Greek Esoteric Music Theory
The Eight Modes
Henricus Glareanus (1547) is generally credited with
rearranging the names of the
of ancient Greece to name the medieval Modes
defined by Pope Gregory (c.540-604). In this chart the
medieval names and numbering are used because they better
reflect the relation of the Modes to the
Elements and Humors:
Phlegmatic (Phlegm), Choloric (Yellow Bile), Sanguine (Blood)
and Melancholic (Black Bile). For the same reason the
(non-classical, Gregorian) Eighth Mode, the Hypermixolydian
has been included.
The C-major Foundation Note and ancient
Greek name (Harmonia) have been included to
facilitate correlation with the
The odd-numbered Modes are Authentic and increase the
corresponding Humor (as indicated under
Change); the even-numbered are Plagal and
decrease it. (Odd and Even Numbers are respectively Male and
Female, according to the Pythagoreans. Compare also the
Planets with the Numbers of their Modes.)
The compass of a Plagal Mode is a fourth lower than the
corresponding Authentic Mode.
The exception in this chart is the
Hypermixolydian, whose pitch duplicates that
of the Moon but in a higher octave, as specified by Ramis
and others. The more familiar Eighth Mode is the
Hypomixolydian, whose Foundation Note D is indeed a
fourth lower than the Mixolydian's.
Except for the VIII Mode, the Foundation
Notes follow a Circle of Fifths. (If VIII is taken
to be Hypomixolydian then there is no exception.)
In medieval usage of the Modes, the focus is the Dominant (at
step V) for Authentic Modes, and degree VI for Plagal Modes.
The melody ends on the Final, which is the Foundation Note
for an Authentic Mode, and the Final of the corresponding
Authentic for a Plagal Mode.
(See Oxf. Comp. Music s.v. Modes.)
The correspondences between the Modes and the
Changes in the Humors and
the resulting Effects are given by Ramis de
(Godwin HS, 171-3)
Modes I and II correspond to the Element
Water and the Phlegmatic
The Effects are of the Lamps of Day and
Night: to awaken or to put to sleep.
Modes III and IV correspond to the Element
Fire and the Choleric
The Effects are Martial, for fighters wound
with weapons, or Mercurial, for flatterers wound with words.
Modes V and VI correspond to the Element Air
and the Sanguine Humor.
The Effects are Jovial happiness or Erotic
Modes VII and VIII correspond to the Element
Earth and the Melancholic
The Effects are Saturnine melancholy or
Return to Greek Esoteric Music index
Return to Biblioteca Arcana page
Send comments about this page
Sun May 9 23:08:23 EDT 1999