Music Myth

The “Devil’s Interval” & the ancient Solfeggio scale

According to Mental Floss, music is that powerful thing that can raise our spirits, carry us through athletic pursuits, or make us weep. Its very fabric is a source of power and intrigue, too, since just a measly few tones can do anything from shatter glass to manifest the Devil’s Tritone.

The Devil’s Tritone or the Devil’s Interval, diabolus in musica, is a combination of tones that has led to some of the most chilling melodies in music history, from classical compositions to heavy metal riffs.

As much as it’s inspired composers to explore the dark side in music, however, the Devil’s Tritone—a.k.a. the diminished fifth—also has a stirring effect on audiences for some very technical reasons. Some say that the devil’s in the details, and if you listen closely, you’ll indeed spot the Devil’s Tritone giving a certain edge to many popular tunes from different genres. It heats up Busta Rhymes’s “Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check,” the theme songs to The Simpsons and South Park, and West Side Story’s “Maria.” It also gives Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” its signature sting. It’s a favorite among metal bands, too, and can be found in any number of Black Sabbath songs (though guitarist Tony Iommi told BBC News that he simply used “something that sounded right … really evil and very doomy,” and that he “didn’t think [he] was going to make it Devil music”). Prog-rocking Rush even manages to shred its way through both ascending and descending tritones multiple times in its four-and-a-half minute, decidedly epic song “YYZ.”

According to NPR, in music theory, it’s called the “tritone” because it’s made of three whole steps.

“The reason it’s unsettling is that it’s ambiguous, unresolved,” says Gerald Moshell, Professor of Music at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. “It wants to go somewhere. It wants to settle either here, or [there]. You don’t know where it’ll go, but it can’t stop where it is.”

There used to be rules against writing music that contained this interval. Moshell says that during the Renaissance, all music had one purpose: to be beautiful and express the majesty of God. Anything otherwise was studiously avoided. But once music was no longer shackled to the church, it was free to express all kinds of tension. The devil’s interval was ideal for that.

The higher vibration of the scale

According to buddhistdoor.net, ancient mystics, sages and scientists have long agreed upon the idea of our physical universe originating from the vibrational energy of sound.

Throughout the history of civilization, many ancients, shamans, and indigenous peoples have used sound, color, and visuals for healing, accessing altered states of reality, and transpersonal consciousness. This includes chants and of course drumming, with its neurologically stimulating beats that typically help manipulate the brain state of a practitioner and, in many cases, enable a trance state. Check out the ancient Aztec death whistles here.

According to buddhistdoor.net, In later centuries, music was organized into what we term the seven-note diatonic musical scale. Between the 10th and 13th centuries in Europe, polyphonic Gregorian chanting was the in thing—that was until an Italian Benedictine monk named Guido d’Arezzo (c. 991–c. 1050) decided to economize. He introduced the concept of solmization—attributing specific syllables to each note. Guido introduced six core frequencies, and a seventh was added later. This came to be referred to as the Solfeggio scale. Of course, the concept was not isolated to Europe. As it turns out, Durr-i-Mufassal is the Arabic solmization system, possibly improved on from ancient Greece. Sargam is the ancient Indian version.

The affect of audio vibrations on water crystals. Image courtesy of the author
The affect of audio vibrations on water crystals. https://tinyurl.com/yx93vfhq

Frequency correlation in sound light & color

The English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) associated the seven solfège syllables with the seven colors of the rainbow, and surmised that each color vibrated accordingly. Thus, red has the lowest vibration frequency while violet has the highest frequency. Read about Chakras here.

The jury seems to be out (to a degree) on the efficacy of solfeggio frequencies for healing—for example, there is dispute regarding the fixed-tone healing effects of a solfeggio frequency, and the parallels in relation to the time-frequency uncertainty principle of quantum physics—but via scientific knowledge of quantum coherence, and by extension “cymatics” (geometry through vibration), there is a growing body of evidence that seems to support the influence of sound on physical health—as well as emotional and spiritual health. Because sound energy has a demonstrable effect on matter. 

Frequency creates form. The below image illustrates an experiment of sound, scaling the octaves, and its subsequent effect on matter—salt in this case. A good sprinkling of salt is poured onto a flat surface above a loudspeaker. No surprise, the salt moves as the sound is played. The surprise is how the salt “jumps” into complex geometric patterns at each pitch. A similar phenomenon can be observed with water. Resembling snowflakes, matter behaves according to the frequency of the sound. This is known as cymatics; geometry through vibration.

image2-19

Images of Sound Frequency on sand. https://tinyurl.com/y5qrtwwe

High Vibrational music used to be the norm in classical music because it was a way to give glory to the heavens. The Catholic church even banned the Devil’s interval or the tritone for some time.

If you find this article fun and interesting, let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!

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14 thoughts on “The “Devil’s Interval” & the ancient Solfeggio scale”

  1. This is absolutely fascinating. Great to learn something new. I believe Music is critical to life. And to moods and healing and vibrational frequencies. What would a film be without music to set the mood? I recognise that “Danse Macabre” as it has been in so many films and TV shows. Very famous. Very intriguing article here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you liked it Supernatural. I have been listening to the highest vibrational 963 hz on YouTube while I write or do my stretching/ yoga -for the past few days and I’m really serious about this…I woke up this morning with that contented “Home,” feeling I used to have as a kid. I attribute it to the balancing out of my vibrational energies. I’m only sorry it’s taken me so long to figure out I have access to total balance with almost no effort. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

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