600-Year-Old Music Found Encoded in Chapel Walls


Reuters reports that father-and-son team Thomas and Stuart Mitchell have unlocked a coded music system present in decorations of the Rosslyn Chapel. (Rosslyn may be familiar to readers as the fifteenth-century Scottish chapel featured at the end of The Da Vinci Code.)

The chapel contains 213 carved blocks showing thirteen geometric patterns. In addition to these blocks, there are carved angels playing musical instruments, including one who is pointing to certain notes on a musical staff.

So here's the crazy math part -- Thomas Mitchell discovered that the thirteen geometric patterns carved on the blocks were cymatics (also known as Chladni patterns). Cymatics are generated by amplifying a musical tone onto a resonant surface (similar to a drum head) which is covered by grains of sand, or a similar medium. At certain frequencies, the sand forms intricate geometric patterns. These patterns are similar to what was carved into the chapel walls (judge for yourself from the video below...the matching is a bit tenuous to my eye). The Mitchells call their composition, based on the carvings (plus traditional lyrics translated into Latin), The Rosslyn Motet. It will debut on May 18, 2007 in a performance at the chapel.

Here's a video produced by the Mitchells showing some of their work (note that the music in the background is part of the Rosslyn Motet):

Further reading: more on cymatics, brief music sample (MP3), the Mitchells' web site.

Via Slashdot.