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History Of The Pythagoreans & Their Musical Harmony Discovery

Iamblichus is known for having written books about the Pythagoreans--a mystical sect of early Greek philosophers who investigated numbers.

hammer and rocks

Photo: Steve Taschuk (Flickr)

Hit the hammer, hear a sound!

Iamblichus is known for having written books about the Pythagoreans–a mystical sect of early Greek philosophers who investigated numbers. They were very secretive, and without him we might not know how much they actually accomplished.

Boink!

According to Iamblichus, the Pythagoreans noticed that the hammers being used by blacksmiths in town made a ringing sound when they were struck.

If the weight of two hammers bore a simple numerical relationship to each other–such as, say, one being twice as heavy, or three quarters as heavy, as another–their sounds when struck were in harmony. If no such relationship existed, the sounds they made were not harmonious.

Harmony

So in modern terms we would say that musical tones are vibrations in the air, and that basic numerical relationships between two vibrations cause them to sound either harmonious or dissonant.

  • Peggy Beatty

    I wonder if people’s vibrations can be at one time harmonious and at others dissonant?

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