Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Symphony for the Devil?

Last year Scottish composer Stuart Mitchell discovered musical codes embodied in the 213 stones in the ceiling of the Midlothian chapel at Rosslyn. Described as "sounding like a nursery rhyme," the notation was designed to be performed by medeival players.

Mitchell has dubbed the music "The Rosslyn Canon of Proportions." He has kept the music itself a secret, while admitting the cubes contain "a lot of symbolism and decoys to throw people off."

Brian Allan, co-director of Scotland’s Paranormal Encounters Group (PEG), has been researching Rosslyn Chapel with his wife Ann since 1992. He has his own opinion about the music: It's diabolical!

“I’ve no doubt [Mitchell] is a very knowledgeable man who knows what he’s talking about but some of the cubes were missing,” he said. “I think the true secret is not the musical score. I think what the cubes represent is something called the Devil’s chord, which is in fact an augmented fourth.”

The Devil’s chord — a low frequency sound in the range of 80 to 110 hertz — was forbidden to be played by the Catholic Church in the middle ages. It was believed that people exposed to the chord for prolonged periods of time would start to achieve altered states of consciousness.

Allan, who is also Scottish director of the Strange Phenomena Investigation (SPI) group, believes the chord was incorporated in the chapel’s design by its architect William Sinclair as a snub towards the Vatican. Sinclair was believed to have been a member of the Knights Templar, a monastic military order outlawed under the reign of Pope Clement V in the 14th century and made famous by Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code.

“He may have felt an antipathy to the Church which he couldn’t express openly — hence he might have done this in a manner that wouldn’t have been detected," said Allan. "What he was showing with the cubes was this beautiful music being carried up to Heaven but carrying with it the Devil’s chord.”

Stuart Beattie, of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, said the enigmas of the chapel would continue to attract researchers. "We neither agree with nor discount any of these interesting theories. We merely add them to Rosslyn’s history.”

The screen version of The Da Vinci Code is expected to be released in May. It stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Several scenes were shot at Rosslyn Chapel.

Source: London Sunday Herald

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  1. The augmented 4th or tritone was forbidden for many centuries. il diavolo nella musica or the Devil in Music was something we learned about in Music History in College. Crazy stuff!

  2. Does the tone really cause an altered state of consciousness?

  3. Wikipedia gives great examples of popular music that uses this Devil's Tone. Just reading through the list helps one to understand what the tone sounds like.

    From Wikipedia:

    The tritone retains its "Devil in Music" character in popular music, specifically heavy metal. The opening of Black Sabbath's signature song Black Sabbath makes heavy use of the tritone. Other metal songs with prominent tritones in their main riffs are Diamond Head's Am I Evil? and Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Enter Sandman. Though not a metal band, Rush famously used the tritone to create the distinctive opening riff for the song YYZ. Perhaps the single guitarist to have made the most extensive use of the tritone is Robert Fripp of King Crimson, who used it repeatedly in King Crimson albums like Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red. Other examples are the beginning of Liszt's Dante Sonata, Sibelius's Fourth Symphony and Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. The tritone is also used throughout Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, as an ironic "point of reference" despite the tone's inherent instability, thereby offering subtle commentary on the nature of war itself. Slayer has traditionally used the tritone extensively, and their 1998 album titled "Diabolus in Musica" reflects that fact.

    Bloodrock's "DOA" might be the most thoroughgoing and effective use of the tritone in popular music. The roots of the chord progression, C F# D G# are two tritones, and the European siren-like riff played atop the chords, alternating first E and Bb, then F# and C, consists of tritones. The unsettling, never-resolved feel of the music fits the lyrics about a plane crash perfectly.

    Film composer Bernard Herrman uses the tritone to great effect in his score for the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, where the interval functions as a motif, played by low brass, for Klaatu's robot Gort.

    Leonard Bernstein underpins almost all the music in West Side Story with persistent tritones. They feature as the opening interval to some of the songs, either melodically ("Maria" and "Cool" both begin with augmented fourths) or harmonically, when a flattened fifth is sung against a major chord ("Gee Officer Krupke"). Elsewhere, tritones figure prominently within "Something's Coming" and the "Jet Song", and the last sonority in the score is that of a high major chord with its own flattened fifth in the bass.

    Danny Elfman uses tritones in his themes for The Simpsons (the first two notes of the opening choral "The Sim-" and the first and third notes of the main instrumental theme, for example) and Dilbert.

  4. M & WS,

    Certain tones done in a droning manner can set the stage for accessing the subconscious mind. Tibetan monks frequently utilize multi-timbral throat chanting to set the mind for meditation.
    It is thought that if the Universe is based on mathematics...then vibrations can cause many things. All matter vibrates at a certain frequency. If you match that frequency using a sound generator...theoretically, you could cancel it's mass and nullify it's other properties. It is thought that this is how the Moai were constructed. The King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid resonates at a-440. The tuning mechanism is a pebble set under one corner of the granite "sarcophagus" in the chamber. Strike a wall or anything in the room and it generates A-440 droning tone.
    One could theoretically nullify the fabric of space if we knew the frequency of vibration of dark matter. hmmm...Music is based on mathematics...the universe is based on mathematics...Brings new meaning to the addage,"Study your math, my boy! It's the key to the universe!"

    F. Roy Dean Schlipp
    Gentle-Fellow of the Sublime Craft & Musician to the Universe

  5. I have spent a lot of time listening to tribal music from all of the nations of the world. With this selection I have listened to quite a bit of the 'throat-singers' who are Tibetan monks.

    Also, earlier in my life, I did enjoy smoking a little bit of grass from time to time.

    Some of this music most definitely produced a mild altered state of consciousness. I may not have felt 'zoned', but I was surely feeling a slight buzz after a 30 minute throat chant session via headphones.

    Gregorian Chant, English Ladymass (Anonymous 4), etc.

    I would be interested if any members of this small community could make similar recommendations.

    I don't know if any of you have read Greg Bear's book "Song's of Earth and Power". Greg Bear is historically known as a Science Fiction author but this particular novel is fantasy with a very Jacques Vallee'esque feel to it. I'm sure he read "Passport Magonia" a time or two. One major theme in the novel is a hidden symphony that was played only one time and, afterwards, caused a great number of people to simply dissappear.

    The book is quite enjoyable and I strongly recommend it.

    Since I don't smoke grass anymore (being a quiet and peaceful citizen, true to my government and just to my country and in my outward demeanor particularily careful to avoid censure and reproach) I wouldn't mind finding some more music that produced altered states of consciousness...


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