The Pythagorean Musical Modes, the Four Temperaments
The Pythagorean Musical Modes, the Four Temperaments
This article is number four in a series of short articles setting out the ancient method for balancing the mind with musical modes. The first article was a broad introduction; the next dealt with the Phlegmatic temperament; and the third, the Choleric. The present article deals with balancing the Sanguine.
I will also deal with the ancient Pythagorean concept of the Four Temperaments and the Pythagorean modes.
Sanguine personalities are typically the 'life and soul of the party'. When balanced, the sanguine humour leads to:-
* Good Cheer
* Affable nature
* Loving personality
* Friendly personality
* Good humour
When the Sanguine is unbalanced it leads to :-
* Inability to see things through to the end
* Trouble with punctuality
* Absent mindedness
* A tendency to give friendship rashly. (Too naive and trusting)
The Lydian mode brings about the good sanguine qualities. So, if we want more of those qualities. we should listen to the Lydian mode. If, however, we are suffering from too much of those qualities, (perhaps we have been partying a little too much recently, or need to be brought down to earth), we could use the hypolydian mode. This mode would also help correct an out-of-balance Sanguine if we happen to have been experiencing negative Sanguine qualities.
The Astrology of the Temperaments
According to the Astrology of the Pythagorean School, each Temperament is governed by two planets: One exaggerates the temperament, and the other minimises it.
The phlegmatic is increased by the SUN and minimised by the MOON;
The choleric is magnified by MARS and reduced by MERCURY;
The sanguine is increased by JUPITER and minimised by VENUS;
And the melancholic is increased by SATURN. There is no planet to balance Saturn, but we will come to that in a few moments.
The Musical Modes and the Planets
There are eight modes but only seven recognized planets in astrology. This is the reason why the melancholic humour has only one planet associated with it.
The SUN rules the dorian mode. So one of the dorian's strengths is that it is good for aiding wakefulness and alertness. The hypodorian, on the other hand, is ruled by the MOON. So it helps us to fall asleep. That is why these two modes balance the phlegmatic temperament, which is also ruled by the Sun and Moon.
MARS rules the phrygian. Mars, being 'warlike,' works towards the nature of the Choleric. The hypophrygian, however, is ruled by MERCURY. As Mercury is a messenger, this mode is useful for decreasing the autonomous nature of the Choleric, and replacing it with a willingness to communicate on equal terms with others.
The Lydian mode is ruled by JUPITER. Jupiter is traditionally the 'bringer of jollity'', hence the importance of this mode for increasing sanguine tendencies. The hypolydian, however, is ruled by VENUS. Venus is known as the Goddess of love. She is therefore connected with much more profound emotions (perhaps even 'sadder', more tragic emotions) than the frothy experience of the Sanguine. So this mode is good for moderating the sanguine.
The Structure of the Modal Scales
The modes can easily be arrived at by basing them all on an ordinary major scale. Let us take the scale of C major for simplicity, as it is made up solely of white notes on the piano keyboard.
This is how C major goes:
C D E F G A B C
The dorian mode is the same, but starting and finishing on the second note (D). For therapeutic purposes, we only have one of each note, so it goes like this:
D E F G A B C
By the same principle, the phrygian starts on E;
The lydian mode starts on the fourth note, F;
And the mixolydian goes from G to F.
These four modes are called the 'authentic modes'. The four 'hypo-' modes are called 'plagal'. These balance their authentic companions, and each one starts a 4th below its authentic mode. So, to give an example, the hypodorian starts a 4th below the dorian, on the note A'.
From the point of view of ancient Greek music therapy, a melody should always start on A (the 'dynamic middle') and finish on the bottom note of the mode (the 'Final'). The note A' is defined as being the 6th note in the root major scale, which, in this example is C major. This note represents the SUN. By starting with the note A and frequently revisiting it, ultimately to end on the Final, the Solar Power ('A') is drawn down to the planet represented by the Final of the mode. So, in the case of the Lydian, the Sun ('A') is focused on Jupiter (F, or the 4th of the root major).
If you are on the ball, you will have noticed that the dorian and the hypomixolydian are identical, as they both run from D to C. But the hypomixolydian is a special mode and has a different rule. Hypomixolydian melodies start on A as usual, as with the other modes, but they should NOT finish on D! They should finish on the Final of the Mixolydian, which happens to be G.
The hypomixolydian mode is not linked to a planet as such, but is held to be the cosmic mode of Heavenly Bliss. It can therefore be used for all therapeutic purposes, and is associated with the whole Cosmos, (known as the Sphere of the Fixed Stars in ancient times. This is the mode that is used to reduce the power of SATURN.
My next article will cover: the Melancholic. We will also go a little more deeply into creating modal compositions.