Introduction to Earthsong

Music is many things to many people - an entertainment to some, a solace to others, a ritual, an inspiration, an annoyance, a profession - but is fundamentally a means of expressing and inspiring human emotion. Earthsong concerns a specific application of the musical arts:

Music as a technique for transforming human consciousness.

Music can be used both individually and collectively to arouse a wide variety of emotions, in particular those which promote health, happiness and benevolence. In this way, music can serve, not just as an entertainment or art-form, but as a healing agent for nations, communities and individuals to restore peace and prosperity, and then as an evolutionary stimulus to move the whole planet to a higher level of aspiration and activity.

The effects of sound on human consciousness are not yet understood scientifically, but are currently the subject of considerable research interest. Psi phenomena have been under investigation now for more than thirty years, and provide a useful conceptual framework for investigating interactions between music and consciousness. Acoustic structures present in music, and especially in song, are imprinted by repetition on the human psyche, with consequences capable of being deliberately determined by the choice of musical intervals, scales and styles.

The book aims to stimulate interest in the design and manufacture of freely tempering keyboard instruments. The book has been written to explain this, and to encourage public understanding of the social and psychic uses of music and song.

Practical application of these possibilities requires familiarity with three sets of ideas:

  1. The latest discoveries in human psychology.
  2. Sonic structures and musical scales.
  3. A brief history of European music and society.

Study of this material reveals that European music entered a period of stasis about a century and a half ago, and is presently poised to emerge from it. This concerns tempering, a technical device all but forgotten today. The reintroduction of freely tempered music will occasion an artistic revolution not unlike that of four decades ago. The worldwide expansion in global awareness since the 1960's will allow better use to be made of this opportunity if we are wise enough to do so.

We have all had the experience of vowing to undertake a course of action, only to discover some weeks later that, in spite of our strictest intention, we have failed in our vow. The reason for this is quite simple. Intention is a function of the mind, of the intellect, and is powerless to enact any decision unless allied with emotion or desire. Intention married to emotion is will or determination. Vows that do prove effective are thus most often taken after an intense emotional experience. Happy emotions - joy, inspiration, and achievement, for example - are sometimes allied with such intentions, but negative emotions are more often responsible for determined vows, and particularly those arising from injury, illness, bereavement, or a major reversal of fortunes.

Those who acknowledge the operation of spiritual forces in their lives, be it through religion, or fate, or one's higher being, often view such vicissitudes as having been deliberately contrived in order to encourage or effect a major change in the course of their lives. The consequent suffering is thereby rendered easier to endure, but is painful nonetheless.

Could it be that there is a better way of engineering such changes in our lives without pain, suffering, or loss, and guiding our evolution, both personal and social, according to the highest aspirations of our souls? A study of history proves that there is, and that it requires the deliberate and intelligent use of music, song, and meditation. EarthSong, explains and discusses this fascinating possibility.

During the period from the 14th to the 19th centuries, several European nations, some quite small, created worldwide empires through war and military conquest. At the same time, the foundations were laid for the remarkable technological developments that began with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and culminated in the electronic, computing and communications technologies that have appeared during the last three decades. Whilst these developments are viewed today as part of a purposeless evolutionary process over which human beings have no conscious control, there exists much evidence showing that the events of history and the course of human evolution are outcomes of the activity of human consciousness in its collective manifestations. Because music both expresses and arouses emotions, often very powerful ones, and because emotions, far more than ideas, are the most potent spurs to action, especially where masses of people are concerned, music can and does have profound effects at critical historical junctures. This was much more evident in the days when warfare and revolutions made practical use of music, such as the songs and battle-cries sung by marching and advancing armies, or the arousal of a mob by rhetoric and song.

The equal-tempered scale used so predominantly today does not have any pure intervals other than the octaves. For this reason, it fails to arouse the finer shades of feeling so prized by musicians of earlier epochs, and cannot give adequate expression to our deepest emotions. By contrast, music that is sung or performed using natural scales and intervals has a depth and power of emotional expression that can only be understood by those who have experienced it. Equal temper began to dominate Western music during the early 1700's. Handel was born in 1710. J. S. Bach died in 1750, nine years before Handel, and twenty years before Beethoven's birth. Chopin and Mendelssohn were both born in February 1809, by which time equal temper was comfortably established as the norm for piano and organ. Those familiar with the era will discover much of interest in comparing the psychological and psychic influences of music with contemporaneous social and philosophical developments of the period.

Whilst the psychological and psychic influences of musical temper act on individuals over months and years, the most powerful effects are felt by whole communities over decades and centuries.

This can be seen today in the casual acceptance of violence and perversions by society generally, and especially by younger persons, when their parents and grandparents would have been shocked and outraged by such things at a comparable age. The emotional sensitivity of modern people has been coarsened and desensitized to such a degree that we now accept degrees of ruthlessness, callousness, greed and deceit that are brutalizing our societies and leading us to contemplate a future that would have horrified our forebears.

It is important to understand that although these things are given intellectual expression, they arise, not from the intellect, but from the emotions. It is therefore obvious that no intellectual solution to such a situation is possible. The only effective and lasting solutions must come by reawakening our emotional sensitivities, and our abilities to give expression to more refined and humane emotions. By far the most effective means to these ends is through the use of music, since music is the language of the heart, as is speech of the mind.

Subtle and refined emotions cannot find effective expression using equal-tempered scales, since these do not contain pure intervals. The natural intervals of the traditional music of all cultures - East, West, and in between - possess a far greater power of emotional expression than the subtly discordant sounds of equally-tempered music, since the ratios of their intervals are found throughout the natural world.

A keyboard which can accommodate both traditional and modern scales would therefore be of great social value today, and could offer a whole new area of musical experimentation and artistic expression to performers, not only within the Western cultural sphere, but also in the wide and varied spectrum of traditional music from all the world's cultures.

The theoretical basis of musical temper and its consequences for musical expression are completely unknown to the general public, as also to a majority of modern musicians. By way of example. consider music based on the Pentatonic Scale used in the Greek, Chinese and Japanese traditions, amongst others. The natural Pentatonic Scale possesses a harmonic integrity that demonstrates in the moods created by music performed on it. In particular, the absence of marked dissonances and beating between partials gives it a gentle pensiveness that can be highly conducive to the creation of deep meditative states, and it has often been employed deliberately to induce such states. If the same music is played on an equally-tempered pentatonic scale, the resulting dissonances in the partials, and beat tones arising therefrom, destroy the effect of stillness and introspection generated by naturally-tempered music.

We can extend this example to arrive at the general observation that non-Western cultures which perform their traditional music on modern Western instruments - or even on equally-tempered traditional instruments - will lose the subtle expressions at the heart of those traditions. To an average ear, the resulting music will sound very similar to the original - it may, in fact, be "note perfect" - but will lack the power to arouse the depths and subtleties of emotion intended by its composers because of the impurity of the intervals. This is undoubtedly a major factor in the gradual degradation and destruction of non-Western musical cultures.

Such instruments can therefore provide a major defence against cultural degradation for non-Western societies, and an opportunity for European societies to reintroduce pure and joyful emotions into their musical lives.