Blog » Astro-Music Composition (Chart to Music)

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ASTRO-MUSIC COMPOSITION (CHART TO MUSIC)

FOREWORD

In response to many questions I received via e-mail and Facebook about my article “The Astrological Zodiac & Music Tonality – Tone Zodiac” about the implementation of the Tone-Zodiac I have decided to write this article to present several ideas on this subject. 

I am not an astrologer or astronomer (I am but a musician-composer and sound engineer with a keen interest in this subject). This article is in the first place written for musicians that – like myself – are intriqued by this topic and perhaps for some astrologers it might turn out to be an interesting read as well. 

I do welcome additional info, suggestions and corrections (in case of mistakes made in this article). Thank you! 


If you are familiar with both astrology and music theory you may skip the introduction with background information about astrology and music theory if you wish and jump to:

↧ SKIP THE INTRODUCTION AND GO TO THE CONCEPT EXPLANATION


INTRODUCTION (BACKGROUND INFORMATION)

ASTROLOGICAL SYSTEMS AND THE NUMBER OF PLANETS

The planets of our Solar system are key to most astrological systems, but the number of planets “used” differs between Astrological systems.

In “classic” western astrology 7 “classic planets” (or “Ptolemaic planets”) are used: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets also represent the 7 days of the week.

In “modern” western astrology 10 or more planets are used: the 7 “classic planets” + Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and by some astrologers Ceres, Chiron, ErisHaumea, and/or Makemake.

Some other astrological systems use different number of planets (in this article we will not go deeper into those systems though):

Chinese astrology works with 5 planets representing the elements: Mercury (water), Venus (metal), Mars (fire), Jupiter (wood) and Saturn (earth).

Hindu astrology works with the 7 “classic planets”: Sun (Surya), Moon (Soma), Mars (Mangala), Mercury (Budha), Jupiter (Brihaspati), Venus (Shukra) and Saturn (Shani) + Rahu and Ketu, a total of 9 planets.  

PLANETS AND MUSICAL INTERVAL SYSTEMS

In modern western music a Musical Interval Systems that contains 12 tones is used, the 12-Tone Equal Temperament. For the explanation of this concept I will use 12 signs, 12 planets and 12 tones, but will provide more information for those who want to use less planets (5, 7, 9). Below a small table with some scales, temperaments and geometric shapes that contain the same number of tones as possible planets used.

SYSTEM PLANETSSCALETEMP.POLYGON <POLYGRAM

Modern Western

12

Chromatic

12 TET

Dodecagon

Dodecagram

Classic Western

7

Diatonic
/ Greek modes

7 TET

Heptagon

Heptagram

Chinese

5

Pentatonic*

5 TET

Pentagon

Pentagram

Hindu

9

Melodic Minor** / 9-Tone Aug.*
/ Scriabin***

9 TET

Nonagon

Enneagram

*These scales with 5, 7 or 9 tones per octave could either use tones from the 12-tone Equal Temperament or be used as a microtonal tuning system.

**The Melodic Minor has when ascending raised 6th and 7th tones but descending these tones are no longer raised. You could say that the scale contains two 6ths and 7ths, raising the total from 7 to 9 different tones.

***Scriabin created two 9-tone scales for his composition Opus-67 (semitone steps: 121211112 and 121121121).


DOCECA (12)HEPTA (7)PENTA (5)NONA / ENNEA (9)
    

If you like to know more about the relationship between music and geometric shapes, then read the article “Music & Geometry“.



SYMBOLS

Not all visitors of this blog have experience with astrology, therefore, here first the symbols of the Zodiac signs used in this article:

Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpio Sagittarius Capricornus Aquarius Pisces
Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpio Sagittarius Capricorn Aquarius Pisces

… as well as all the planets used in this article:

Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Ceres Chiron
Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Ceres Chiron

If you’re not an astrologer or astronomer and not very familiar with astrology might not recorgnize “Ceres” and “Chiron”. Ceres is a “dwarf-planet” within in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Chiron (not to be mistaken for Pluto’s moon Charon) is orbiting the Sun between Saturn and Uranus.

For the 12-Tone scale example in this article I chose to use Ceres and Chiron, but feel free to select: ErisHaumea, and/or Makemake instead for your personal musical scale. 

If you are “in to” microtonal music and do not intend to perform your composition with traditional 12-Tone instruments, you could for example also include Eris, Haumea, and Makemake and create a 15-tone instead of a 12-tone scale and temperament.



ASTROLOGICAL ASPECTS, SIGN-GROUPS, AND MODES

Astrological aspects do not represent the tones themselves, but the “distances” between tones, in music we use the term intervals for that. Intervals in music have a function and a meaning, (kind of) like aspects have with Astrology. The meaning of the aspects and those of the musical intervals are not all “one-on-one” interchangeable, but could add an extra “layer” to their interpretation. 

Read Roel’s World article “The Function Of The Intervals” to get a broader understanding about the function and meaning of the intervals.

Opposition“, “Trine” and “Square” are commonly used terms by astrologers to define important relative positions of planets. Every aspect relates to a particular number of degrees. Opposition = 180°, the Trine = 120° and the Square = 90°

Kepler is said to have been impressed – as Ptolemy before him – by the fact that these three most powerful aspects are expressed by the same ratios as the three perfect consonances in music. 

ASPECTDEGREESRATIO CIRCLERATIO INTERVAL

 Opposition

180°360:180 = whole circle to half2:1 = Octave

  Trine

120°360:240 = whole to greater part3:2 = Perfect Fifth

  Square

90°360:270 = whole to greater part4:3 = Perfect Fourth

You can read more about Ptolemy, Kepler and others and their view on the tone-zodiac relationship in the article “The Astrological Zodiac & Musical Tonality“.

POLARITIESTRIPLICITIESQUADRUPLICITIES
LINETRIGONQUADRAGONHEXAGONDODECAGONDODECAGRAMSUPERIMPOSED 
Opposition Trine Square Sextile Semi-Sextile Quincunx 
 
180° 
6{2}

 
120° 
4{3}

 
90° 
3{4}

 
60° 
2{6}

 
30° 
t{6}

 
150° 
t{6/5}={12/5}

 
TRITONESMAJOR THIRDS
&
MINOR SIXTHS
MINOR
THIRDS

&
MAJOR 
SIXTHS
MAJOR
SECOND

&
MINOR
SEVENTH
PERFECT
FIFTHS

&
PERFECT
FOURTHS
MINOR
SECOND

&
MAJOR
SEVENTH
ALL ELEVEN
INTERVALS IN
GEOMETRIC SHAPES
TOGETHER.
OTHER ASPECTS

The “Decile” (36°), “Semisquare” (45°), “Quintile” (72°), “Tridecile” (108°), “Sesquiquartile” (135°) and Biquintile (144°) are aspects that can not be used in the “Zodiac Sign Based” concept (due to the 12-Tone Equal Temperamental restrictions), but are possible intervals to be used in the “Planet Degree Based” (microtonal) concept.

THE CIRCLE OF FIFTHS

The tone + zodiac-sign relationship as a result of layering the Zodiac circle and the Circle of Fifths is (in my opinion) the perfect combination. 

The Tone / Tonality and Sign combination I use is as follows (Steiner, Von Gleich Tone Zodiac):

RUDOLF STEINERSIGISMUND VON GLEICH

SIGNS

Aries

Taurus

Gemini

Cancer

Leo

Virgo

Libra

Scorpio

Sagittarius

Capricornus

Aquarius

Pisces

MAJOR

C

G

D

A

E

B

F♯
G

C♯
D

G♯
A

D♯
E

A♯
B

F

MINOR

Am

Em

Bm

F♯m
Gm

C♯m
Dm

G♯m
Am

D♯m
Em

A♯m
Bm

Fm

Cm

Gm

Dm

Above the Major and minor tonalities that “belong” to each Zodiac sign have been listed. Of every chord the root or “tonic” (first degree) is the most important. 

By example: Taurus represents the tone of G (tonic) and tonalities of G Major and E minor.

! NOTE: Musicians are used to reading the Circle of Fifths clockwise, but because astrological charts are read counterclockwise, I have turned the direction of the tone-circle (next to the birth charts) around for this article. The Circle of Fifths is there for counterclockwise, thus clockwise the Circle of Fourths (the inverse interval of the Fifth).

If you like to use the Chromatic Circle instead, then keep in mind that several of the tone-sign combinations will be different, they swap places. The implementation as described in this article for music composition will still be the same but the data as provided in this article will not match. 

For more information about the history of Tone-Zodiacs and additional information read the article “The Astrological Zodiac & Musical Tonality – Tone Zodiac

ABOUT THE CHARTS USED IN THIS ARTICLE:

The Zodiac charts used as examples for this article are the charts of myself (Roel). The tones, scales, chords, et cetera you see in this article only apply for my Natal Chart and – unless you were “born under the same stars” – are not “useful” to you musically, except to explain my concept with.

To keep the picture “clean” the Zodiac circles will only display the symbols and degrees of the planets (no nodesLilith, et cetera). 

The concept will nonetheless work for you too, you just have to do “the math” yourself, on your own chart. 

The original chart images were created with the free online service 3horoscopes.com (their ‘design’ is a reasonable match with the design of this blog). That site does not have the option to add additional objects to the horoscope (such as Celes and Chiron), if you like to have their positions calculated then visit astro.com and select Celes and Chiron (or any other “object” under “Additional Objects” when you calculate the free chart. 


THE CONCEPT (ASTRO-MUSIC COMPOSITION)

The idea behind the (musical philosophical) concept explained in this article is to create an “audible fingerprint” based on a horoscope chart. This “fingerprint” can then be used for music composition and production. The chart could be a natal chart, or perhaps if you like to write a special composition for a particular date (like a wedding ceremony).

Key “components” for this concept are: the Zodiac signs, the planets of our Solar system and a musical interval system (+Temperament).


AUDIBLE NATAL “FINGERPRINT”

Cosmic Expanse - Solar Section

THIS CONCEPT INCLUDES 
TWO “ZONES”:
The COSMIC EXPANSE 
that encompasses 
the ZODIAC SIGNS.

The SOLAR SECTOR 
that embodies the planets of 
the SOLAR SYSTEM.
 
“As Above, So Below”

Cosmic Expanse - Solar Section

COSMIC EXPANSE SOLAR SECTOR
COSMIC SCALE
Every Zodiac constellation represents to a tone.
SOLAR SCALE
Every planet represents to a tone.

SCALE
With the tones of constellations or the planets scales can be made: a “Cosmic Scale” and a “Solar Scale”. Scales are the basis form where temperaments, chords, chord progressions and melodies are made.
A scale by itself is a “melody” in it’s most basic form.

COSMIC CHORD SOLAR CHORD

HARMONY

Some tones of these scales occur in more chords then others. With the most occurring tones a chord can be created that “harmonizes” with all.

COSMIC TONE SOLAR TONE 

TONAL CENTER

The most dominant (most often occurring) tone is the tonal center of the chart.


MOTION OF PLANETS: PROGRADE (DIRECT) & RETROGRADE

When a planet is retrograde, its energies are turned inward and becomes more subjective.
In music Major tonalities are considered more “extrovert” while minor tonalities are considered more “introvert“.

It seems logical that the apparent retrograde motion of a planet is represented by the minor relative tonality of the Major tonality that represent it’s prograde (direct) motion
By Example: Aries is represented by C Major = Prograd(direct) & A minor = Retrograde. 



CREATING YOUR SCALE / TEMPERAMENT

To create your scale / temperament you need to look at the position of the planets. In what Zodiac sign section of the chart we find them? And how do you ‘convert’ position to tone frequency?

THE COSMIC EXPANSE

The most ideal setup is to use the number 12 for all key aspects of this concept: 12 Tones, 12 Signs and 12 Planets.

I am aware that using 12 Planets is a less common practice among astrologers. Many astrologers do on the other hand look at charts to aspects between planets and the Lilith, lunar nodes, zenith & nadir or stars, asteroids, et cetera. Personally I like using planets and dwarf planets rotating the Sun only, with the Moon as only exception on this concept of course. You will also find info in this article about only using 7 or 10 planets.

It’s up to you how many and which “heavenly bodies” you wish to implement in your personal execution of this concept. 

METHOD 1: ZODIAC SIGN BASED – EQUAL TEMPERAMENT

The most common temperament used in western music is the 12-Tone Equal Temperament (12-TET), a division of the octave in equal sized tone spaces, similar to the Tropical Zodiac that divides the Zodiac circle in 12 equal sized sections of 30 degrees.

The number of planets used for this method does not effect the temperament and thus tone frequencies connected to the Zodiac Signs. Just the number of tones “activated” by a planet’s presence in the signs might be less. After all, 7 planets could generate 7 different tones, with 10 planets you could potentially generate 10 different tones and a 12-Planet based astrology system could potentially generate all 12 tones of the 12-Tone Equal Tempered system.

Using more then 12 planets would not per definition generate more unique tones though when 12-TET is used, that would only be the case if microtuning is used! (see Method 2 below).

The “Zodiac Sign Based” method is tone-frequency-wise not as exact as the “Planet Degree Based” method. This method though can be used with all western instruments and most common music genres and is therefor a concept that pretty much anyone with basic astrological and musical knowledge can implement.


IMPLEMENTATION: METHOD 1 – SIGN BASED
TROPICAL ZODIACCIRCLE OF FOURTHS
Tropical Zodiac Roel Hollander - planets only Circle of Fifths - 360 degree circle
(planets displayed only) (major tonalities displayed only)


7 CLASSIC + 3 TRADITIONAL 2 ADDITIONAL PLANETS
PLANET Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Ceres Chiron
SIGNTaurusLibraGeminiTaurusCancerTaurusCancerScorpioSagittariusLibraCancerTaurus

TONE

G F♯
G
Bm G A G A G♯m
Am
Fm D♯m
Em
A G

If we create a scale with the root or “tonic” (first degree) of each represented tonality and start with the tone of the sign that contains the Sun, then we get the following “Natal Cosmic Scales“: 

7 CLASSIC PLANETS
TONICS

G 

A 

B 

F♯/G 

G

HZ383.5430.5483.3362.0767
INTERVAL ½ 1  ½ 

7 CLASSIC + 3 TRADITIONAL (=10) PLANETS
TON. G   G♯/A   A   B   D♯/E     F♯/G   G
HZ383.5 406.3 430.5 483.3 304.4 341.7 362.0 767
INT. ½ ½ 1  1 ½ ½ 
7 CLASSIC + 3 TRADITIONAL + 2 ADDITIONAL (=12) PLANETS
TON. G G G♯/A A  A B D♯/E F F♯/G G
HZ383.5 406.3430.5 483.3304.4341.7362.0767
INT. ½ ½ 1  1 ½ ½ 

If the planets would have been “spread out” over more Signs then with Roel’s chart above, then the number of tones of the scale could increase. And consequently, when the planets are more clustered then as in Roel’s chart, then the number of tones of the scale will decrease.

In Roel’s case we end up with a 4-tone (7 planets) or 7-tone (10 and 12 planets) scale.



METHOD 2: PLANET DEGREE BASED – MICROTONAL

When you are looking for a more precise “Natal Scale” (like an unique “acoustic fingerprint”), then using the exact degrees of the planets would be your method of choice. 

This means though that we are stepping outside the confined 12-TET system and are going to use micro-tuning. In this case we are going use a system where every degree becomes a tone. Instead of 12 tones per octave, we will now divide the octave into 360 pitch-classes (tones), the so called 360 EDO (Equally Divided Octave) system. EDO is an abbreviation for TET. 360 EDO/TET divides the octave into steps of 3 1/3 (3,333∞) cents. 

! IMPORTANT:

You have to use micro-tonal instruments to work with the “Planet Degree Based” concept. Many (“traditional” Western) instruments will not be able to use this musical interval system / temperament. To implement it with modern software and hardware requires a deeper understanding and experience in working with and composing for micro-tonal instruments. Read the article Instruments & Tuning for more information about the tunability of instruments.

With this method we need to temper (pitch) the 12-TET tone frequencies with the planet degrees. First we decide what Concert Pitch to use. A4=440Hz is the present musical standard, but since we’re micro-tuning and standard 440Hz 12-TET based instruments can no longer be used, we can chose any Concert Pitch we like. For this example I will use C4=256Hz, the “Scientific or Philosophycal Pitch“. The tone frequencies listed below are rounded up at one digit behind the dot for convenience.

TONE C C♯
D
D D♯
E
E F F♯
E
G G♯
A
A A♯
B
B
HZ
12-TET
256271.2287.4304.4322.5341.7362.0383.5406.3430.5456.1483.3

As mentioned above, 360 EDO divides the octave into steps of 3 1/3 (3.333∞) cents. 1 degree = + 3.333∞ cents. To round the cents off till 3 digits behind the dot is sufficient, the difference between 1 digit and 3 digits behind the dot is but approx. 0.01Hz, a difference that even the best musicians, composers and sound engineers will not notice. Calculation example: The Sun is in Taurus at 19°, Taurus represents G=383.5Hz, thus:

19 x 3.333 = 63.327 cents.
383.5Hz + 63.3 cents = 397.78160939995274Hz


IMPLEMENTATION: METHOD 2 – DEGREE BASED (MICROTONAL)
TROPICAL ZODIACCIRCLE OF FOURTHS

Tropical Zodiac Roel Hollander - degrees - planets only

Circle of Fifths - 360 degree circle

(planets displayed only) (major tonalities displayed only)

7 CLASSIC + 3 TRADITIONAL + 2 ADDITIONAL PLANETS
PLANET Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Ceres Chiron
SIGNTaurusLibraGeminiTaurusCancerTaurusCancerScorpioSagittariusLibraCancerTaurus
DEG.19°10°26°10°27°13°20°
TONIC G F♯
G
B G A G A G♯
A
F D♯
E
A G
12-TET383.5362.0483.3383.5430.5383.5430.5406.3341.7304.4430.5383.5
+CENT63.39.99.933.386.733.389.913.343.366.603.3
NEW HZ397.8364.1
486.1
390.9452.6
390.9
453.4
409.4350.4
316.3430.5384.2

The following microtonal “Cosmic Scales” are formed:

7 CLASSIC PLANETS
TONE G
G
A A B
F♯
G
HZ390.9397.8452.6453.4486.1724

You might have noticed that the scale above only contains 6 Tones. This is because 2 planets (Venus and Jupiter) were in the same sign at the same degree, thus generate the same tone. In musical scales it is though not logical to display the exact same tone twice, thus 6 tones instead of 7. Many listeners might not even hear the difference of 0.8Hz between A=452.6Hz and A=453.4Hz unless played simultaneously and even then some people might not be able to differentiate between those two tones. So, in this case we might even end up using a 5-tone scale, using only one of the A’s.

7 CLASSIC + 3 TRADITIONAL PLANETS
TONE G
G♯
A
A A B
D♯
E
F
F♯
G
G G
HZ397.8409.4452.6453.4486.1632.6700.8724781.8795.6

Many listeners might not even hear the difference of 0.8Hz between A=452.6Hz and A=453.4Hz unless played simultaneously and even then some people might not be able to differentiate between those two tones. Another thing you might have seen is that the frequencies for D♯/E♭, F and F♯/G♭ have are doubled in frequency. This was done to make sure all tones fall in between the tonic of this scale G=397.8Hz and it’s octave G=795.6.4Hz.

7 CLASSIC + 3 TRADITIONAL + 2 ADDITIONAL (=12) PLANETS
TONE G
G♯
A
A A A B
D♯
E
F
F♯
G
G G G
HZ397.8409.4430.5452.6453.4486.1632.6700.8724768.4781.8795.6

You might have noticed that the scale above only contains 11 Tones. This is because 2 planets (Venus and Jupiter) were in the same sign at the same degree, thus generate the same tone. In musical scales it is though not logical to display the exact same tone twice, thus 11 tones instead of 12. Many listeners might not even hear the difference of 0.8Hz between A=452.6Hz and A=453.4Hz unless played simultaneously and even then some people might not be able to differentiate between those two tones. Another thing you might have seen is that the frequencies for D♯/E♭, F and F♯/G♭ have are doubled in frequency. This was done to make sure all tones fall in between the tonic of this scale G=397.8Hz and it’s octave G=795.6Hz.


CHORDS (12-TET & MICROTONAL)

Every planetary position represents a tone as well as a chord. As mentioned earlier in this article the prograde (direct) planets represent Major tonalities and chords, the retrograde planets represent minor tonalities and chords. Below an example based on Roel’s Chart:

PLANET Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto Ceres Chiron
SIGNTaurusLibraGeminiTaurusCancerTaurusCancerScorpioSagittariusLibra CancerTaurus

ROOT

397.8364.1486.1390.9452.6390.9453.4409.4350.4316.3430.5384.2

KEY

G

F♯
G
Bm G A G A G♯m
Am
Fm D♯m
Em
A G

The chords as listed above do contain tones though that do not “belong” to Roel’s “Natal Cosmic Scale” that were made through the interpretation of the natal chart.

Take for example the chord of G Major that belongs to Taurus, it contains the following tones: G – B – D. The tones G and B are both “native” to Roel’s “Natal Cosmic Scale” but the tone D is not.


“NATIVE” TONES

If you wish to “build” chords strictly from “native” tones of Roel’s “Natal Cosmic Scale“, then you could combine the root (“tonic”) tones used in the 12-TET or Microtonal “Natal Cosmic Scale”, as found through the position of the planets in the Zodiac sign sections.

EXAMPLE CHORDS “BUILD” WITH “NATIVE” TONES ONLY:

The root tones of the sign section can be 12-TET or micro-tonal, depending on the method you work with. 

CHORDROOT TONES OFSIGN SECTIONS“ACTIVATED” BY PLANETS
GAug
G+B+ETaurus + Gemini + LibraSunVenusJupiterChiron  Mercury  Pluto
G7♯5G+B+D♯ + FTaurus + Gemini + Libra + SagittariusSunVenusJupiterChiron  Mercury  Pluto Neptune
G95G+B+D♯ + F+ATaurus + Gemini + Libra + Sagittarius + CancerSunVenusJupiterChiron  Mercury  Pluto  Neptune  MarsSaturnCeres
GmG♯ + B + D♯Scorpio + Gemini + LibraUranus  Mercury  Pluto 
Gm6G♯ + B + D♯+FScorpio + Gemini + Libra + SagittariusUranus  Mercury  Pluto  Neptune
Gm(M7)G♯ + B + D♯+GScorpio + Gemini + Libra