Top of page

Mysticism, Magic and Music

Share this post:

There is no surprise in stating that sometimes music provides magic, and sometimes how music comes to be is a mystery. And then there are those journeys we take to try and understand how and why we react as we do to music.

There are some new transcriptions arriving in the NLS Music Section braille music catalog. Alexander Scriabin has a number of titles available, and we will soon have Sonata no. 9. We have other works of his such as Two Poems, op. 32 at (BRM22943) in bar-over-bar format, and a different set of poems, op. 63, Masque and Etrangeté at (BRM32537) in bar-by-bar format. Scriabin’s later works were considered to be influenced by synthesia, in which he believed one could experience colors by hearing specific tones.  He had a specific circle of fifths in which each tonal center was represented by a color. There is a chord known as a “mystic chord” which served as the harmonic basis for some of his later compositions.

Cover to musical score for Prometee, or Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, by Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin, transcribed for two pianos by Leonid Leonidovich Sabaneev] / Jean Delville.
Cover for musical score to Prometheus by Scriabin.

It is also known as the Prometheus chord from his work Prometheus, The Poem of Fire, op. 60.

In fact, it’s possible to think of Scriabin as an early performance artist, even while many of the art mediums were being combined for unforgettable performances presented by Sergei Diaghilev with Petrouchka and Le Sacre du Printemps, (BRM29704).

Alexander the man who knows
Alexander the man who knows

Scriabin had plans to create a work to be performed in the Himalayan mountains, a grand religious combination of all arts which would announce the birth of a new world, to be titled Mysterium. I’m very impressed with his confidence and ego, but he never completed this work in his own hand.

This is for the Wizards; another new piece of in the NLS braille music collection is L’apprenti sorcier; (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) by Paul Dukas and arranged for solo piano at BRM37005. This is a fun piece and illustrates how much trouble you can get into if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Best to leave some parts of magic alone.

If you’re looking for more magic and how to wield it for good, of course there is Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Mozart. It would be nice to have an instrument that charms unruly behavior, don’t you agree?  Information about the opera is located in our audio collection at DBM03560, DBM03428, and DBM01547.

If you’re seeking to understand how and why music affects us and demystify this connection, please check out the Music and the Brain series we have available from the Library of Congress Music Division.  Music and the Brain, the Positive Effects of Music Therapy on Health, presented by Concetta Tomaino at DBM04275, Music and Grief: Clinical Perspective, presented by Kay Redfield Jamison, DBM 04281, I’m Frozen and I Can’t Play a Thing! Stage Fright and the Brain presented by Norman Middleton at DBM04279.

It’s satisfying to understand the how and why, but sometimes the mystery and unexplained itself is the greatest appeal.

If you’d like to order hard copies of this material for loan, would like to download the materials from BARD and need some guidance, or if you would like to explore more materials of the NLS Music Collection and learn about our service, please email us at [email protected], or give us a phone call at 1-800-424-8567, extension 2. We are happy to help and look forward to hearing from you!



Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.