Musical Adventures in Ancient Mythology

Ernest G. McClain

These occasional essays continue the author's earlier studies published in The Myth of Invariance (1976), The Pythagorean Plato (1978), and in Meditations Through the Quran (1981), correcting, updating, and extending analysis more deeply into Mesopotamian foundations and their extensive development in the Bible and (eventually) Homeric epic.

October 2010

The author's First two books, The Myth of Invariance and The Pythagorean Plato are scanned here for easy downloading by interested students but the copyright restriction is still affirmed for publication.

The Myth of Invariance [PDF]
The Pythagorean Plato [PDF]

March 2010

The author's third book, MEDITATIONS ON THE QURAN, published in 1981, is scanned here for easy downloading by interested students but the copyright restriction is still affirmed for publication. Notice, however, that a new Appendix II titled "Abraham's Children" makes very important corrections to errors made thirty years ago regarding YHWH as the "One" God of monotheism (on pp. 131, 134, and 137), and of the "chief cornerstone" on pp. 147-8, and also of the meaning of "first-born sons" (p. 151). More recent translations and publications of cuneiform mathematics now make clear that I misunderstood the greater "Marduk-Baal" matrix for "Noah's flood" as YHWH's own, and overlooked the cornerstone "unit" as eventual "Savior," and misunderstood Jacob's twelve sons as "male, odd integers" less than his death at age 147. The entire problem of ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian mathematics is now undergoing serious reconsideration within the mathematical community, and all speculation like mine must be considered tentative perhaps for further generations. [PDF]

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About the author

Ernest McClain Ernest G. McClain is Professor Emeritus of Music, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, retired since 1982 and living presently in Washington, D.C.. Clarinetist, band director, author of three books mentioned above and more than thirty related essays in various professional journals, his degrees from Oberlin, Northwestern, and Columbia are in Music Education. He chooses to make these newer essays freely accessible to anyone who finds them useful, with appropriate acknowledgement. Particular attention is given to graphics essential to understanding ancient habits of thought, for mythological narrative often proves to be verbal commentary on matrix arithmetic, and many stories are best understood as straightforward musical allegory. Questions are encouraged and will be answered periodically as time and energy permits. It should be understood that the author is neither a mathematician nor a linguist, working mainly from secondary sources available in English translation as an interested observer on current developments in other disciplines. Attention is on arithmetical details not likely to be understood except by musicologists.

The interpretations offered here should be considered speculative adventures of ideas in the spirit fostered by Alfred North Whitehead in his book of that title, for they concern matters which preclude certainty about the intentions of early authors. After more than three decades of work in this area it seems plausible to propose that most of the numerology in ancient mythology÷and all theology in advanced civilizations--is musically inspired and disciplined. Thus interpretation falls into the general category of Pythagorean studies for it pursues a plausible numerical logic based on the quantification of tuning theory. Foundations appear to have been laid down in the fourth millennium BC before the invention of writing, so that for five thousand years musicians have employed essentially the same fossil science. A fairly primitive arithmetic is handled with great ingenuity, ironic humor, endless word play, and considerable arithmetical elegance. Decoding is great fun when it appears convincing, and a pocket calculator takes all the labor out of ancient multiplication, so that many of these adventures become accessible to children. And because much ancient literature has never been studied carefully from a musical perspective, this adventure is just beginning.

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