Harmonic

PPcover(Prelude to the Song itself)

By Ernest G. McClain.

New York: Nicolas Hays, 1978. x, 192 pp., 57 charts and tables.

Review by Siegmund Levarie in The Musical Quarterly Vol. 64, No. 3 (Jul., 1978), pp. 402-407

There is something very special about this book as regards both method and contents. Scholars in various fields - mathematics, philology, political science, education, philosophy, music - can profit from it significantly and in due time are likely to recognize it as essential to further thought in their respective disciplines. 

The area is defined, but in no way constricted, by Plato's late dialogues. In dealing ostensibly with moral education and behavior, Plato writes in analogies and metaphors whenever they serve to convey abstract ideas in a concrete way. While thus utilizing images of all kinds (one remembers the dramatic cave), Plato repeatedly declares his preference for musical similes. Music provides him with a perfect model. It operates with both natural forces (the immutable interval relationships) and human artifacts (the conditioned scale selections). It involves the senses (the direct ex­perience of sound) but also the mind (the empirical investigation of pro­portion). It is a quality which nonetheless can be approached mathemat­ically. It is one field of human behavior in which man has succeeded, for better or for worse, in setting up and enjoying an artificial order within a potentially unlimited chaos.

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(The Origin of the God, Mathematics and Music from the Rg Veda to Plato)

By Ernest G. McClain

New York: Nicolas Hays, 1976. 216 pages. $14.50. ISBN 0-89254-003-6.

Review from Journal from the American Academy of Religion

Numerology is for many a suspect science. It seems to have been superseded by mathematics. Musicology has become an art. And yet there is something behind the concerns of these two human disciplines that the last 3,000 years Of human civilization have not been powerful enough to eliminate. The author grapples again with the problem of a proto-science of number and tone. Even for the sceptic there are two things which cannot be brushed away. the intrinsic relation between sound and mathematical scales (since Pythagoras in the West), and the astounding relations that we find from music to architecture (from the Far East to the extreme West) between musical proportions, spatial dimensions and abstract numbers. McClain is not afraid of this generally unexplored problem and based mainly on the RigVeda, Pythagoras (with his forerunners in Babylon and Sumer) and Plato, tries to elaborate a general theory of harmonical analysis as "a technique for synthesizing the tonal, arithmetical, and geometrical imagery of ancient civilizations" (p. 195).

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(Sacred Number at the Source of Creation)

by Richard Heath

Review

The Harmonic Origins of the World: Sacred Number at the Source of Creation explores the numerical ratios that define not just religious beliefs, but notions of the universe, and considers the simple math relationships that are connected to the science of the solar system. From a history of how Neolithic astronomers discovered these ratios to how the orbits of the planets relate to time and lead to the rise of intelligent life on Earth, this blend of science and new age thinking should be in any serious new age collection.

The Bookwatch: May 2018