Ancient retellings of the feats of Orpheus never identify the source of music’s power for the simple reason that no such explanation was necessary: music’s effect was understood to emanate from its very essence. Pythagoreanism explains the effect of music as the product of what might be called isomorphic resonance: the ratios that govern the intervals of music are the same ratios that govern the structure of the universe at every level, from the individual human to the cosmos as a whole. This tripartite morphological congruence, when set in motion through sound, creates a resonance that reverberates within humans, beasts, and even stones. This resonance also accounts for the varying degrees of music’s power at the hands of different musicians: Orpheus’s music is more perfectly tuned to the structure of the cosmos; the music of ordinary mortals, less so.
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