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The Sweet Poison of Contemporary Music:

In Every Song You Ever Heard,
There’s Something Harmful Hidden


Bo Constantinsen

Cover Image for The Sweet Poison of Contemporary Music

Equal temperament is an interesting way of arranging musical tones; it is the tuning system defining the “twelve notes” from which all Western music is made. Depending on where you live, you may know a lot of songs using this system, or, all the music you know uses it.

Equal temperament is sweet poison.

If one drop of venom was mixed into a honey jar, would you know it's there? Would you think, even for one moment, there's something wrong with the honey? Tasting it wouldn't instantly kill you; it has to be constantly consumed for the effect to become noticeable. Pretty clever, but even then you wouldn't suspect sweet honey of being harmful.

Equal temperament is like poisoned honey. The sweet music you love to hear, play and dance to has something terrible hidden inside it – something acting constantly, at a steady pace. You'll never suspect that the stress and irascibility, the tiredness, headaches, depressions, the feelings of guilt and helplessness and all other disharmonious states of your mind, body and soul are the direct result of exposure to acoustic pollution.

In order to increase one's immunity to poison, a technique consisting in the gradual assimilation of it is used. The person starts with ingesting a small quantity, gradually increasing the dosage, until the body adapts to it and becomes immune to external poisoning.

In the same way, the ear can become accustomed to poisonous music. If a person only listens to music employing equal tempered tuning, the ear will know no alternatives and will adapt to the acoustic poison. But the effect of music on the ear is just the surface aspect of a much profound interaction between vibratory states of energy.

We are the physical manifestation of sound; every oscillating particle of our bodies moves according to the same harmonic laws found in music. These universal laws of energy, known for centuries to the mystics, have just recently been (re)discovered by modern science. Thus the vibratory harmony of natural music will resonate with the harmonic vibratory motion of our atomic structures, while equal temperament will induce dissonance.

Movement is harmonic when it repeats the same cycle in exactly the same time. Harmonic sound moves like waves of energy fitting perfectly into each other. In equal temperament harmonics never cycle, because this tuning's base is the twelfth root of two – 2 12 or 2 1 12 or 1,0594630943593... (decimals go on forever with no repeating pattern), replacing the harmonic progression of whole numbers from 1 to 12 with:


These numbers are a close approximation to the natural harmonic series (built upon integer values), but cannot be found in nature. They do not define any other system, except this one. It grew out of the need of medieval musicians to “change key” and “transpose”, and was a convenient solution that facilitated the construction of musical instruments – thus it reflects the rigidity and limitations of Middle Age engineering.

Equal tempered music generates disharmony, because its waves of energy never meet and cannot support resonance. On a surface level, your mind enjoys the slight harmonic discrepancies tolerated by the ear – an ear which has been gradually accustomed to disregard these barely noticeable differences. But on a deeper level, your whole being is affected by the concealed dissonance, creating disruptive and nonharmonic states between your physical, mental and emotional bodies.

The effects of vibrational therapy exceed exposure time; anything you listen to now will continue to influence your structures long after the music stops. Academic studies have confirmed the effects of sound therapy, acknowledging music as the oldest medicine known to mankind. But scientists failed to understand harmony. Just like the side-effects of chemical drugs, disharmony can be induced by using equal tempered instruments for sound healing. This scenario is very common among contemporary practitioners, and is the reason for which music therapy fails to cure in certain cases.

To “temper” means to set to order, to regulate, adapt and restrain; it is a word originally used to describe industrial processing of steel and glass: to bring to a desired consistency, texture, or hardness (by gradually heating and cooling). In music, tempering the harmonic series means to interfere with the natural order of sound and transform something pure, flexible and expressive into something stiff, constant and rigid.

As children, we learn the shapes, the colors, smells and textures; we learn how to appreciate distances and time, but we never learn how to listen. Our ears are the most neglected organ we have – an organ that stays always open and through which we can develop the closest connection available between the material, seen world and the unseen world of sound and energy. Although we all can hear, most of us have no clue on how, and what to listen to.

You listen to your favorite song in traffic, thinking about the beauty of the music, but still you wish you could take a baseball bat and wreck the car of that idiot who cut you off; sometimes you even feel like smashing his face to teach him a lesson for driving like that…

The unhearable dissonances of equal temperament drive your inner harmony into disruptive states of resonance. Poisoned by the sweet equal tempered music, you feel aggressive and depressed, separated and not worthy. You have become so accustomed to dissonance, that harmony is alien and weird. In this state, you will most likely be a faithful consumer, buying goods to satisfy an unfulfilled desire for harmony; you will use alcohol and drugs to temporarily shift your state of mind into alternate states of consciousness; you will indulge in porn to satisfy the lack of love that you instinctively know you're capable of, and you will eat cadavers of dead animals, nicely packed and advertised, so you could fill the pockets of doctors and pharmaceutical companies selling you more processed chemicals, which will keep you further away from your natural state of harmony.

There is no difference between desecrating the temple of animal life and that of harmonic sound for the purpose of unconscious consumption. Reducing a tone, which in itself is a harmonic universe, to the abstract notion of a “note”, devoiding it of its intrinsic parts and limiting its meaning to that of its fundamental harmonic, is just like dismembering a living creature with no regard for life itself. The musical theory that considers lifeless notes to be the building blocks of a lifeless music, was excogitated in the Middle Ages – a time when Earth was flat, and good entertainment was public stoning, quartering and burning women alive under the pretext of witchcraft.

The tools of equal temperament are the highly intellectualized and spiritually aimless counterparts of its tuning. The classic 7-white/5-black piano keyboard from 1361 exhibits a counterintuitive layout with broken regularity, making it difficult to learn and master. The notation system represents the emancipation of ambiguity, because it uses a five-line staff where only seven notes have a place, the five remaining being modified by accidentals. The whole theory constantly contradicts itself and we can only speculate about the reasons for which it is still being in use today.

The three main faults of current musical practices are:

  1. the equal tempered tuning system: sweet poison, dissonant and out-of-tune;
  2. the standard keyboard: irregular and counterintuitive, and
  3. the staff notation and associated musical theory: emancipation of ambiguous thinking.

There is a liberating solution for every one of these problems. But (musical) truth is a conscious choice that requires strength and courage – the courage to overcome limiting beliefs and a constant opening to alternate perspectives.

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