Philosophy: Is there an inner Nature of a tone/chord/key/music?

Hello dear BassBuzz-Family,

now, these questions from my recent personal story may be philosophy to think about: I have a blind patient in my eye practice and when I turn on our air filter it makes a C Major chord. That time when he was there and I was turning it on he immediately told me excited it was C Major. Wondering about his musical skill, we came into smalltalk and this dude was mind blowing to me: He lost his vision as a kid, but has somehow acquired a perfect pitch then, and he can tell you every note you play to him. However, he SEES colors when he hears music. C was reddish, and depending on the tone (Major = bright red, Minor = dark red), D orange, E yellow, up to B violett. When he hears a song, he sees colors playing around and changing their shape. He was always asking himself if there was a real nature of music, and if a key has its own personality, its own spirit, like the colors he sees.
Now I remember a friend of mine too who took LSD some years ago while listening to music and he also saw similar colors like this blind buddy (!) , only the colors themselves varied.

Getting into deeper research for it I came to Christian Schubart’s characteristics of keys:

And then I found these mind blowing lectures from Rudolf Steiner:

In contrast, I study mathematics and physics and just had a quick reading over these books in my Uni library:

And just thought myself: WTF. I cannot describe this feeling I found myself in, but there is something so deep hidden in music that we human beings can only hardly understand. Like: What if the circle of fifths is just a 2-dimensional projection of a 3-dimensional “ball”? A ball of notes, its center in the middle the “God”-Note all notes come from, just like in astrophysics the Big Bang, the one point from which space and time and the universe may have come into existence. What supports my opinion of this 3-D to 2-D projection is Carl Sagan: Check this video out:

I am absolutely sure the same principles apply to the circle of fifths, too: That it is actually a ball, projected to a circle. 3D to 2D.

Now, I am asking you: What do you think: Does a certain note / a certain chord / a certain key have an individual character or is every tone just a variation of the 12 tones we western people are used to? Is there an individual emotional nature of a tone and its modes and scales (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, and so on), or are they all the same? What feeling does a certain rhythm/beat create? What IS the nature/spirit of music?
Did you have any personal unique experiences of music that no one else possibly had (like seeing colors when hearing music), too? What do you think?

From my view, I can absolutely confirm that there is a hidden nature in each tone. C Major creates a different feeling than D# Major for example. And B Lydian creates a different feeling than F Locrian.
I hope you find inspiration to think about the soul of music and ask yourselves if it actually has a soul or not; if all I come up here is deeptalk we bassists are always used to (:wink: since we’re the deepest playing people in music), or if it’s all senseless waffle and I’ve just gotten crazy :joy::joy::joy:

The colors my blind patient and my buddy on his LSD-Trip (please don’t you ever think about taking it! :person_gesturing_no:) were seeing taught me a lesson that there are answers in music that whatever deep you go into research, you will only find more and more beauty; the laws and (mathematical) principles the universe and infinity are built apply to music, too.
But it is like eye medicine tells: Whatever kind of glasses you wear, they only show you the world differently; and just like an onion does not have a core, just layers by layers going deeper, we may never find “the core” of music.

I am glad if I could ignite the light of deeptalk in you, and I am excited to read from you and having a deeptalk discussion here :heart::yum::sunflower:

Wish y’all the Bass and enjoying your thoughts :heart::hugs::heart:



Chromesthesia? I have heard of this before, it’s always sounded really interesting to me.


Wow, I guess this has to wait until I am retired… too much of a “deep” dive required here.

A few things just immediately come to mind.

  • there is also something called synesthesia (Synesthesia - Wikipedia)
  • remember that our view of music is fundamentally “western-centric”, essentially formed by a bunch of white dudes in the 18th century (see, e.g.,
  • check out Plato’s ideas, especially about Plato’s Realm and the allegory of the cave, and then quickly get into the philosophies of consciousness (Kant, Husserl, …). If you like a stimulating read, check out “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson. Here is the “Fly, Bat and Worm” thought experiment as an excerpt from the book:

As I said, a rabbit hole best left for retirement :joy:


I remember that during my wilder times I was on a techno event, “suffering” from a not so responsable mix of substances - I did not only see colors but also geometric patterns that made total sense (at the time). If you know “Milkdrop” animations, you get the picture…

Being an ex-psychologist / cognitive scientist AND a music lover I found this very peculiar.

For lack of better words, this was as close to the “soul of music” as it could get. I am not a very metaphysical person, but it is fascinating, what the brain can do if it is allowed to associate freely…
I would rather see it as a wave of neurons firing in patterns that are rather unrestricted (by consciousness) and would not look any further than the science of the brain itself to “explain”…



Just finished David Byrne’s book “How Music Works”. He goes into the origin of notes and how music (in things) is thought to being about the modern notes systems we have. You’re spot on with a lot of what he discusses. It’s a great read.

1 Like

@howard this is it! I’ve read about this phenomenon way earlier before I met him; Thank you very much for reminding me of the scientific word I missed! :hugs:
This ability he has is absolutely fascinating. :star_struck::art:

1 Like

A great book in this general area
more science + music than straight philosophy of music but really interesting stuff
Daniel J. Levitin - This is Your Brain on Music

This Is Your Brain on Music describes the components of music, such as timbre, rhythm, pitch, and harmony and ties them to neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, cognitive psychology, and evolution, while also making these topics accessible to nonexpert readers by avoiding the use of scientific jargon


@joergkutter thanks for your thoughts :sunflower::hugs::sunflower:

  • synesthesia is a phenomenon quite interesting, while chromesthesia is a sub-type of it (just like tasting sound imagine to literally “taste” music, absolutely astounding :open_mouth:)
  • yeah, this video is awesome! Thanks a lot for the in-depth explanation of how western music theory is, in some way, even limiting our understanding of the true nature of music; on the contrary, our western ears have grown up with western music in our experience. So, the western music itself may limit the field of view we can see the whole picture in limits; but a Chinese/Indian/Arabic/African/Russian/… music theory is diving into the depths as deep as possible, too, from another angle. I guess ALL cultural ways to perceive music lead back to the same root, to the same foundation (if such ever exists); to the soul of music. What do you think? Are boundaries themselves nothing else than one of many pathways to find an answer?
  • thank you very much for reminding me of these great works I read earlier in my life :hugs: , except for Anathem by Neal Stevenson - I gotta look it up in the library. :star_struck:
    The story of Arsibalt is good to compare to reality: I once saw in a documentary that deaf people can learn music, too: They feel it. In schools for deaf people, there are school lessons where these children lie on the ground and the teacher claps rhythms on the ground so that they can feel the sound waves going through their body: They are just experiencing music. Just like the blind one sees music in a unique way, a deaf one hears music differently in a unique way.
    Thanks a lot for the wisdom you’re giving me :pray::smiley::sunflower:
1 Like

@chris_van_hoven wow thanks a lot for sharing your experience :hugs:
Yeah, it’s our brain’s neurons firing in patterns; patterns that follow laws and rules; even our neurons play music somehow then :joy:
And the drug experience seemed to change the patterns they fired their signals. Quite similar to synesthesia, one can see the power of the brain unchained. Amazing!

Or, as Lyall Watson once said:
“If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.” :milky_way:

@joergkutter & @John_E & @g13dip thanks a lot for your book recommendations! :star_struck::star_struck::star_struck:
I am so excited to read them! :fire::nerd_face::fire:
@g13dip this book is the scientific explanation of how the brain is experiencing music; great! I’m gonna look for it! :hugs:


Yes, I think @howard and I had the same thought and our posts arrived at about the same time :smile:

You’re welcome! That… is quite a compliment! There is a lot to take in, and there is a lot more to find out there!!


@joergkutter thank you :hugs::hugs::hugs:

Now check this out:

The circle of fifths is in fact a sphere that can be inter-connected to a icosahedron. What lies in the centre of that sphere? :thinking::thinking::thinking:

Or take a look at this one:

Stunning, isn’t it? Perfect symmetry. :star_struck::star_struck::star_struck:


White noise = all frequencies :wink:

So, it comes back to geometry again! If you like stuff like this, you might want to take a dive into a program called “Tessitura Pro” (for Mac)
We hope to see you back here in a few years to report :grin:


@joergkutter THIS is THE thing I am hyping for! :star_struck::star_struck::star_struck:
Yeah! Thanks a damn lot; this app is amazing and heaven to me! :star_struck::star_struck::star_struck:



1 Like

Sounds good - glad to have been of help :smile:

1 Like

Alright, now that I’ve thought a bit about it, here are some results:
I’d recommend any of you interested in this to draw the circles themselves. Guiding your thoughts through drawing is a big help to understand it better than viewing only:

Now, draw a keyboard and look at the distances between a root note (here: C) and if you walk to the right a fifth, or to the left a fifth. Then you get G or F, respectively. If we continue this, we’ll get to F# / Gb, and from this spot they lead in some more steps back to C.
So, there are two spots where we meet again: C and F# / Gb. Therefore, it is a circle: The circle of fifths:

Now, if we take any other interval, like a second, then we’re gonna have the same pattern, C and F# / Gb, again:

Now: What if we take the circle of fifths, and then expand each root note in it in a chromatic scale (the scale that you climb up from a root note in semitones only, leading to cover all 12 notes in western music in one scale only), then you get this:

I call it “The expanded circle of fifths”. Now here comes a problem: If you go downwards from C, you end up walking over Gb; if you go upwards from C, you end up walking over F#. If you’d continue walking, then it would be Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and so on, and symmetrical C#, G#, D#, A#, and so on.
But the phenomenon of F# / Gb still catches one’s eye:

Now let’s see what the relation C to F# / GB means.
In music theory, the interval 6 semitones is called the Tritone, or, the “Devil of music”. Because listening to it creates an intensive uneasy feeling. Even the church clerics in medieval ages forbade this interval in music because of the effects it has to the listener. But what is its nature?
Let’s check with the circle of fifths. Let’s assume that F# equals Gb. Then I’ll prove it with simple geometry (proving it with math would require formulas that I’m not able to give here, and that would confuse rather then help the reader to understand it; that’s why I’ll take a visual approach that is intuitive to the reader) that this is not the case.
Let’s generalize the notes we know, like C, C#, D, … , B, to ordinary numbers, like C=0, C#=1, D=2, and so on up to B=11. Then take the expanded circle of fifths and express all the notes in these mentioned numbers. Then we finally get this:

Take a close look at the structures. You’ll see that whenever you go clockwise, you’ll add 7 (= a fifth upwards as an interval in music); whenever you go counter-clockwise, you subtract 7 (= a fifth downwards as an interval in music).

Now, take a look at the bottom of the circle: If we’d continue adding or subtracting 7, we end up at 6 in the first slot of the circle of fifths. BUT: If we do the same with all expansions of the circle, we end up with different numbers. These pairs of numbers are symmetrical, and they have 6 as their middle.
But, given the assumption that they actually need to lead up to 6 only, we have a contradiction. This is proof that F# IS NOT equal to Gb.

Now, if we think a bit more philosophical: What is the nature of the Tritone? If we take the inner circle of fifths, we see that from every root number, the number on the other side of the circle has 6 as a relation between them. So, just like Matter and Anti-Matter in physics, they cannot co-exist without destroying each other. But in cosmology, right after the Big Bang there was a very close perfect symmetry of amount of Matter and Anti-Matter that destroyed each other in the release of energy; but there was a single amount of more Matter, that one particular crash in symmetry, that has led to the universe we live in today.
Separating Matter and Anti-Matter in modern physics takes immense energy - just as enduring a Tritone for a prolonged period of time would damage someone’s health and well-being, because music is a language of feelings.
So, the Tritone is the tone a root note hates. The anti-you of a note. They are the pure opposite of each other that cannot co-exist with each other. However, we are not hearing a PERFECT Tritone, only the next note closest to it.
If you look again at the bottom of the expanded circle of fifths, you see that even these notes themselves split up rather than meeting at 6. The world behind the Tritone itself is a world we cannot understand.
So, the universe of music is - in a way - symmetrical to our universe: That the Matter we exist of is just a result of a big clash of Matter and Anti-Matter and where Matter has won. In music, a Tritone is the anti-matter that cannot touch the root note.

There’s another point of view that comes into my mind: In mathematics, do you remember from school days that you cannot divide a number by 0 (zero)? You can divide a number by another number that is close to zero - from a positive or a negative value, like 0.01 or -0.01 - but you can never touch the line of zero, because the smaller the number it gets, the closer to infinity the result of x : +/- 0.0000…00001 gets. Just the same as in the bottom of the expanded circle of fifths: If we were to expand it more and more to infinity, we’d get pairs that are more and more separated, all their centres in 6. They can never touch each other, 6 being the mirror between them.

What do you think?
Which patterns do you see within the circle of fifths? I see that my thoughts here were just covering the top of a giant ice mountain. Here’s another thought: What if you take 12 pencils in different colours, giving a number a certain colour (like 3=yellow), and fill the slots of each circle’s number with them? Do you see a pattern?

I am glad to have you here contemplating about it. Let’s do some art in drawing by numbers. :yum:

I wish y’all the Bass :art::hugs::heart:


I didn’t understand anything and I was totally lost after word #1000 - but where can I listen to the “Devil of music”?
That guy sounds cool!


I love that you are doing this - working things out for yourself instead of just consuming what someone else has worked out.

I might not agree with some of your conclusions, or trains of thought, but I appreciate that you think about this stuff and try to find deeper structures. Of course, every now and then, it is a good idea to check one’s own findings with respect to what body of work already exists along the same lines (basically what you’d get if you were to publish this).

Personally, I need to focus more on things that are immediately applicable to my playing :smile:


Like @joergkutter said, it’s fantastic that you’re working this stuff out for yourself. Few people make the effort.

In the past two centuries, secular music scholars (like Ernst Naumann, Hugo Riemann, Heinrich Schenker, etc.) and composers looked to patterns in the Circle of Fifths to systematize and expand the compositional palette of functional harmony. Look up “tonnetz”, “harmonic table” and “axis system”, and you’ll find some useful ways patterns in the Circle of Fifths have been extended.

In fact, your explorations in your post above anticipate what’s explained in the axis system, an approach to composition used extensively by Béla Bartók. (Warning: This is a heady, brain-melting music theory topic for most people.)

Regarding your “12 pencils in different colours” challenge, YouTuber Mike George has a whole channel dedicated to evangelizing the practice of associating the 12 chromatic notes in Western music (Circle of Fifths) with the color wheel to help explain music theory.