Greek Esoteric Music Theory

The Five Tetrachords

Tetrachord Tones Vowels* Element Sense Virtues
Tau* Hyperbolaiôn e, f, g, aa A Ê Ô A Aithêr Sight Wisdom
Omega Diezeugmenôn b, c, d, e A Ê Ô A Fire Hearing Courage
Eta Synêmenôn a, b flat, c, d E Ê Ô A* Air Smell Justice
Alpha Mesôn E, F, G, a A Ê Ô E Water Taste Moderation
Epsilon Hypatôn B, C, D, E A Ê Ô A Earth Touch Moderation

  1. Suggested practice: Chant the vowels on their pitches in a Tetrachord in order to work with a corresponding Element, Sense or Virtue.

  2. The note Proloslambanomenos does not belong to a Tetrachord; it was added to the bottom of the Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems as a foundation corresponding to the Moon and the Sublunar or Mundane Sphere.

  3. The Tetrachords are listed from high to low pitch range, but their individual notes are listed from low to high (see The Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems).

  4. Each Tetrachord has the form (from low to high): semitone-tone-tone.

  5. See The Elemental Tetrachord for correspondences with the individual tones of the Tetrachord.

  6. The Tones and Vowels are given in the Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems, as interpreted by Barker (II.481n131). We write A = Alpha, E = Epsilon, Ê = Eta, Ô = Omega. See A Brief Guide to Ancient Greek Pronunciation for suggestions on pronouncing the vowels.

  7. Alpha begins each Tetrachord, except that each octave begins with Epsilon (= note A).

  8. The vowels of the (anomolous) Tetrachord Synêmenôn are based on Barker's (highly informed) interpretation of Aristides Quintilianus and Bellermann's Anonymous manuscript (Barker II.481n131). However, Epsilon-Alpha-Eta-Omega (EAÊÔ) is another possibility.

  9. The letter Tau corresponds to the Fifth Element and the Plektrum of Apollo, as explained in the Elemental Tetrachord.

  10. Five Tetrachords plus one added note make 21, which invites Tarot correspondences. (See the Planetary Heptachord.) This is also equivalent to five Rotations through the Elements plus the Added Note.

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Last updated: Fri Aug 20 13:09:59 EDT 1999