The DoveSong

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The Classical Music of the Twenty-First Century
by Don Robertson
© 2000 by Don Robertson

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The Duochord
As I struggled with the creation of my Last Piece, I also reflected upon the great difference between the music that I was creating with Morty, and the music that I was playing with Khansahib. One day I was reading a book by Corinne Heline about music and its spiritual effects when I noticed that there was a diagram in the book that explained how the twelve notes of the musical chromatic scale corresponded with the twelve signs of the astrological zodiac. At that time I was interested in astrology and I thought this was an interesting concept. The way she explained it, the notes were placed counter-clockwise on the circle of the zodiac as follows: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C#, D#, F#, G#, A#. I don’t know where she learned this, but it was very interesting. It was the 7-note major scale (the white keys of the keyboard), followed by the 5-note pentatonic scale (the black keys of the keyboard): the two most powerful scales in the music.


I was fascinated by this discovery. Astrology is based on a circle, around which are drawn the 12 astrological signs. Positive and negative relationships in astrology are determined by where one sign stands in relationship to another. I began to wonder that if this was the case in astrology, wasn’t it also the case for the twelve notes of the musical chromatic scale (the chromatic scale in music includes all the black and white keys of an octave).

With this in mind, I drew astrological trines in a circle that had Corinne Heline’s note values assigned to it. The trines, or triangles, define the most positive relationships between the signs: harmony and concord. To my surprise, applying the trines to my drawing not only yielded the most positive relationships between the signs, but also the most positive relationships between musical notes: the major and minor triads. The four triangles created two major triads and two minor triads on the circle! This showed me that by assigning the notes to the circle as she had described, the overlaying of triangles yielded the very foundational elements of music itself: the major and minor triad!



After marveling at this for a while, it came to me to draw squares. In astrology, squares represent the negative elements: discord and lack of harmony. So I drew the three possible squares. I looked at what ensued and was completely shocked! There before my eyes I saw the very chords that were the foundation of the music that I had been composing. Each square was a four-note chord made up of two half tones separated by a tritone:


Whether you believe in astrology or not is unimportant. Here we are dealing with mathematics and symbolism. They are important because they give insights into the inner workings of nature. And I realized that I was looking at a mathematical representation of the very conflict that I was beginning to feel emotionally in my life: the music that I was composing with Morty on one hand, and the music that I was playing with Khansahib on the other. One was based on the triangles, the other on the squares. With Morty, I was composing music that was completely negative!

That realization bothered me a great deal, and I contemplated it for months. I loved my duochordal music, and if what I was beginning to understand was indeed true, I would have to abandon it, because I knew in my heart that I did not want to create something that was negative.

Finally, I decided to speak with Morty. I told him that I had a conflict developing within me. He listened carefully as I asked him:

"Do you think that this music that you and I write is…," I stumbled for a tasteful word to use, "…unnatural?"

He answered me immediately, without any reflection, and his answer surprised me. He said:

"Yes, it is unnatural, but if you ever quote me on that, I will deny that I ever said it."

I realized that this was to be our last lesson. The two years of weekly visits would be over. I was sad, but I knew it had to be.

That summer, I moved away from New York, following Khansahib to the San Francisco area where he was establishing a school for North Indian classical music. In San Francisco, I recorded my album Dawn. This was the album that reflected my struggle between the two shades of music, light and dark…a struggle that would soon be played out on my last battlefield. After the album was completed, my wife and I left San Francisco for a six-month stay in Mexico and Guatemala. There I would perhaps find my way, purify myself, and maybe find a true spiritual path.

For months I struggled within because there was still a part of me that had a strong desire to write duochordal music. But one night, in a dream, I heard a duochord composition being played that consisted of a succession of one negative chord constructed of disharmonious intervals succeeded by another, then another, and so on. The music was being played very loudly by a very powerful brass ensemble! Every time one of the loud chords sounded, it sent a cold shiver up my back and I felt a wave of darkness flow over me. I awoke in a state of panic and terrifying fear. I knew at once that I had to completely let go of my desire to compose and enjoy duochordal music. But it took nearly a half a year south of the border to free myself from the grip of negative music.

(Click HERE for an example of duochordal music)

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