Alchemical Harmonaia: An Exploration of Alchemical Modes and other Symbols in Music




Glosson, Justin R.

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Music and the Ineffable or Mystical world have always been tied hand in hand. The Greek Philosophers believed music to be the second greatest science of the quadrivium – second only to astronomy in the ability to capture the essence of the universe. Signs and symbols permeate mysticism and initiatory societies, such as the Rosicrucian and Masonic fraternities. The exploration of these signs and their symbolic use within these mystical and initiatory societies has yet to have been expounded upon in recent scholarship. Mysticism in an alchemical, or hermetic, sense has had little attention in the music-theoretical studies. This thesis will start filling this void. The first chapter shall attempt to identify and link the connections between spirituality, mysticism and music. Within this, a definition and exploration of hermetic alchemy follows in the explanation of mysticism. The second chapter shall define numerological symbols and alchemical correspondence found in musical modes. These modes are then explored intrinsically and compared to the Qabbalistic teachings of the Hebrew mystics, and finally the modes and their correspondence are compared to Jungian psychological archetypes in order to confirm the meanings and purpose of the symbols within initiation. The third chapter includes symbolic analyses of three pieces from various periods of musical composition by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Claude Debussy. The concluding chapter shall summarize the findings and include symbolic analyses of two pieces of music expressly written for initiation into the fraternity of Freemasonry used in the Grand Lodge of Illinois (1915). The resources will include published scores, secondary literature, and unpublished manuscripts of masonic researchers.



Music theory, Musicology, Symbolism, Freemasonry, Enlightenment, Spirituality, Modes, Numerology, Bach, Debussy, Mozart, Mysticism, Magic, Alchemy


Glosson, J. R. (2013). <i>Alchemical harmonaia: An exploration of alchemical modes and other symbols in music</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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