About the piece
Harmony – the pleasing sound of notes playing together, and playing nice with each other, has been central to the way people think about the world for as long as we know. And so has music.
In the Western tradition we credit Pythagoras with discovering that the musical notes we love to hear together come from simple number relationships – 1:2, 2:3,4:5 and so on. The simpler, the more consonant the sound. This equation of simplicity with beauty is not only interesting in music, but shows up everywhere we look in Nature, from the way the tiniest particles of matter behave in our bodies or in the sun, the way plants and animals grow, to the way the heavens above us move across the night sky. In many traditions across the world people have believed that what happens in the sky, and the motions of the wandering planets, is a mirror of what happens in our soul.
Pythagoras noticed that the times of the orbits of the planets and the cycles of the seasons also have simple number relationships between them. Later Plato said that astronomy and music were “twinned studies” of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, and music for the ears. These vast movements of the planets should, they thought, make a sound, just like the rush of a bird wing as it flies past your ear. Because this is heaven we’re talking about, you can’t hear it with you ears – you hear it with your soul. After the great astronomer Kepler proved that the sun was the centre of the Solar System (in his book Mysteries of the Cosmos), he went on to write Harmony of the Worlds, in which he mathematically “demonstrated” that the structure of the heavens obeyed musical, geometrical, rules:
The musicians around you represent the wandering Planets and the central group in brightest part of Colourscape, the Sun. A drone derived from the classical Indian Tanpura acts as a central anchor and driving force – the bright energy from which all life derives.
Like actors in a cosmic play, they are improvising – everything they play is a direct response to now. Like a great Cosmic clock we hear the minutes (hours, aeons?) marked by the chiming of bells, moving us from one mood to the next. But we also use this idea of a “Universal Harmony” more broadly. Music from different times, music from different places and cultures. Some of the players are experts in ancient European music, some Hindustani Classical music, modern free improvisation or computer music. Together we are trying to find a familiar language we can all become part of. A Musica Universalis for the whole world. After so much time forced apart, let’s come together. But look closely in he Garden of Universal Harmony – the roses have thorns, and the lilies are toxic…
For more, MIchael talks about his influences in this Relevant Tones interview
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Samples and Inspirations
Samples from these pieces, often heavily processed, are woven into the texture of Co-Incidences 1, but they are all wonderful pieces in their own right. Some are pioneering pieces of electronic music, some are hugely romantic meditations on love, all are worth a listen…
The Lark Ascending 1914
Fahrenheit 451 1966
La Fontaine de Arethusa 1915
Synthesising – Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat 1982
Below you’ll find pieces that, while not sampled here, have inspired me over the years, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of working on. The way these pieces are structured, their soundworld, and the way many of the composers learned from concepts in Indian music has always fascinated me.
Shaker Loops 1978