Susan Slesinger – Circle(s) – Music of the Spheres
This quilt illustrates the ancient theory of the music of the spheres, and the circle of fifths. The latter is one of the important cornerstones of Western art music from the Baroque until the early twentieth century.
Music of the spheres, also known as harmony of the spheres, or musica universalis, is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies, as a form of music. Until the Baroque era music was intertwined with mathematics, physics and philosophy forming the basis for higher education. Pythagoras was the first person to note that the sound of a musical note was in proportion to the length of the string that produces it, and that intervals between harmonious sound frequencies form simple numerical ratios. In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum based on their orbital revolution, and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear. Plato described astronomy and music as “twinned” studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions.
The Circle of Fifths is commonly used in Western music theory since the Baroque era to illustrate the relationship and order of the musical scales to each other. It first appeared in late seventeenth century music theory treatises. The starting note of each scale is a perfect fifth above or below its neighbor. The perfect fifth is a mathematical ratio based on divisions of a string, first described by Pythagoras. Scales with sharps go round the circle clockwise, while scales with flats go round the circle counter-clockwise.
Techniques used: Oil stick rubbings, machine applique, free motion machine quilting, inkjet printing on fabric
Materials: Commercial cotton fabrics, oil sticks, 100 weight polyester and silk threads, cotton batting.
Image of Circle of Fifths courtesy of Linkware Graphics Music Images
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