Sacred Texts  Sky Lore  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Harmonies of the World, by Johannes Kepler, tr. Charles Glenn Wallis [1939], at


[294] This follows from the aforesaid and there is no need of many words; for the single planets somehow mark the pitches of the system with their perihelial movement, in so far as it has been appointed to the single planets to traverse a certain fixed interval in the musical scale comprehended by the definite notes of it or the pitches of the system, and beginning at that note or pitch of each planet which in the preceding chapter fell to the aphelial movement of that planet: G to Saturn and the Earth, b to Jupiter, which can be transposed higher to G, f-sharp to Mars, e to Venus, a to Mercury in the higher octave. See the single movements in the familiar terms of notes. They do not form articulately the intermediate positions, which you here see filled by notes, as they do the extremes, because they struggle from one extreme to the opposite not by leaps and intervals but by a continuum of tunings and actually traverse all the means (which are potentially infinite)—which cannot be expressed by me in any other way than by a continuous series of intermediate notes. Venus remains approximately in unison and does not equal even the least of the concordant intervals in the difference of its tension.

Click to enlarge

p. 1040

But the signature of two accidentals (flats) in a common staff and the formation of the skeletal outline of the octave by the inclusion of a definite concordant interval are a certain first beginning of the distinction of Tones or Modes [modorum]. Therefore the musical Modes have been distributed among the planets. But I know that for the formation and determination of distinct Modes many things are requisite, which belong to human song, as containing (a) distinct [order of] intervals; and so I have used the word somehow.

But the harmonist will be free to choose his opinion as to which Mode each planet expresses as its own, since the extremes have been assigned to it here. From among the familiar Modes, I should give to Saturn the Seventh or Eighth, because if you place its key-note at G, the perihelial movement ascends to b; to Jupiter, the First or Second Mode, because its aphelial movement has been fitted to G and its perihelial movement arrives at b flat; to Mars, the Fifth or Sixth Mode, not only because Mars comprehends approximately the perfect fifth, which interval is common to all the Modes, but principally because when it is reduced with the others to a common system, it attains c with its perihelial movement and touches f with its aphelial, which is the key-note of the Fifth or Sixth Mode or Tone; I should give the Third or Fourth Mode to the Earth, because its movement revolves within a semitone, while the first interval of those Modes is a semitone; but to Mercury will belong indifferently all the Modes or Tones on account of the greatness of its range; to Venus, clearly none on account of the smallness of its range; but on account of the common system the Third and Fourth Mode, because with reference to the other planets it occupies e. (The Earth sings MI, FA, MI so that you may infer even from the syllables that in this our domicile MIsery and FAmine obtain.) 1


1040:1 See note on hexachordal system.

Next: 7. The Universal Consonances of All Six Planets, Like Common Four-Part Counterpoint, Can Exist