Who’s happier, the planets, the music or you and I?
Posted: September 10, 2009 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: kepler, music, tenuous links to astronomy
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I know what you are thinking, you’ve been staring at that wall for hours trying to solve the pickle you are in. How did this happen? You just can’t get the thought out of your head. “Why doesn’t my record collection contain Kepler’s Laws in Swedish?”
Well fear not as the new Money Can’t Buy Music album is out. And their first single (well the one released a while before the album) We Will All Axphixiate has Kepler’s Laws in both English and Swedish (and a bit of an odd video).
One half of MCBM is Gordon McIntyre who is the lead singer of indie group ballboy, who people who know me will tell you I quite like. The whole premise of the song is based on Kepler’s Harmonice Mundi. This was a text linking various astronomical ratios to harmonic ratios in music. It’s an idea that goes back a long way, that the mathematical beauty in music is linked to the geometric beauty of the perfect heavens. Like many of the scientific astronomical pioneers of his time Kepler also dabbled in the semi-mystical. He initially looked for harmonic relations in the periods of the planets, finding none he then switched to the ratios of the closest and furthest distances from the Sun for each planet, again he found nothing. Finally he turned to the ratio of the orbital velocity of each planet at it’s furthest and closest points from the Sun. Here he found a number of harmonic relations not only for each planet, but harmonic relations between planets. If it sounds like I’m being vague here, I am. My musical knowledge goes as far as knowing what chords are in a major key. A far more informed and detailed examination of the subject can be found in this excellent study. While these relations hold for the inner planets, unfortunately for Kepler his musical theory of the heavens didn’t stand up to the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto which didn’t fit into his harmonic ratios. However I have no idea why the inner planets of the solar system display such harmonic ratios. If someone out there knows then please enlighten me via the comments thread.
So a discredited mystical cosmological theory, but it gives me a chance to witter on about my wilfully obscure taste in music.