Reinhard Vanbergen – Meditation on Modern Modes is out now.
Click here to listen or download
All 7 tracks on this album are exactly 10 minutes long, one for each day of the week. The number 7 seems to like the shape of the circle.
When I started researching what my underlaying story could be, I came across the 7 church modes. In the western classical music, we know 2 modes, our minor scale (Aeolian) and our major scale (Ionian). We lost 5 scales, 5 colors, over the course of history going back to the Greek. The Western music system relied more and more on vertical harmony, while the modal system uses primarily a horizontal based harmony. The piano is the easiest way to explain the modes: the scale starting from any white key of the piano to the same note an octave higher or lower, gives us a mode with its typical division and order of whole and half notes, specific to the modes. (tone, tone, half tone, tone, tone, tone, half tone for example is the Ionian, our major scale.) The circle of fifths is yet another circle, one of 12 but with the 7 notes as building block. the number 12 seems to like circles too: the months, 12 hours, star signs… If you go left on the circle of fifths, the first 7 notes give you the Locrian mode and if you go right the first 7 notes give you the Lydian mode. Those 2 modes are each other’s opposites, most minor and dark to most major and light. In between those 2 you can rank the other 5 from les minor to the more major. As turns out, this also follows the circle of fifths. This order is: Locrian, Phrygian, Aeolian, Dorian, Mixolydian, Ionian, and Lydian. On a piano the scales starting from B, E, A, D, G, C and F. But what day could be paired with what mode? There is a dozen more circles of 7: the colors of the rainbow, the electromagnetic spectrum, the 7 crystal structures, 7 basic emotions and the chakras for example. The latter translated even means circle.
The ranking of the 7 church modes from dark to light seems a match with the chakras, Locrian being the root, and Lydian the crown. The up warts visualization of the chakras and the circle within are very similar to the 7 church modes. The upwards motion is the minor to major movement. Bothe the Locrian and the Lydian scale have a connection with the diminished 5th and the augmented 4th (being enharmonically the same), and thus closing the circle. Chakras also have known links to the 5 visible planets and the moon and the sun. The root is linked with Mars, navel with Mercury, Solar Plexus with Jupiter, Heart with Venus, Throat with Saturn, Third eye with the Sun, and crown with the Moon. Those 7 celestial bodies have a link to the days of the week: Saturday, Sunday and Monday are obviously linked to Saturn, the Sun and Moon. In French you have Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, and Vendredi standing for Mars, Mercurius, Jupiter and Venus… When we start on a Tuesday with the Locrian scale and the red root chakra, it all falls beautifully into place. As the days of the week also follow the logical order of the week in the order of the chakras, again in a circle. Using scales and modes for the wellbeing was familiar to the Ancient Greek. If you went to a doctor, you would get herbs and you had to listen to a certain scale for some days until you were better.
They had 4 modes named after tribes of that time with the same characteristics. These are still used today: Phrygian, Dorian, Mixolydian and Lydian. They linked those scales to the 4 elements: Lydian with air, Mixolydian with earth, Dorian with water, and Phrygian with fire. They also had 4 parallel scales with the same names and elements, but with hypo in front. After the Middle Ages the catholic church transformed those scales into church modes, and replaced the 4 hypo scales by 3, because in the Greek system the Hypomixolydian and the Dorian where the same but with an octave difference. 7 scales for 7 notes. The Hypolydian became the Ionian, our known major scale (air), the Hypodorian became the Aeolian, our known minor scale (water) and the Hypophrygian became the Locrian, also called the devil’s scale by the church, (fire). Because of those changes the church modes are also called the modern modes.
If these scales have certain powers, the link to the 4 elements is one way to look at it. Ancient Greece was not the only culture who had a health system around the elements. Incorporating nature’s elements into health treatments, is still today custom to Chinese medicine too. They used their elements to get a balance in daily life. Getting sick was considered a failure of the doctor, unlike our western system where the doctor only comes in to treat the symptoms. Sickness was considered a disharmony and a later stage of something that could have been prevented.
The link with the chakras, the planets and the colors could also potentially explain the characteristics and attribute some deeper meaning to them. Although his needs more study, as this link is a theory I came up with. I can’t find any existing documentation on this. There are known links between Ancient Greece and India, as they both used tetrachords as the very basic building blocks for their music systems, but it would again require some scientific research before it can support my theory.
Another way of looking at it is the minor-major variations that must have a slightly different impact on the mood than the minor and major we are familiar with. This is already used a lot in film music and is known to play with our subconscious. It is not unthinkable that a longer concentration on a certain scale might influence your wellbeing in a certain way. Everything is frequency after all.