The Golden Ratio: An Ancient Greek Formula Responsible For Most Hit Musicals?

The Golden Ratio Is An Ancient Greek Formula That Could Be Responsible For Most Hit Musicals 
John Gomez/Shutterstock

 Video Version

Editor's Note: I have been aware of this pattern for most of my adult life. I first encountered it in an architectural engineering course some 50 years ago. I then spent time studying it in stock charting. Once I "got it", not an easy task, I was able to see the patterns in most statistical charts and other statistical representations of human activity. I use the principles daily and even in the ways I select and crop pictures for InnerSelf.com.

I most recently used the concept to accurately predict the exact form of the chart of Covid infections in the US a full year in advance.

Over the years I have come to understand and appreciate this phenomena not so much in precise mathematical terms but in imprecise behavioral tendency terms which I might just define as "collective unconscious harmony." And it appears often within nature both imprecisely and precisely. This is a discussion and probably, more than most might want to know. - Robert Jennings, Editor, InnerSelf.com

*****

“What’s the secret to your success?” A simple question asked frequently of those who have achieved greatness in their field. Sometimes, that secret is so well disguised even the successful individual is unaware of its influence.

When it comes to sung-through musical theatre, it turns out, that is indeed the case. Since 1972, when Jesus Christ Superstar premiered on Broadway, the most popular sung-through musicals have almost unanimously employed a centuries-old formula known as “the golden ratio” – and surprisingly, they appear to have done so completely by accident.

The golden ratio is an irrational number approximately equal to 1.618. It exists when a line is divided into two parts, with one part longer than the other. The longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.

The ratio is found in nature, such as in the patterns of seeds within a sunflower, the shape of snail shells and, most recently suggested, in the human genome. Its connection with the aesthetic beauty of nature has attracted creatives throughout history to use the number to create art, music, and design

.The Golden Ratio Is An Ancient Greek Formula That Could Be Responsible For Most Hit Musicals The golden ratio found in a shell. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

When appropriately applied, the golden ratio is suggested to demonstrate an influence on human awareness of proportion and aesthetic beauty, resulting in artistic masterpieces including Da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa (1506), Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) and Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation (1920).

A surprising discovery

My area of expertise is musical theatre composition, and for my PhD research, I explored if the golden ratio would be a suitable tool for large musical composition. The 3D nature of musical design (plot, music, visual) allows for interesting elements to be integrated into a musicals structure at golden ratio points along its duration. These elements could include a dramatic moment such as a character death, a musical highlight such as a key change or a visual element such as choreography or a set change.

The crucial factor was to take the most important elements that bring a musical to life and place them at the golden ratio points. In theory, this replicates aesthetically pleasing patterns found in nature but recreated in a musical. The concept of my research was to use the results of analysis of the ten most successful sung-through commercial musicals.

This process helped to formulate a structure encompassing the golden ratio which I used to compose the musical The Green Door (with lyrics by Jane Robertson).

To analyse the musicals, I designed a model that sub-divided the duration of each into 16 golden ratio points. I then could identify if, what and where any interesting elements occurred.

You can imagine my astonishment when, early one morning, my calculations revealed that within Les Miserables, the principal characters of Fantine, Eponine, Gavrosche and Valjean all died on or very close to a golden ratio point. Further analysis revealed that major changes in the story line (matching to within less than 1%) coincided with all 16 golden ratio points.

The same process was applied to a further nine musicals, including Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Miss Saigon and Aspects of Love. The results displayed similar patterns but interestingly, a difference in accuracy became evident in musicals that had a shorter life-span at the box office. In essence, musicals that had the most box office success and longevity of run showed closer alignment to the golden ratio than those that had a shorter run, and less financial gain.

Unwitting followers of the ratio

The research highlighted another interesting phenomenon. There is no documentary evidence from the composers that imply any intention of aligning the musicals with the golden ratio.

Claude Michelle Schoenberg (composer of Les Miserables) kindly agreed to be interviewed concerning his method of composition. It was evident that no mathematical formula was included in that process. The discovered alignments are natural occurrences implemented by composers, writers and producers with years of experience, knowledge and talent in the musical theatre industry.

It would be wrong to assume a subconscious usage of the golden ratio is evident in the findings and I make no claim that it’s responsible for the success of the musicals analysed. But like in the works of Debussy, Bartok, Da Vinci and Le Corbusier, the ratio is there.

After seven years of research, I now believe, an aesthetic link to the ratio exists not just in the final work but primarily throughout the process of creation. The nurturing of ideas, the reflective process, the discovery of common elements, experience and self confidence in your own ability and skills combine to create an aesthetic process. This can only benefit the music and is seemingly influenced by that magic golden ratio.

So if you would like to put this to the test, I have created a spreadsheet that takes into account the theoretical and practical research and, with no guarantees, might help write the next blockbuster musical.The Conversation

Audio Version and Video Version narrated by AI.

About The Author

Stephen Langston, Programme Leader for Performance, University of the West of Scotland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

You May Also Like

INNERSELF VOICES

full moon over Stonehenge
Horoscope Current Week: September 20 - 26, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
a swimmer in large expanse of water
Joy and Resilience: A Conscious Antidote to Stress
by Nancy Windheart
We know that we're in a great time of transition, of birthing a new way of being, living, and…
five closed doors, one pained yellow, the others white
Where Do We Go From Here?
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com
Life can be confusing. There are so many things going on, so many choices presented to us. Even a…
Inspiration or Motivation: Which Works Best?
Inspiration or Motivation: Which Comes First?
by Alan Cohen
People who are enthusiastic about a goal find ways to achieve it and they do not need to be goaded…
photo silhouette of mountain climber using a pick to secure himself
Allow The Fear, Transform It, Move Through It, and Understand It
by Lawrence Doochin
Fear feels crappy. There is no way around that. But most of us don't respond to our fear in a…
woman sitting at her desk looking worried
My Prescription for Anxiety and Worry
by Jude Bijou
We’re a society that likes to worry. Worrying is so prevalent, it almost feels socially acceptable.…
curving road in New Zealand
Don't Be So Hard On Yourself
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
Life consists of choices... some are "good" choices, and others not so good. However every choice…
man standing on a dock shining a flashlight into the sky
Blessing for Spiritual Seekers and for People Suffering from Depression
by Pierre Pradervand
There is such a need in the world today of the most tender and immense compassion and deeper, more…
Practicing Altruism, Compassion, and Love Bring You Happiness and Stress Relief
Practicing Altruism, Compassion, and Love Bring Happiness and Stress Relief
by Lama Palden Drolma
Modern neuroscience has now found that altru­ism brings us happiness in addition to being a stress…
How Did My Inner Critic Get Here and What Purpose Does It Serve?
What Is The Purpose Of Your Inner Critic?
by Mark Coleman
If the critic is such an unwanted guest, why are so many people plagued by it? Nature rarely, if…
Mistake Salad: True Perfection Has Space For Imperfection
Mistake Salad: True Perfection Has Space For Imperfection
by Alan Cohen
Are you so sure your mistakes are just mistakes? Or could they be building blocks to a success…

MOST READ

How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
by Jackie Cassell, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
The precarious economies of many traditional seaside towns have declined still further since the…
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
by Sonja Grace
As you experience being an earth angel, you will discover that the path of service is riddled with…
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
by Barbara Berger
One of the biggest things I've discovered working with clients everyday is how extremely difficult…
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
by Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
According to most of the singles I have met in my travels, the typical dating situation is fraught…
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
by Lucy Delap, University of Cambridge
The 1970s anti-sexist men’s movement had an infrastructure of magazines, conferences, men’s centres…
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
by Glen Park
Flamenco dancing is a delight to watch. A good flamenco dancer exudes an exuberant self-confidence…
Taking A Step Toward Peace by Changing Our Relationship With Thought
Stepping Toward Peace by Changing Our Relationship With Thought
by John Ptacek
We spend our lives immersed in a flood of thoughts, unaware that another dimension of consciousness…
image of the planet Jupiter on the skyline of a rocky ocean shore
Is Jupiter a Planet of Hope or a Planet of Discontent?
by Steven Forrest and Jeffrey Wolf Green
In the American dream as it's currently dished up, we try to do two things: make money and lose…

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.