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Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness Hardcover – Aug 1 1995

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions; Reprinted edition edition (Aug. 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892813369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892813360
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #210,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"With his fierce, global intelligence, Alain Danielou was the first to wake up the West to the universality of musical harmony and its potential for planetary consciousness." (W.A. Mathieu, author of The Listening Book and The Musical Life)

"Our debt to his scholarship and humanity is immeasurable." (The Times Literary Supplement)

From the Inside Flap

MUSIC Music, above all other arts, has always been esteemed for its power to speak directly to our higher consciousness. Based on unchanging laws of number and proportion, music also embodies the fundamental metaphysical principles underlying everyday reality. How do these two aspects of music's power, it's twin roots in consciousness and mathematics, relate to one another? And why does each of the world's music systems seem to have its own unique effects on consciousness? Music and the Power of Sound is a new and thoroughly revised edition of Alain Danielou's pioneering Introduction to the Study of Musical Scales, an important book that for many years has been virtually unobtainable in the West. In these pages, Danielou traces the development of musical scales from their origins in both China and India, through the merging in ancient Greece of those two systems, and on to the development of the Western musical traditions of modal and polyphonic music. Because musical pitches have specific frequencies, their relationships can be expressed numerically as ratios of greater or lesser complexity: the simpler the ratio, the more euphonious the harmony. The musicians of antiquity understood scales to be either cycles of simple intervals (China), arrays of varying intervals around a central pitch (India), or a combination of the two (Greece). Any one of these methods of construction resulted in a multitude of contrasting scales, each capable of expressing distinct emotional and spiritual states. Those scales, Danielou argues, not only reflected but also influenced the spiritual values of their parent civilizations. In the purity of simple harmonic ratios can be found the secrets of music's affective power. These potent harmonic relationships offer a way for today's musicians to transcend the limitations of our overly rationalistic musical system and fashion a synthesis with the metaphysical roots of the most eternal of arts. ALAIN DANIeLOU (1907-1994), the founder of the International Institute of Comparative Musicology in Berlin, elucidated for tens of thousands of readers the meanings of the arts and religious traditions of both East and West. He was an accomplished player of the vĩna and taught in the music department at the University of Benares. His numerous books, the product of a career spanning six decades, include: The Myths and Gods of India; Gods of Love and Ecstasy; While the Gods Play; Virtue, Success, Pleasure, and Liberation; The Phallus; Yoga: Mastering the Secrets of Matter and the Universe; and The Complete Kama Sữtra.

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Format: Hardcover
Danielou was a Frenchman who spent two decades in India studying the vina. This book, a revision of the 1946 "Introduction to Musical Scales," compares the basic scale structures of India, China, and ancient Greece, relating each to the philosophical worldview of its parent culture. In a nutshell, he finds Chinese and Indian music to be equally profound but utterly dissimilar, and Greek music to be a confused merging of the two. Modern Western music, because it is based on the flawed Greek system, he finds decadent--capable of moving the listener, but only by overcomplicated means in comparison especially to the directness of Indian classical music. WARNING: Though a Frenchman, Danielou wrote this book in his idiosyncratic English. Be prepared for some puzzling passages.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9cd44e94) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ccea9f0) out of 5 stars Brilliant though too much hinduistic April 20 2008
By Dr Jacques COULARDEAU - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Alain Daniélou is known first of all for his musical semantics based not on notes but on intervals, hence not on punctual sounds but on the articulation of one note onto another to form an interval and then on the articulation of intervals one upon another. In this book of articles and studies brought together, some of them being unpublished before, he used his approach to further some other ideas.

The basic principle is that an interval is the ratio produced by the frequencies of the two notes that define that interval. He tested and identified the psycho-mental effects of these intervals on listeners and connected them to three numerical elements appearing in such ratios (basically 2, 3 and 5).

But he further brings into his approach an important inspiration from the old Sanskrit approach of music. We have to note here he assumes that this Vedic tradition is the oldest human musical tradition, is the basic and sole because only possible musical approach, and it has been kept in later Hinduist music. We can see here he is totally unaware of the fact that Sumerian music is at least one thousand if not one and a half thousand years older.

Vedic music is not the original form of music. He also forgets that Hinduism is an old approach in India and he does not consider at all the Buddhist approach. All his symbolism with an ever present God as a creator would have to be challenged in the Buddhist understanding that there is no god and the world is not seen as created. Yet his symbolic approach that brings together musical notes, geometrical shapes, colors, animals, planets, basic elements, etc., ... and gods, is interesting if we let the divine elements out of a modern assimilation.

The book is a lot more interesting when he shows how an interval has to go through an acoustic trip from the ear up into the brain and the mind to be interpreted and felt. Then his formal approach can lead to a new question he does not ask: are the effects of the intervals what they are because of the correspondence between the functional structures of these intervals and the brain cells that process the acoustic stimuli, and the stimuli of other senses?

And further on, that could lead to the question: are the formal structural characteristics of sounds in agreement or disagreement with the same in a building (like in a church) that has perfect acoustics? In other words Danielou's agreement with the deistic and altogether rather purely experiential approach of the Hinduistic school limits his vision of his subject. What's more, that blocks him totally against any form of music posterior to let's say the romantics or at the latest Debussy.

He rejects all music composed over the last hundred years that does not follow the basic musical principles from the Renaissance to the Impressionistic era. In fact he states that all Vedic vision of music is the acme of music and he rejects the western principles of harmony that triumphed at the end of the 15th century. There is not much left then except going back to an exiled Tibetan monastery in some lost Himalayan mountain. I don't think anyone wants to be that regressive. It could have been a marvelous book with a little distantiation from his hinduistic absolute reference.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ccea9d8) out of 5 stars A great classic May 9 2013
By ck - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a classic that I had read a long time ago in its original French. I was surprised and quite pleased at the excellent quality of the translation, and delighted to find it available. Delivery and condition were both entirely sastisfactory..
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ce0ab34) out of 5 stars Worth the read if you want to go beyond just the usual standard theory.... Nov. 14 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you looking to dive deeper into how sound and music work, this is a great book.
Expand your knowledge here, as there much food for thought!
Although I have finished the book as of yet, I am finding it an enjoyable, you might too!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ccc948c) out of 5 stars Astounding Aug. 1 2013
By Howard Tampling - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alain Danielou has done a wonderful job of researching ancient scales of music and has really opened my mind to microtonal scales and purer harmonies than equal tempering offers. A favourite book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ce09960) out of 5 stars It is perfect book about ancient musical system in Chine Feb. 19 2015
By ondra - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is perfect book about ancient musical system in Chine, India and Greece. Such a good reading for better undestanding these topics.