PYTHAGORAS & THE FOUR HAMMERS

Composer: 

Alternate Title: 

PYTHAGORAS & THE FOUR HAMMERS

Year Authored (or revised): 

1980

Scoring: 

perc quartet

Pythagoras and the Four Hammers (1980)

The inspiration for this work came from the following story which I found in MUSIC IN THE MEDIEVAL WORLD, by Albert Seay (Prentice Hall History of Music Series).  The author is discussing the musical philosophy of Boethius ( 470?-525).

" At the root of Boethius' ideas is the concept that music is number made audible.  This is illustrated by a legend of Pythagoras, echoed by later writers.  It seems that Pythagoras was wandering one day in the forest, and, passing by a forge, heard such wonderful harmonies from four hammers beating on anvils that he stopped to investigate.  Determining that the sounds were caused by the heads of the hammers, he then weighed them, discovering that their weights were, respectively, 12, 9, 8, and 6 pounds.  The sound of the octave was given by the relation of the 12-pound hammer to that of the 6, or 2:1.  The perfect fifth resulted from the comparison of that of 12 and that of 8, or of those of 9 and 6, or 4:3, and the whole tone from that of 9 and 8.  That these sounds were harmonious is explained, according to Pythagoras and his followers, by their numerical ratio, for the simpler the numerical relationship, the more beautiful is the sound. Music demonstrates in sound the pure world of number and derives its beauty from that world."

The score is in four parts, played without pause.

Part One:    Forest Murmurs - for unpitched instruments.

Part Two:    The Anvil Chorus- introduces pitched instruments,beginning with the tubular chime.

Part Three:  Song without Words - quiet music for pitched instruments.

Part Four:   The Triumph of Nature - ostinato rhythms.

Pythagoras and the Four Hammers  is dedicated to Barry Jekowsky.

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