancient China, music was heavily regulated to ensure that all instruments were tuned to a particular tonal center and only certain scales were used. This perpetuated the stability of the civilization. It’s said that when foreign musicians became popular in a region, or local musicians decided to innovate and play other scales, the local culture suffered a decline in order, health, and morality.
Plato was aware of this problem as well, complaining that “our music was once divided into its proper forms. It was not permitted to exchange the melodic styles of these established forms and others. Knowledge and informed judgment penalized disobedience. There were no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping for applause. The rule was to listen silently and learn; boys, teachers, and the crowd were kept in order by threat of the stick. But later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent, but were ignorant of the laws of music. Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave.”
This naturally brings into question the effects of modern and even classical music. It may come as a surprise that not all Western classical music is good and healthy. Each style of classical targeted its respective zones within the soul, some higher or lower than others. Starting from a high point during the late Medieval and Renaissance times, the spiritual integrity of both culture and music declined in a systematic way over the subsequent centuries.
The Medieval period spans from 400 to 1400 AD and encompasses the rise of Merovingians and the Kings of Britain, historical events pertaining to the Holy Grail, the proliferation of chivalry and alchemy, spread of various Gnostic sects, construction of the Gothic cathedrals, and rise and fall of the Templars. It also included the Catholic Inquisition and the Crusades.
Early Medieval music was monophonic. The official “sacred” music of the time consisted of plainsong sanctioned by the Church, which was neither sacred nor musical in the true sense. Gregorian chants, for example, were intentionally minimalistic and plain so as to avoid stimulating the soul and spirit, which might have awakened individualistic “pagan” feelings that could undermine the absolute spiritual authority of the Church.
Early Medieval secular music, however, was influenced by Arabic and Persian cultures, whose societies were experiencing a golden age at the time Europe was still climbing out of the Dark Ages. Therefore Medieval secular music had Middle-Eastern elements, though with lyrical themes centered around courtly love and heroic deeds. The gnostic troubadours and minnesingers who were propagators of the Grail legends sang in this style.
So all in all, the cultural highlights of the Medieval period were purity, sacredness, devotion, and chivalry. These are the same themes found in Iranian, Indian, Scandinavian, and other Indo-European traditions that trace back to the ancient proto-Hittite-Phoenician-Amorite civilization (4,000 BC to 1500 BC) mentioned earlier and discussed in my Gnosis series as being the original bearers of the Grail stone.
Basic forms of harmony developed by 800-900 AD though complex polyphony took several more centuries to mature. The Church adopted what was in vogue and consequently liturgical music became polyphonic. So although the Church became the primary vehicle for such sacred polyphony, spiritual and gnostic undercurrents covertly bubbled up through that oppressive framework. And not only in music but also in literature and art, as evidenced by the Grail stories that carried Christian themes on the surface but were gnostic and hyperborean at the core, or the alchemical themes encoded in the various statues and reliefs of the Gothic cathedrals.
This kind of polyphonic music, which flourished in the late Medieval period and evolved to perfection in the Renaissance and early Baroque, focused on harmony of the highest order and thereby sought to stimulate the upper reaches of the astral body closest to spirit. For once, sacred music resonated the capacity for spiritual devotion through pure harmonies and melodies.
Perhaps the same body of secret sciences behind the sacred geometry of the cathedrals, or the alchemical tinting of their stained glass windows, also engendered the polyphony performed therein. This may have been an act of occult warfare aimed at undermining the tyranny of the Church. Like uploading a virus to the mothership, by injecting a transcendent, gnostic, individualistic element into Church architecture and music, it would only be a matter of time before that became the new cultural keynote.
Indeed, that is exactly what happened during the Renaissance (1400-1600) when individual development to the highest divine, artistic, philosophical, and intellectual potential took on greater importance than austere submission to the Church. Instead of an aloof spirituality, the Renaissance added a more personal human dimension to the divine. The focal point thereby shifted from spirit to the spirit-astral boundary where the higher ego resides. The higher ego represents one’s highest potential. This was the spiritual height of Western music, the golden mean between above and below where complexity did not come at the expense of divinity. Such music reached its zenith around 1500 with the Franco-Flemish style of sacred and secular polyphony.
In the subsequent centuries, virtuosity and excellence became idolized to the point of intellectual hubris. Hence the Renaissance was followed by the Age of Enlightenment (1600-1800) where reason became the highest of virtues and anything superstitious or mystical took a back seat. Science eclipsed philosophy and chemistry displaced alchemy. This was a counter-reaction to the tyrannical nature of the Church during the preceding centuries. But in doing so, it increasingly threw the baby out with the bathwater and discarded mystical, sacred, spiritual impulses as being symptomatic of religious ignorance.
The musical styles associated with the Age of Enlightenment, known as Baroque and Classical, placed less emphasis on sacred spiritual impulses than exploring the technical heights of what could be done with Western music theory that nonetheless produced something intelligible, logical, and pleasing. While early Baroque still possessed the spiritual virtues of the Renaissance, by the late Baroque and Classical periods the focus had shifted entirely from the higher to the lower ego, or intellect. It may have been the most intricate music ever written, but it lacked a certain numinous glow.
In counter-reaction to the insipid intellectualism and conventions of the Classical period, next came the Romantic period (1800-1900) whose aim was to evoke strong emotions and sentimentality. Rich harmonies, textures, and melodies together stimulated the inner emotional life, stirring up yearnings and passions. However it stimulated only the middle and lower regions of the astral body, either directly or via association.
Whereas Baroque and Classical were melodic, pleasing, and memorable because they still respected the natural laws of music, Romanticism went against convention, broke the rules of music theory established up to that point, and dove into the darker regions of human existence. This was the first time that elements from the lower astral planes — the demented, twisted, delirious, demonic, angry, lustful energies and entities there — could potentially enter into classical music. For better or worse, Beethoven channeled his astral body into his works and thereby gave them a fierce astral nature, almost to the point of luciferian mania in certain pieces.
This era also romanticized earlier cultural themes such as the Grail legend, but in lacking the spiritual influences behind these original themes, all it could do was caricaturize. Classic example is Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, an epic opera loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Grail poem from the 1200s.
Wagner took Romanticism to its logical conclusion by abandoning melodic and harmonic elegance and simplicity in favor of textures so rich and chords so complex (in an attempt to express power, emotion, and epic themes in an associative way) that what unwittingly resulted was a kind of astral “heat death,” a drowning in sentimentality, a smearing of emotions into an amorphous nebula of hysteria. Consider his famous Tristan chord, which consisted of the augmented 4th (horror, fear), Minor 3rd (human sadness), and Augmented 6th (nostalgia). It’s the sound of a languished soul longing for better days. No wonder Lars von Trier chose to use it throughout the film Melancholia.
Impressionism then arose in the late 1800s as a reaction to the pompous, gaudy, melodramatic sentimentality of Romanticism. Its goal was to be subtle and subliminal in its effects upon the listener. Impressionism did away with memorable melodies and traditional harmonies. Rather, it abandoned music in favor of using sound to stimulate reactions that took place beneath the threshold of consciousness, thereby producing certain moods or atmospheres that couldn’t always be put into words.
One could say Impressionism was an attempt at objective music, but only at the physiological level and haphazardly without knowledge of the exact science behind it. The same way Impressionist art focused on light, Impressionist music focused on sound; both sought to bring art and music down to the level of sensory stimulus.
So by the turn of the 20th century, the only thing left was to throw out all conventions and purposely make nothing resembling traditional music. This was practiced by Arnold Schoenberg and others of the Atonal / Expressionist movement. Atonal “music” aims to produce sounds that have no followable tonal center. No note is afforded any easily identifiable harmonic or melodic connection to any other note, the only emotion intended to be aroused was continuous fear and anxiety through relentless dissonance.
While some might enjoy it intellectually for its novelty and even develop an acquired taste for it, at the core it remains music stripped of musicality, like a body stripped of its soul. In the end, it expressed what came to define the early 20th century: materialism, nihilism, rebellion, brutality, destruction, chaos, terror, suffering, death, and loss of spiritual consciousness.
Though simplified, the above history illustrates how Western music follows a trajectory from the highest heights to the lowest lows: spirit giving way to intellect, intellect to sentiment, and sentiment to unconsciousness and chaos. Or in Rudolf Steiner’s terms, it followed a trajectory from Christ to Ahriman to Lucifer to Sorat. All this within five centuries. The focal points trace a linear descent down the spirit, mind, astral, etheric, and physical layers of the human being. Mere coincidence?
Every movement was a reaction to the preceding one, just one step down in the metaphysical scale. Problem, reaction, solution. This dialectic synthesis generated progressively devolving states that ultimately amounted to a triumph of matter over spirit.
It should now be clear that the devolution of classical music has either paralleled, or directly engendered, a systematic decline of Western civilization.
Classical music was limited by the technology of its day. The pipe organ was the closest thing to powered machinery since it ran on steam, and the old masters used it prolifically. If electric and digital instruments had been available, they would have been used. Today we have not only the traditional instruments available to us, but all the new ones afforded by modern technology. And not only can modern musicians invoke the styles of past centuries, but they may employ newer ones and even fuse various styles and juxtapose instruments of different eras.
Therefore today’s music is a superset of the old rather than a mere sequel. It is a “Resurrection” of the old, augmented by the new. The same principles, wellsprings of inspiration, and occult influences that animated old music are still available to us, provided the musician can tap into them. Further, we now have additional influences that did not exist back then, at least not to the same degree. Good or bad, this means music today is capable of more: more divinity, more otherworldliness, more power, more intricacy, more texture, more rhythm, more elegance, but also more darkness, more demonism, more aggression, or more manipulation depending on the musician’s intent.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to analyze the archetypal basis and metaphysical effects of every modern genre and subgenre. However, these are easy enough to determine from the lyrics and graphics accompanying the music, for these are not normally in contradiction. For instance, there are no country albums about knights fighting dragons, rap albums about pickup trucks and old dirt roads, or reggae albums about a robot apocalypse. Lounge and jazz reflect urban socialite living, metal reflects various permutations of power, punk reflects youth and rebellion, etc. and the reason why a genre reflects a given archetype or realm of experience goes back to the objective resonance and subjective association factors explained earlier.
Music since the early 1900s has diversified into hundreds of genres and subgenres. The diversity is so immense that we cannot categorically dismiss modern music simply for being modern; too many factors are at play.
Some factors are due to the novelty of the times. There are electronic styles owing their distinction to the capabilities afforded by synthesizers and samplers. And metal could not have arisen without the invention of electric guitars and high gain amplifiers. New cultural elements have entered into the equation as well, such as African work songs, voodoo rhythms, and brothel music that became the basis of blues, Jazz, and derivative genres. The difference between European and American styles of pop, jazz, rock, metal, etc. is due to greater Africanization of the latter in the 20th century.
Other factors are metaphysical. Some musicians may be drawing subconscious inspiration from past or future lives, perhaps focusing on Medieval elements in their works because they still share a strong connection with that life and time period. There are neoclassical composers who, in having the benefit of historical hindsight, are able to outdo the old masters and produce even more beautiful and numinous works. An unexpected and under appreciated but noteworthy example is modern video game soundtracks. It all depends on what realms they are tapping into.
Some artists may have had past lives as aliens, or they might be angelic beings in human form, and their music contains an otherworldly element that resonates other people who might also have had past life connections with that realm. Through psionic linkage established between artist and audience, and through the resonance characteristics of the music itself, these artists can broadcast uplifting and liberating energies into the world.
Other music is purely commercial in nature, engineered to appeal to the broadest audiences and extract the most money. That is the definition of pop(ular) music. Some is engineered by political think tanks for propaganda, cultural revolution, or cultural suppression reasons. Then there are individuals possessed by demons or taking part in demonic secret societies who use music as a means of harvesting energy from fans and injecting demonic vibrations into the collective unconscious. They do this through subliminal messages and neurolinguistic programming, through textures, rhythms, melodies, and harmonies that stimulate resonance with the demonic realm, and through employing the song or music video as an occult sigil to psionically link the audience to the demon(s) possessing or shadowing the artist. These have far stronger effects on a listener than, say, whether a song is tuned to A 440Hz or A 432Hz.
Point being that in flipping through the radio or browsing music on the web, you are surveying a sonic microcosm that mirrors the vast macrocosm of beings, realms, dimensions, influences, and energies accessible to human consciousness. Past, future, this world, other worlds, divine, demonic, human, alien, animal, commercial, organic, robotic — it’s all out there right now in musical form, and to a potentially greater intensity and fidelity than ever before attained.
So aside from modern music being mere entertainment, mere fun, mere associative subcultural identification, there is a more serious aspect where music serves as the battleground for competing political, occult, spiritual, and alien influences.
On an individual level, it’s not so much about changing a person into something he is not — because he will detest and refuse to listen to something he neither resonates nor identifies with — but about bringing out the best or worst in him or her. On a collective level, however, an upstanding principled culture can be thoroughly inverted, subverted, and perverted through its music over the span of a few generations because most children are easily enculturated out of evolutionary necessity. As shown above, that agenda has been ongoing for some time.
When people think of futuristic music, they typically envision something spacey, electronic, and robotic sounding. It’s natural to assume that the future is an extension of the present, that since the defining feature of modern life is technology, the future will be the same just with even more technology. But that expectation is too encumbered by the shortcomings of scientific materialism and transhumanism, whose one-sided view of existence excludes anything outside mainstream assumptions. There are also metaphysical, alien, occult, and eschatological variables at play that will not only influence the future but outright override the lesser technology factors and create outcomes that completely go against the prevailing assumptions of our times.
As a planet we are approaching a simultaneous convergence of astrophysical cycles, occult trends, metaphysical plans, and alien agendas. This convergence represents a schism or nexus point, a discontinuity in human history that will throw the prevailing order into chaos. From this chaos will arise any number of new orders. Whatever the outcome, over the long term the future will not simply be a linear progression of current technological trends, but rather a full scale precipitation of esoteric/alien/occult factors that for now have remained sub rosa.
The future may be divided into two major phases: the transition between old and new eras, and the new era itself. The new era will be one of peace, enlightenment, and integrity. It will be a new renaissance of the spirit, mind, and soul. Every myth, vision, and prophecy speaks of this Golden Age, this Kingdom of Heaven, this Reign of Wisdom.
However, the transition phase preceding it will be one of superhuman heroism in the face of extreme hardship as the spiritually awakened square off against old and new adversaries who seek to maintain their dominance. The transition will require dealing with the tyrannical death throes of the old power structure, surviving the collapse of civilization, and developing enough knowledge, strength, cohesion, and identity to keep the spiritual flame alive during the next Dark Age. Threats to human sovereignty will evolve from mere political oppression at the very beginning to increasingly cosmic and supernatural opposition near the middle and end. A new chivalric order will arise in response to these challenges. Our powers to deal with these threats will evolve as well, shifting from five-sense methods toward more paranormal, psychic, etheric, spiritual forms of defense and offense. This, as our consciousness, self-knowledge, divine connection, perception, technology, and environment gradually pivot to a higher octave of existence.
If we were to translate the above into music, what would it sound like? Would country music do? Would jazz? Our music would have to be epic, human yet superhuman, powerful, dynamic, transcendental, mysterious, spiritual, and intense.
Modern music devotes too much of itself to realms of experience whose days are numbered: urban life, fashion, celebrity, glamor, materialism, promiscuity, mundanity, etc. Very few genres are even capable of capturing the zeitgeist of what’s to come. For that, we need music whose texture, rhythm, melody, and harmony is anything but small and worldly.
An obvious choice for a texture that embodies power, energy, and dynamism is the distorted tone of an electric guitar. The distortion comes from an overloading of the vacuum tubes inside a guitar amplifier. The signal hitting the tubes is so intense that it surpasses their rated limitations, and so the signal’s waveform distorts and acquires a harder sonic edge. So here we already have the concepts of power, energy, and the transcending of limitations. The resulting sound carries not only the identifiable pitch of the original signal from the guitar, but now has a rich spectrum of harmonic overtones added. Instead of one, there are now many. This captures the essence of power. Cymbals in a drum set likewise consist of a huge spectrum of harmonics, but they lack a well defined fundamental pitch and therefore don’t have the sonic “direction” that a distorted guitar has. The latter embodies the power of many acting under a single purpose. The rushing sound of a massive waterfall, the buzz of a high voltage generator, the roar of a crowd — all of these share in the expression of power.
And hence, the distorted electric guitar tone is the epitome of power, energy, and transcendence. It is the golden mean between the directionality but loneliness of a pure sine wave and the multitudinous but directionless sound of pure noise. That is why all metal music employs the distorted guitar tone, for power is the common denominator of all metal subgenres; the predominant chord metal uses is even called the “power chord”, based on the 2:3 perfect fifth interval, because as mentioned earlier, the perfect fifth by itself already has a regal and powerful sound, which is only enhanced by distortion.
The archetype of power that underlies metal can be filtered or accessorized through various harmonies, melodies, textures, and rhythms to generate the various subgenres of the field. Unfortunately, just as physical power defaults toward violence and destruction in today’s world, so has the power of metal defaulted toward violent and dark applications, but it need not be so. If directed toward the divine realm instead, the result would be an expression of divine power, an archangelic archetype rather than a demonic one. In Indian classical music, the instrument known as a tanpura has a similar texture to the electric guitar and generates a drone that signifies cosmic power.
Aside from expressing power, our music would need to employ modulation to convey the sense of transition between realms. An elegant use of modulation signifies a hyperdimensional state of existence beyond the limits of linear time. What it represents is closer to the domain of aliens, angels, demons, or jinn than the human domain, but that will change as the human race evolves. In life, humans get a faint taste of realm transitions via dreaming, which is a crossing of realms from waking life into the inner dreamscape and back again. To create a song that evokes the essence of dreams without resorting to special textures, you must employ modulating melodies that have a supernatural elegance to them. In fact, music first heard in dreams will often have this very quality. Moving from the old world to new era will be like crossing the waking-dream boundary.
When a song or phrase begins and ends with the same key while modulating in between, that parallels leaving your home and going on an epic journey ending with you back home. How many adventure, fantasy, and science fiction stories have we come across with this theme? The Wizard of Oz is an example. If the modulation is especially otherworldly sounding, then the adventure is a magical one. This encodes the archetype of the hero’s journey, the template that Joseph Campbell discovered was the universal basis of mythology. Mythology itself is a trans-dimensional map of our planetary destiny showing where we came from, who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going, albeit encoded in symbolic form like a dream. And just as dreams can foreshadow the future, the hero myth foreshadows our own future triumph over ignorance and adversity.
So modulation is essential for encoding the property of transcendence. Done properly, songs that modulate may evoke feelings in us that foreshadow a future time when certain heroic humans transcend the worldly matrix and acquire the otherworldly powers, knowledge, and experience needed to return and help liberate their brethren who are still struggling to transcend.
As for the other impulses active during the transition phase, for the spiritual element we can look to the pure and elegant harmonies of Medieval and Renaissance music. For the celebration of human individuality, the exuberance of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. For the emotional gravitas of hope and tragedy amidst collapse and change, the passionate vocals and epic choirs of the Romantic period. For heroism, valor, and chivalry, perhaps the folk melodies of the Scandinavians or modern operatic metal vocals. For pure power and superhuman caliber, the unmatched energy and power of metal’s guitars and drums.
Combine all these synergistically and employ otherworldly modulation, and you will have an example of something capable of expressing the era of transition.
That doesn’t mean future generations will be listening to precisely this kind of music, only that the most active archetypes of that future can be resonated right now through certain compositions of appropriate scope and splendor. Whether it would stimulate anything in you depends on how much you resonate with those archetypes. In turn, that would depend on who you are, where/when you came from, why you’re here, and where you’re headed in life.
What music we enjoy potentially includes not only our soul resonance characteristics and recurring life themes, but also the more superficial aspects such as cultural/subcultural affiliation and degree of intellectual vs kinesthetic vs emotional centrism.
It would be a mistake, however, to confuse soul resonance with the more mundane factors behind musical preference and therefore draw the wrong conclusions. To reach the soul, a song must pass through the brain’s musical circuitry. If the circuitry is not well developed, the song will never be perceived to the depths necessary to resonate the soul in the first place. In that case, a person’s musical preference may be due more to mundane factors such as association, identity, groove, or intrigue. Many such individuals tend not to have strong musical preferences at all and will listen to just about anything; that’s because their preference doesn’t conditionally follow from their unique soul resonance profiles.
But assuming we can achieve objective insight into the soul based on musical preference, what are the implications? Well, in short it means that we all have spiritual roles that are unique in their idiosyncrasies yet generic in their stemming from just a few archetypes. These archetypes include the warrior, the healer, the wanderer, the trickster, the chieftain, the child, the king, the princess, the knight, the hero, the technician, the alien, the martyr, the observer, etc. These archetypes are what underlie the correspondences between soul, life, and music.
It also means that we are what we are, and we stand for what we stand for. If others acquire perception of our inner archetypes, and we of theirs, that should be no cause for mutual embarrassment, contempt, hubris, or hate. It should only be cause for mutual matter-of-fact acknowledgement and understanding without necessarily betraying our own values and roles, for we must be what we must be.
Since this article was only a general overview, I did not include the more difficult technical analyses of all the mathematical, occult, and historical facets of music and how to apply them. Many of these I still need to research and experiment with before being able to explain them to my satisfaction.
So here is a list of topics left to explore:
Music and the Power of Sound – Alain Daniélou
The Secret Power of Music – David Tame
The Inner Nature of Music and the Experience of Tone – Rudolf Steiner
The Occult Basis of Music – Rudolf Steiner
Outer Streams, Metaphysics of Music – Dr. Nelson Harrison