Always, always, always write your climax at the 2/3rds point through the piece (OK, not always, but it’s hard to go wrong if you do).

You’d think the climax goes at the end, but it turns out not to be the case in many orchestral masterworks.

Take this Wager overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. I put it on and noticed it was 9 minutes long. My head perked up when the big moment came – yep, 6 minutes in:

Many music professors will say there’s a reason for this: the golden ratio. Ever since Pythagoras, music theory has been influenced by idea that there is intrinsic aesthetic beauty in this number.

I actually believe there’s something to that. But I also think a great composer like Wagner didn’t think about it. Guys like him were simply scary good at hearing (in the way a Monet was scary good at seeing). He could “hear” the golden ratio and write it as music. As an audience, we can hear it too, perhaps not as well, but good enough to get a shot of brain pleasure when we recognize it.

To what purpose, who knows? But it’s cool anyway.

(By the way, I searched some Beatles songs to see if any of them observe the golden ratio – nope. One could theorize why not…one could say that 45s were too short, and you couldn’t write a song long enough to be worth bothering. But then all those Bach inventions are like 2 minutes long and they got the golden ratio on the brain…let’s save that for another blog post someday).

Posted 7 years ago by John Piscitello

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