The Eight Musical Modes, the Four Temperaments and Metaphysical Connections.

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Published: 07th January 2013
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This short article is number four in a series explaining the use of ancient musical modes to aid and inner harmony. The first article was a broad introduction; the second dealt with the Phlegmatic Temperament; and the third, with the Choleric temperament. The subject of this present article is the Sanguine Temperament.

I will also deal with the ancient Greek astrological conception of the Four Temperaments and the Eight musical modes.

Sanguine personalities are typically the “life and soul of the party”. When it is in balance, the sanguine temperament exhibits the following:-

* Happy demeanour
* Affable nature
* Warm personality
* Enthusiastic nature
* Optimism
* Friendly personality
* Easy going character

When the Sanguine is unbalanced it exhibits:-

* Inability to see things through to the end
* Trouble with time keeping
* Forgetfulness
* Wears Heart on his/her sleeve. (Too naive and trusting)
* Airy-fairy


Playing the Lydian stimulates the balanced sanguine qualities. So, if we need to feel more sociable, or more optimistic, for example. we should play the Lydian. If, however, we are suffering from too much of those qualities, (perhaps we have been overdoing the social life a bit, or need to be brought down to earth), we could use the hypolydian mode. This mode would also help correct an out-of-balance Sanguine if we happen to have been experiencing negative Sanguine qualities.

The Astrology of the Temperaments

According to the Astrology of the Ancient Greeks, each Temperament has two corresponding planets: One which magnifies the effects of the temperament, and another which decreases them.

The phlegmatic is increased by the power of the SUN and minimised by the MOON;
The choleric is increased by MARS and reduced by MERCURY;
The sanguine is maximised by JUPITER and decreased by VENUS;
And the melancholic is exaggerated by SATURN. The melancholic has no second ruling planet, but we will come to that in the next article.

The Astrology of the Eight Modes

The eight modes and seven planets leave a mode without a planet. This is the reason why the melancholic humour has only one planet associated with it.

The dorian is ruled by the SUN. So, among other things, it is good for wakefulness. The hypodorian, however, is ruled by the MOON. So it is good for helping us to fall asleep. Therefore these two modes balance the phlegmatic humour, which is connected with the Sun and Moon.

MARS rules the phrygian. Mars, being “warlike,” works in the direction of the commanding, confrontational nature of the Choleric. The hypophrygian, however, is governed by MERCURY. As Mercury is known as the "messenger", this mode is useful for decreasing the warlike nature of the Choleric, and replacing it with more communicative styles of leadership.

JUPITER rules the lydian mode. Jupiter is traditionally the "bringer of jollity"”, therefore this mode is important for increasing the Sanguine. The hypolydian, however, is ruled by VENUS. Venus is the Goddess of love. As such, she is concerned with much deeper emotions (perhaps even "sadder", more tragic emotions) than the flighty preoccupations of the Sanguine. So the hypolydian is good for grounding the sanguine in us.

The Construction of the Modal Scales

The modes can easily be arrived at by starting with an ordinary major scale. We will use C major for simplicity's sake, as there are no black notes in it.

The scale of C major runs like this:

C D E F G A B C

The dorian mode is the same scale, starting on the second note (D). For therapeutic purposes, the mode only has a range of seven notes, so it goes:

D E F G A B C

In the same way, the phrygian goes from E to D;
The lydian mode starts on the fourth note, F;
And the mixolydian begins on G.

These four modes are called the "authentic modes". The four "hypo-" modes are called "plagal modes". These balance their authentic companions, and each one starts a 4th below its authentic companion. So, for example, the hypodorian starts a 4th below the dorian, on the note ‘A’.

From the point of view of ancient Greek music therapy, all melodies should start on A (the “dynamic middle”) and finish on the first or bottom note of the mode (the “Final”). The note ‘A’ is defined as being the 6th note in the root major scale, which, in this example is C major. This note represents the SUN. By starting with the note A and frequently revisiting it, ultimately to end on the Final, the power of the Sun is drawn down to the planet that rules the mode. So, in the case of the Lydian, the Sun ('A') is focused on Jupiter (F, or the 4th of the root major).

If you have pondered all this with due attention, you will have realised that the dorian and hypomixolydian share the same notes, as they both run from D to C. But the hypomixolydian is unique and has its own rule. Melodies should start on A, as with the other modes, but they should NOT finish on D! They should finish on the Final of the Mixolydian, G!.

The hypomixolydian has no planet of its own, but is considered to be cosmic - the mode of Heavenly Peace. It is therefore good for all uses, and is associated with the whole Cosmos, (or the “fixed stars” as they were known in ancient times. This mode is used to balance the melancholic humour by counteracting the power of SATURN.

The following article will cover the last of the four temperaments: the Melancholic Humour. I will also uncover more on the subject of composing modal melodies .





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