Tahabdra Explores the Idea of an Alternate Tuning System using 528Hz, Golden Ratio & Fibonacci SeriesProducer Dojo Team
Tahabdra is an electronic duo based in Boston, Massachusetts and their musical project focuses on the DNA resonant frequency of 528Hz, as they share with us what led to this being of focus, essentially becoming a factor in their creative presentation. Through solfeggio frequencies of the The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci numeration series, they explore the idea of forming a new alternate tuning system with the idea that sound, as therapy, as a means of repairing and healing on a biological and physiological level. Exploring ideas through solid research and focusing on ancient mathematical means, they aim on reflecting a danceable experience.
TAHUL is their latest release out today and it reveals what they mention as “a multifaceted take on metamorphosis“. Intrigued by everything pure and innovative that Tahabdra resembles, they further define their intention with this release as well as everything they’ve been up to as they establish a foundation and theoretical view that has the potential for future discoveries. In our chat, we run through initial steps into this view, the history of Josh and Wiggz and Berklee being a connector to their meeting, 528Hz in correlation with dance music, how 528Hz differs from 12tET (12-tone equal temperament) with A4=440Hz ( Western standard ), science and numbers as a pivotal factor in music and our understanding of our natural world, the creative process of designing a musical, alternate tuning system, a further look into genetic repair/improvement, tools such as Csound, and much more.
After reading Josh’s extended abstract that he wrote for the ICAD conference in 2015 at Berklee and I was able to further formulate a chat surrounding particular topics which led to further depth into his research and view.
A Chat with Tahabdra – Exploring 528Hz – Alternate Tuning System
Your musical project, Tahabdra, surrounds the usage of an alternate tuning system focusing on the DNA resonant frequency 528HZ, the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci sequence. What initially drew you to taking steps into ideas surrounding the formation of an alternate system based around solfeggio frequencies and ancient mathematical patterns and sequencing found on many levels of the natural world?
Josh: I’ve always been a big math and science guy. Something I got from my dad. Math and science came very naturally to me. But for me, it wasn’t so much the theory stuff that was appealing but rather the idea that you can describe and more deeply understand the world around us using numbers and science. I first remember seeing the words “Fibonacci sequence” in a math textbook, there was just one page about it, but I was very drawn to it right away – I didn’t really understand it, but that fact that one numerical pattern was found in so many instances in nature was really cool to me. Then I heard the band Tool’s “Lateralus” (the song specifically, not talking about the album in this case), and not only did I think the song itself was just really badass and an amazing composition, but when I found out that the Fibonacci sequence was of central importance to the structure of the song it just blew my mind – from the time signatures (moving from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8 in the chorus with 987 being the 16th fibonacci number) to the syllables of the lyrics moving in accordance to the fibonacci sequence – there’s more to it than just that, but that’s all I say for the purpose of this point – that I really wanted to do something similar, or rather take what they had done and expand on it. Then while at Berklee, I got really into world music – especially that of India (specifically north Indian classical music, known as Hindustani music) and also of the middle east. These are musical cultures that rely on tunings very different than that in the West and I was really drawn to the rhythmic complexity, spirituality, and exotic nature of these styles. I would say the final missing piece here would be the conversation I had with one of my electronic production professors at Berklee, Dr. Richard Boulanger, in which we discussed how the way the Western world tunes (more on that below) is somewhat arbitrary and raising the thought that there may be a better organization of notes more rooted in principles of the natural world. After this conversation, I spent many late nights exploring important frequencies in nature, “healing” frequencies – such as the solfeggio scale, with 528Hz seeming to be the most prominent, with some substantial scientific backing it. And also of how the Fibonacci sequence relates to the golden ratio and figuring out the best way to tie it all together.
Wiggz: A good music school will open your mind to everything out there. Josh and me were already performing music so he presented the idea to me in a party and I said “OK”.
What is your main goal for your musical project and alternate tuning system in correlation with dance music? How do you approach this blend?
Our main goal with our musical project is to create a bridge between sound healing and party music. I think there’s a general connotation that sound healing is meant to be solely relaxing, meditative – you know using singing bowls, didgeridoos, gongs, etc. with everyone lying down or sitting. In the case of modern music & art festivals, sound healing is something generally done during the day and at night is when the party music comes out, usually being a much bigger spectacle. There’s of course a few exceptions here and one could argue dance music is in itself therapeutic and “healing”, but I think many can agree with the picture I’m painting here. We strive to break down this barrier and merge these two equally cool and creative pathways as one. We approach this blend in the most simplest sense by taking this alternate tuning system, rooted in the idea and principles of sound healing, and using it to create music inspired by our favorite artists in the dance music scene right now – most notably Noisia, Ivy Lab, and Eprom, using similar tools and techniques to build tracks.
How does this differ from the standard yet arbitrary nature of 12tET (12-tone equal temperament) with A4=440Hz, which has been the most common tuning system in Western music for the past few hundred years? What has been found about this standard?
Josh: With 12tET, you have 12 equally spaced notes per octave. With our tuning system, you have exponential scales of recursive golden ratio point frequencies increasing in number of notes per octave as the octaves get higher, with the start and end points of the scales being octaves of 528Hz, spanning the audible spectrum (for those who don’t know, the audible spectrum for humans is 20Hz-20kHz, and an octave is simply a halving or doubling of a frequency). When you consider that all musical harmony is a matter of ratios, and look at the ratios found within tuning to 12tET, it’s just messy in my opinion. The numbers don’t convey beauty or perfection, in actuality there is inherent impurities with 12tET. It was seemingly an arbitrary but logical solution for composers and musicians of the 16th and 17th centuries and due to instrument design & a general notion that it is good ‘enough’, it’s been the standard since.
With my fascination with the golden ratio, being the ratio of ‘perfection’, of both natural & man-made design – with proportions of the human body, the arrangement of leaves, branches, and veins in plants, the spiral of galaxies, it seems all of nature is approximating this special number. For this reason, I wanted to focus this tuning system around this very important number. With some trial & error, I came to what we used now. Now, A4=440Hz is an interesting and somewhat recent standard, having only been the standard for tuning in the West since 1939. There is some speculation that this standard came from sonic warfare experiments carried out by Nazi Germany, with the notion that this particular frequency creates some physiological dissonance in the human body. It is said that the Rockefeller Foundation imposed this standard for music to boost sales of pharmaceuticals such as antidepressant & anti-anxiety medication. The full extent of this speculation goes very deep. Dr. Leonard Horowitz, a PhD graduate of Harvard University’s School of Public Health, wrote several books about 528Hz and how 440Hz is detrimental to people. Anyone interested in knowing the full story can read his article about it here: http://medicalveritas.org/musical-cult-control/
Now do I believe this 100%? Not necessarily, but do I consider this could be highly plausible considering what else is happening in our world right now and what’s been happening in the recent past of our society? Absolutely. And simply the fact that so much exists regarding this topic is enough for me to want to explore other frequencies and steer away from 440Hz. After a lot of research, I found 528Hz to be the best alternative as a specific frequency to based a tuning system on. For me, it was important to choose a frequency that seemingly had scientific validity and not just new-age trigger words connected to it. Although much more research needs to be done, 528Hz seems very promising – Math scientist Victor Showell describes 528 as fundamental to the ancient Pi, Phi, and the Golden Ratio evident throughout natural design. Showell and John Stuart Reid, a pioneer in acoustic research and cymatic measurements, have proven that 528 pertains to the geometry of DNA structuring and hydrosonic restructuring. In 2018, John Hutchinson, an electromagnetic energy expert from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, helped purify poisoned water off the gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill. He used 528Hz to reduce the oil and grease in polluted waters.
Furthermore, six-sided, crystal shaped hexagonal clustered water molecules form the supportive matrix of healthy DNA. It has been shown that the depletion of this matrix is a fundamental process that negatively affects virtually every physiological function. Bochemist Steve Chemiski says the 6-sided clear clusters that support the DNA double hexlis vibrate at a specific resonant frequency – 528 cycles per second (for those that don’t know Hz is the measurement pertaining to cycles per second). I could go on with this answer for a while, but for the sake of keeping things moving, in conclusion, the tuning system we use is based on numbers found throughout many levels of the natural world as opposed to arbitrary numbers convenient to 16th & 17th century composers & musicians as well as a frequency that has some scientific evidence supporting positive health benefits as opposed to a frequency speculated to cause disease and psycho social agitation.
Your latest release, TAHUL, is out today and it’s a multifaceted take on metamorphosis. Please elaborate. fanlink.to/tahul
On one level, the track is representative of a metamorphosis of music – a forward progression, from using the standard logical but arbitrary 12-tone equal temperament based on the supposedly detrimental 440Hz to using our tuning system based on a physiological beneficial frequency and the numerical roots of the natural world. On another level, the track attempts to capture the experience of profound change that can sweep through one’s life. The track features a rolling, growling bass line, symbolic of the intense forward motion of journeying through time, then breaks down to a minimal saturated 808 section conjuring the movement into a time of instability and tension. Finally, the track climaxes with a heavy, hypnotic drop evoking the explosive transition out of crisis and onto plane of growth and forward momentum in a positive direction.
Why do you you feel it’s important to incorporate more meaningful numbers and science with electronic intelligent dance music?
Josh: The shortest most simplest response I would say is because we truly believe that it is the future of music. We believe we as a species are just starting to scratch the surface of the potential and power of sound & music. We all know music can feel good, music can make us smile, dance, forget all of our worries and troubles, and enjoy the moment. But I for one believe the rabbit hole goes much deeper. There are many diseases – genetic and others in which there is no real cure or even viable treatment – we believe sound therapy – using the right frequencies, in perhaps the right order may be a solution to treat & cure some of these diseases and may even be able to enhance the human body in ways we have yet to discover. Are we saying this tuning WILL cure diseases and enhance on a molecular or cellular level? No. But this is an idea we’re very interested in, and we see this tuning as a possible solution, or even just one stepping stone towards moving this field forward. Why electronic intelligent dance music as opposed to other styles or genres? I think that relates a lot to the 2nd question but essentially we’re both really enjoy electronic intelligent dance music and feel this community is open to such an idea.
Wiggz: Might sound cliche but “Electronic music is a powerful platform”. The best one to create something from anything meaningful to appeal all walks of life. We are not trying do a genre, we want the genre to do us.
You’ve two have had quite an accelerating growth since your debut, “PHI” ( after the Greek letter symbolizing the Golden Ratio), only a few months ago. Share with us one of your most memorable experiences in live performance and your thoughts on the future in terms of overall live presentation, visual aesthetic and intentional factors with your audience.
Wiggz: I’d say playing Alex Grey’s COSM was memorable because the vibe in the room and audience was as pure as the visionary art around it. In the future we plan to bring more elements of improvisation to the stage so it evolves like a rock show with a dance focus, create content for producers and audiences to use so they have their own experience with the tuning, and essentially become part of communities that share our values and interests so we can stay active in the year with this project.
Josh: I feel very grateful in truthfully saying that every live performance we’ve done has been really awesome. I’ve played in many different bands over the years and have never experience such positive energy, overall excitement, and sheer happiness as I do from both being a performer as well as from audiences at every Tahabdra show. Though I will say, a live performance that sticks out in particular was Sublimation, the event The Reliquarium hosted at their headquarters just outside of Providence, RI back in December. From playing on a Hennessey sound system, to having some very cool lasers, and stage design/event curation from our good friends, The Reliquarium, the event and our performance was just something really special. We hope to work with The Reliquarium in many more ways in the near & distant future – they are truly the best at what they do and amazing human beings as well. In terms of the future, we plan on incorporating a much bigger yet scalable production – custom built staging, and a combination between lights, lasers, and projection mapping – possibly utilizing specialized audio reactive elements and encompassing geometry found throughout the natural world. In addition to the actual production, we are looking to curate our shows to promote partying in a healthy way, getting different organizations and personnel involved to convey the idea of partying with (right) purpose/partying with (positive) intention in as big of a way as possible.
You’re tuning into your theory of sound/music therapy as the potential for genetic repair/improvement and healing. How and why is vibration a factor in presenting solutions which has the potential to unlock further codons in the human genome/enhancing humans physiologically?
In the words of the great Nikola Tesla, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” In short, frequency and vibration are at the root of everything. All matter and intangible concepts can be thought of in terms of frequencies and/or vibrations. Therefore, if you can manipulate or alter the vibration or frequency of something such as DNA, there is potential to bring the vibration or frequency to an even more perfect state. It was discovered that humans in our current condition only use about 20% of the codons (the bits of genetic information) in our DNA. For a while biochemists had thought the other 80% was junk DNA, leftovers from our ancestors. However, a new train of thought has emerged fairly recently which suggests that this 80% of unused codons is actually untapped potential for future evolutionary growth. The question that comes along with this thought though is how do we unlock this potential? The answer remains somewhat a mystery in the scientific community though in our humble opinion, we believe sound & music can be a possible solution. Again, if we can manipulate the vibration/frequency of DNA in a positive way, from using the right frequencies in perhaps a particular order, we can unlock this hidden potential, bringing humans to our next step in evolution. However more research needs to be done. This is simply a theory at this point which we believe in.
Run with us the creative process and technical aspects of designing a musical tuning system.
I think it starts with a fundamental understanding of what tuning systems are – to come up with an alternative, I had to learn what 12tET really is, beyond just A, A#, B, C, C#, etc.. This was stuff never really mentioned in any theory class at Berklee unfortunately. I did all my own research to learn the ratios of 12tET and how and why that tuning system is structured the way it is. I would also say, it’s good to have an understanding of other tuning systems – there’s thousands used throughout the world. Some very ancient, some very modern. Knowing the Indian Shruti system to some extent helped in the construction of the system we use. Having some familiarity of the Bohlen-Pierce scale was also pivotal to the construction of our system. Actually the first iteration of the Tahabdra Tuning was a variation of the Bohlen 833 cents scale, which is based on the Fibonacci sequence and Golden Ratio. However that version only had 13 notes so it was pretty limiting. After quite a bit of trial and error, and some great feedback from colleagues, I arrived at what the tuning system is as it stands now. However, there are some wide intervals in the lower octaves/scales and some very small intervals in the higher octaves, so there still may be room for improvement – dividing octaves in other ways, still based on the golden ratio and Fibonacci sequence but in a way that creates more lower frequency content and less higher frequency content – maybe in a mirror image type array, with 528Hz being the fulcrum. Lots more to play around with! haha
View from Josh’s “The 21st International Conference on Auditory Display (ICAD-2015)” EXTENDED ABSTRACT: ALTERNATE TUNING & SOFTWARE INSTRUMENT DESIGN APPLIED TO PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFIT
Elaborate on plugins, tools and techniques implemented into your research.
I was first using a program called Max Magic MicroTuner, a standalone application compiled from Max/MSP, to play around with different tunings and once I settled on the organization of notes, I brought the ratios into a pre-existing Csound MIDI instrument designed for alternate tuning systems which allowed me to play & hear the tuning system, with the instrument designed to convert standard MIDI from 12tET (with A4=440) pitches to user-defined pitches in the form of ratios from a reference pitch and starting pitch. With the instrument having this design, I could play the tuning system with any MIDI device. Now let’s back up a second – Csound may be unfamiliar to many here. Csound is an audio DSL (domain-specific language), written in C which gives it its name. Though I don’t want to scare people here – Csound is not nearly as complex as C. I like to think of Csound as a digital, text-based version of a modular synthesizer – you have opcodes, which are like modules, with inputs and outputs and you can define parameters with a very high level of precision, which as someone who appreciates precision, I found really cool. The first Csound MIDI instrument I used was just a sine wave synth, then I designed an additive synth, still using Csound, which had instances of the golden ratio and Fibonacci sequence thoroughout – this instrument had six oscillators, with each having harmonics based off powers of the golden ratio correlating to the ptich played. In addition, the instrument used various Fibonacci numbers to define six LFOs (low frequency oscillator), which were applied independently to each of the six primary oscillators. Each Oscillator used a phase offset of phi/6 as well for a little extra character.
Must give out a shout out to my friend Paul Batchelor who helped extensively with this instrument design. I don’t think it was mentioned explicitly previous here – but as can be seen with this additive synth design, the number 6 is important to us because the clustered water molecules that make up the backbone of DNA are hexagonal, also, if you add the digits of 528 together, you get 6. After building the additive synth, I made a scanned synthesizer, also using Csound. Scanned synthesis is pretty cool stuff, I highly recommend looking into it for anyone who’s curious. Using this scanned synthesizer, I was able to take a torus matrix (with the torus being the geometric model in which all energy moves on every level of the known universe) to connect all the amplitude impulses of the oscillator, essentially producing sound that is vibrating in a toroidal structure. This instrument also sed golden ratio figures for various paramenters such as inital masses (of amplitude impulses), damping, and initial velocities. And, as with the sine wave synth and additive synth, this instrument converts all incoming MIDI notes to the new tuning system, making the instrument playable from any MIDI controller/device. We then sampled these Csound instruments into Ableton Live in the form of various kinds of sampler instruments for greater ease of use and for more sonic capabilities. We still use some of these instruments in our track to this day. However, a big game changer was when I used the program Scala, which has a fascinating community based around it – most notably contributing to the Scala database which has over 4200 scales, to compile files of the tuning system that could be imported to commerical softsynths like Serum, Diva, and Kontakt. Being able to use the tuning system with these plugins vastly expanded our sonic palette and using some of the great Serum presets out there and making some ourselves, we were able to really capture the aesthetic we were envisioning. We also use Celemony’s Melodyne to pitch samples to the tuning system, most notably vocal samples.
What helps to keep you motivation constant?
Josh: The answer to this for me is easy, this project is what I really feel like I should be doing right now in life – it’s a culmination of everything for me, I feel incredibly grateful to be able to blend so many of my passions and ideas into a singular project. I would love to tour the world, playing the biggest/best transformational festivals & bass music events with this project and really want that day to come as soon as possible (without rushing anything of course). And even more importantly, I want to use this project as a platform to expand the field of sound healing/therapy and be able to ultimately fund more research in regards to the effect of sound and music on the human body in various ways, with the ultimate goal of really helping people, curing diseases, through sound & music.
Wiggz: For me it’s synergy between great music, good people, and uplifting environments we can become part of. If anything else happens above that, I consider it a bonus. The most motivating moments is experiencing genuine gratitude and gazing into the audience’s eyes and understand without words that what we are doing is having a positive effect.
Share with us your experience at Berklee College of Music in Boston and how your involvement plays a factor in your studies, research and future findings.
Well, first off, Berklee is where Wiggz and I met. I remember running into him leaving the main building – 150 mass ave – and he right away invited me to a party he was playing at that night. I went, had a pretty wild time and we just kept in touch after that, working together in different ways over the years before the official creation of Tahabdra. Aside from that, Berklee did play a pretty big role in the journey of creating this tuning system & project – as mentioned, Berklee is where we got to explore many forms/styles of music including Indian and middle eastern styles and had resources and knowledgeable people all around. I first learned about Scala from Steve MacLean, one of my favorite teachers there. I had the initial conversation to spark my interest to look into other ways of tuning with Dr. B, in many ways a mentor to me, who also showed me Csound (he literally wrote the book on it), as well as got me into microtonal composition and got me thinking a lot more about bringing profound concepts into music. It was at Berklee, that I really honed in on fusing live drumming with electronic music in many ways, which Tahabdra is really a culmination of.
Art by Patrick Boyle, aka: Digital Vagabond
What is being tapped into for software instrument design? What is Csound and how does it apply?
[I think the question 3 up should handle this]
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
We’d just like to say Tahabdra extends far beyond the two of us. We work with an amazing team of individuals who contribute in immense ways and we really can’t express how much we appreciate them – just want to take the opportunity to acknowledge Richard Guerra, Patrick Boyle, Matt Benincasa, Matty Green, Evan Lukash, Allan Flanders, Jake Boynton, and everyone else who’s helped out along the way, I know I’ve probably left some people out here. We want to thank you Sofia, and ill.Gates for providing this awesome platform for us to get deep about what we do, how we do it, and why. And most of all we want to extend infinite thanks to everyone out there that believes in what we’re doing, digs our music, comes to see us live – y’all mean the world to us! We’re looking forward to playing up in Portland, ME in a week – next Wednesday, 4.4, we got Psychedelic Sleepover locked down in June as well as Unifier festival, with many more dates being discussed currently as well as a bunch of unreleased tracks we’re excited to get out to the world in due time.
Much love & respect to you all – Tahabdra