Our Musical Circle of Fifths and Plato-



The dodecahedron (regular solid made of 12 regular pentagons) was considered to contain the shape of the universe. Today, it holds the shape of our musical universe (circle of fifths).

Our Musical Circle of Fifths and Plato- Is this connection crazy? After all, Plato was born about 428 BC. Our Circle of Fifths, which most of our present day music is based on, came into being in France and Germany in the later 1700’s and then spread to England in the 1800’s. Plato wrote extensively about the five regular polyhedrons; the dodecahedron, pictured above, being the most complex of the five. He speculated on their nature in Timaeus c.360BC.


Here is the parallel:

  1. The 5th tone in the C major scale (which has no sharps or flats) is “G” as C,D,E,F,G.  The last tone, “G” defines the home tone of the next major scale in the circle, G major.
  2. The 5th tone of the G major scale (which has an F sharp in the key signature)  is “D” as G.A.B.C.D.  The last tone “D” defines the home tone of the next major scale, D major.
  3. The 5th tone of the D major scale (which has F and C sharps) is A as D,E,F,G,A. The last tone A, defines the home tone of the next major scale, A major.

This sequence keeps on going through all 12 key signatures of our circle of fifths. In the picture above, C#,Gb, and Cb are called enharmonic and are attached as doubles called by different letter names  written out  at the bottom of the illustration:  C# and Db major are played on the same piano keys; as are F# and Gb major; and B and Cb major.  Thought they are 15 by name, they are 12 by actual number.


So where is Plato in all of this? The geometry of the dodecahredon parallels our circle of fifths as follows: If the defining 5 tones of the key are each set in the vertex of a pentagon, then the 12 scales perfectly outline the figure of the dodecahedron. As the Platonic solids considered perfect and totally symmetrical, and symbolized the totality of the universe; then we can say the same of our Circle of Fifths . It too is perfect, totally balanced and places us in this state of mind when we listen to it. Our Musical Circle of Fifths and Plato- translates to a new definition of music: Music is paradise in sound. The art offers no less.


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