Sphere

The Pythagoreans, in applying their theory of numbers to 56  the geometrical consideration of the five regular bodies, to the musical intervals of tone which determine a word and form different kinds of sounds, extended it even to the system of the universe itself; supposing that the moving, and, as it were, vibrating planets, exciting sound-waves, must produce a spheral music, according to the harmonic relations of their intervals of space. “This music,” they add, “would be perceived by the human ear, if it was not rendered insensible by extreme familiarity, as it is perpetual, and men are accustomed to it from childhood.”

The Pythagoreans affirm, in order to justify the reality of the tones produced by the revolution of the spheres, that hearing takes place only where there is an alternation of sound and silence. The inaudibility of the spheral music is also accounted for by its overpowering the senses. Aristotle himself calls the Pythagorean tone-myth pleasing and ingenious, but untrue.

Plato attempted to illustrate the tones of the universe in an agreeable picture, by attributing to each of the planetary spheres a syren, who, supported by the stern daughters of Necessity, the three Fates, maintain the eternal revolution of the world's axis. Mention is constantly made of the harmony of the spheres, though generally reproachfully, throughout the writings of Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, from Basil the Great to Thomas Aquinas and Petrus Alliacus.

At the close of the sixteenth century, Kepler revived these musical ideas, and sought to trace out the analogies between the relations of tone and the distances of the planets; and Tycho Brahe was of opinion that the revolving conical bodies were capable of vibrating the celestial air (what we now call “resisting medium”) so as to produce tones. Yet Kepler, although he had talked of Venus and the Earth sounding sharp in aphelion and flat in perihelion, and the highest tone of Jupiter and that of Venus coinciding in flat accord, positively declared there to be “no such things as sounds among the heavenly bodies, nor is their motion so turbulent as to elicit noise from the attrition of the celestial air.” (See Things not generally Known, p. 44.)