- Paperback: 110 pages
- Publisher: Phanes Press; UNABRIDGED VERSION edition (February 1, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0933999860
- ISBN-13: 978-0933999862
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mystery of the Seven Vowels in Theory and Practice UNABRIDGED VERSION Edition
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About the Author
Joscelyn Godwin was born in Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, England on January 16, 1945. He was educated as a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford, then at Radley College (Music Scholar), and Magdalene College, Cambridge (Music Scholar; B.A., 1965, Mus. B., 1966, M.A. 1969). Coming to the USA in 1966, he did graduate work in Musicology at Cornell University (Ph. D., 1969; dissertation: "The Music of Henry Cowell") and taught at Cleveland State University for two years before joining the Colgate University Music Department in 1971. He has taught at Colgate ever since.
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Top Customer Reviews
This particular book on the Vowels covers one little piece of that larger field of musical esoterica, and does it very well: he reviews a good deal of the historical literature on the correspondences of the vowels with musical tones, colors, and planets, from the ancient Greeks to Madame Blavatsky, as well as describing various attempts at pseudo-mystical musical rites featuring vowel intonations in the last century and a half, and some little nods to acoustics and linguistics. The more ancient theories all rest in a matrix of pre-Copernican cosmology, the music of the spheres and the analogical and magical resonances between them. The belief systems arising from pre-Copernican thinking happen to be one of my interests as well as Godwin's, so I am sympathetic. This is not to say that I am advocating any return to a geocentric cosmology, merely that I have an interest in the field. "Mystery of the Vowels" is a fairly slim book, and I can imagine a few more things that might have gone into it, but I'm not complaining. As he says, it's probably the only book on the subject in English.
The book, holding these archaic ideas in its own larger context, is also to be praised for clearly demonstrating that there is no one way that such correspondences such as 7 vowels = 7 planets = 7 scale tones, etc., can be made, and that different authors or theorists or philosophers have re-invented the details in different orders at different times, which should put to rest the idea that there is genuine cosmic significance in the correspondences and demonstrate that these are cultural artifacts, such as tend to be differently arranged and interpreted by different cultures. I find the study of such material interesting partly because of the possibility that, once such patterns of thought are established, they may become prescriptive and actually then influence patterns of cultural development following, sometimes activity by lesser lights who think they really are onto something cosmic, for instance like the folks who play music at A4=432 Hz.
For those who want to go considerably deeper into alphabet symbolism, Robert Grave's "The White Goddess" has more material than anyone will ever digest. Grave's emphasis on FIVE vowels, not seven, makes a distinct contrast to Godwin's work. As most people know, English actually has some 20 vowel sounds, so the small number of written ones is somewhat arbitrarily limited. Vowels were late additions to early alphabets, so it is questionable how far into antiquity this material can extend.
First off, it confirms the suspicion that so many musicians have-- that when they are playing they are more than happy but somehow engaged in a spiritual act. I have felt that for years, struggled to explain it friends and colleagues, and felt somehow like I had some secret that should be plain for everyone to see. This book confirms a powerful side of music that I've experienced, and it explains it (to me anyway)-- and for that I'm grateful. I have to point out that this is my own experience. While I think you can have this experience too, unless you're a musician and have at least a hint that it is there, you'll have to just take in on faith that singing in this manner can be a spiritual experience. Developing your voice takes a bit of practice but anyone can do it-- afterall the task here is to sing, not sing like Ella Fitzgerald. But I do promise that if you do it you'll like your singing a lot more than you might otherwise expect to.
Luckily the book is also a very practical tool that can help you use your singing to serve a wide range of practices. I've seen simplified vowel singing exercises used as warm-ups for acting troupes-- and that they were a tiny part of a "group mind" building exercise. But this book shows that they can be used for a much more powerful group mind exercise. I've since learned that Del Close on occasion had his students sing vowels-- I suspect he had this book or was aware of some of the source material. The point is that they applications of this kind of thing go far beyond manner described in the book.
Finally the book can serve as a big step forward for any performing artist that realizes that their art is also practice in "self-mastery". Your voice is a big part of who you are and of your presence-- either on stage, in a room full of people, or alone. This book shows why that is and gives you simple ways to build that part of yourself-- and it does so simply by showing what was done very long ago in the ancient world.
This is no new-age self-help book, though that might be how I'm describing it. It is very straight forward explanation of an enigmatic musical and spiritual practice from very long ago, and a survey of how that practice was interpreted by later generations. He simply shows what they did, and why they did it, and how successive researchers looked at these ancient practices. But, the inescapable conclusion anyone could draw from it is that you can and should do it too.
If what I'm saying makes little sense, or if you buy the book and don't see what I'm talking about, post a comment and I'll try to help.
(I could not sing the harmonics), but the text and the research are excellent.
Thanks to this book I got interested in ancient wisdom in Egypt and discovered other authors such as Ernest McClian.