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November 17, 2019 / Congau

Harmony of the Spheres

The universe is in harmony. The celestial bodies, the sun, the moon and the planets move in perfect proportion emitting a sound of ideal music that guides life on earth.

Those tunes are always there, a constant melodious hum coming from the planets as they evolve around the sun. We just can’t hear it since what is constantly present disappears from consciousness.

At least that’s what some ancient Greeks believed.

I don’t believe it, and you neither, probably. It’s a lyrical fantasy dreamed up by poets and calculated with alluring accuracy by mystical mathematicians.

But true or not, it is a useful metaphor for how there might be a universal measure of what is musically acceptable. We can imagine how the sounds of the heavenly bodies provide a model for what sounds are perceived as harmonious to our ears.

And let us continue to imagine. If our ears are granted such a celestial ideal, why not our eyes too. Possibly all visual perception must conform to a certain demand for harmony if it is to function aesthetically. Any arbitrary splashing of colors will not make a great painting, only certain combinations can possibly work. Any shape cannot make an agreeable statue.

It’s difficult, or rather impossible, to lay out any rules for what makes a combination permissible. Any mathematical concept of proportion will fail to grasp the essence of an artistic mode of expression. A successful piece of art or a beautiful or effective vision may be seemingly disproportionate.

But some sort of harmony there must be. Whenever you noddingly confirm that “that works” or “that works for me”, you acknowledge that it is in harmony with something inside you. And if it works for other viewers or listeners too, which it probably does, it means that your internal harmony has a parallel outside of yourself – in other people. But even if no one else happens to be watching or listening the harmony is not only in you. We can imagine that it is out there somewhere – in the celestial spheres.

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