It has been said that Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras discovered the perfect musical intervals by chance when he heard sounds of hammers striking an anvil at a nearby smithy. These sounds corresponded to the same intervals Pythagoras had been studying. He realized that the ratios of the hammers’ weights correlated to these intervals. After further experimentation with various instruments and apparatus to confirm what he heard, he concluded that math, and, in particular, numbers are connected to music. With a constant presence in history, the imagery of Pythagoras exploring harmony with hammers and other instruments has been depicted in medieval artwork and manuscripts, alluded to in Renaissance and Baroque music, and referenced in a multitude of literature since Ancient Rome and Greece.
Modern scholarship, though, has judged the narrative as a myth and a fabrication. The most recent major interpretation was in the early 1600s: French scholar, Marin Mersenne, dubbed the father of acoustics, declared that the narrative was a myth. His and later scholars’ refutation of the story is peculiar because they failed to disprove the nature of Pythagoras’ discovery with valid physical explanations. Thus, with time, the role and historical importance that the narrative previously enjoyed has since diminished.
Whether or not its physicality can be proven, the story of the discovery is still an invaluable relic to the evolution of Western music, history and culture. In September 2012, our premiere exhibition revived this account from the stagnation of its most recent modern reception by offering the first unique interpretation in nearly 400 years. It showcased the artwork of seventeen local artists at Pump Project’s Flex Space Gallery in Austin, TX. An estimated 300 guests helped us make history at its opening. The exhibit also featured live performances by local DJs and musicians and was generously sponsored by 12 businesses, including Origins, Lush, Buffalo Exchange and Jimmy John’s.
We’d like to send our deepest thanks to the following folks for their help in this production:
Jessica Nixon, show co-producer
Rebecca Marino, former Flex Space director
Josh Justice of Quik Print on Congress
Gabby Mora of Origins on N. Lamar
Cody Scrogum, formerly of Twin Villain screenprinting
Alyssa Martin of The Martin Epicurean
And of course, the participating artists:
Jad Fair (website)
Dieter Geisler (website)
Ellen Gibbs (website)
Fran Holland (website)
Amanda Jones (website)
Tim Kerr (website)
Megan Lane (Etsy site)
Alyssa Martin (Facebook page)
Vincent Martinez (website)
Madison Somerville (website)
Samantha Jean Soper (website)
Luana Steffen (website)