Excerpt from "Romantic Duality"

It was during this time that a great number of discoveries relating to wave theory and harmonic geometry were being discovered. In 1787, German physicist Ernst Chladni published a book entitled Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges describing his experiments in visualizing musical tones as auditory geometries. He found that he could sprinkle sand on round and square metal plates and then vibrate the edge with a violin bow to create a wide variety of beautiful patterns from simple polygons to elaborate patterns.

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He noticed that these patterns, later named Chladni figures, formed whenever harmonic wave frequencies were applied to flat surfaces. His equation, f = C(m + 2n)p using C and p as coefficients of the plate, became known as Chladni’s law. Chladni’s work in harmonics led him to other important discoveries, including the calculation of the speed of sound for different gases and a number of scientific methods used to optimize the design of acoustic instruments, in particular violins, guitars and cellos.

But even though Chladni is widely credited for discovering the fact that harmonics produce regular geometric patterns on vibrated surfaces, such knowledge had actually been around for centuries and probably thousands of years. This was proven recently in the discovery of Chladni figures carved into the face of “musical cubes” jutting out from the arches of Rosslyn Chapel outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. Built in 1446 by followers of a Gnostic Christian sect known as Ebionites (similar to the Cathars and Templar Order ), these auditory patterns were carved into stone nearly 300 years before Chladni was even born!

It was the Scottish father-son team of Thomas and Stuart Mitchell who finally deciphered the 215 “musical cubes” in the chapel’s arches to uncover a melody they named The Rosslyn Motet. Each “musical cube” was matched against a particular Chladni pattern to determine a pitch which, when strung together, formed a melody. In my e-mail exchanges with Stuart Mitchell, he suggested that the number of musical cubes could be taken allegorically to correspond to 216, the ancient Hebrew number for God said to be awaiting one last sound by the “Anti-Christ” to herald in the Messianic Age. But how other carvings in the chapel related to this remained a mystery.

Underneath the cubes were 13 musical angels carved into the stone pillars. Some of these angels are depicted sitting on carved pentagrams playing musical instruments, replacing the top golden triangle of the stars. The stars are then supported by 8 dragons-serpents rising up from the base of the pillars whose tongues wrap around what appears to be the Tree of Knowledge carved into the columns. Visitors have marveled over this for centuries wondering what it could all mean.

My suggestion to Stuart was the 13 musical angels and 8 dragons might be representative of the Fibonacci ratio of 13:8, or 1.625, signifying a number close to the golden ratio and corresponding to the Earth-Venus orbital proportion of a pentagram. As I came to discover later, the interior of the chapel was designed in a proportion not far from the harmonic 5:3 proportion of a major 6th, suggesting a further link between the architectural symbols and principles of harmonic resonance. Still, what could the designers be trying to tell us?


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