Astrology and music: how planets and musicians interact

In this post we present the first results of a new Dubbhism research program: astrology. We're looking at the combinations of the planets in the birth charts of musicians. For this project, we don't use regular astrology (zodiac signs, houses etc.). Instead, we look at a remarkable theory based on the Golden Ratio.

If you know a little bit about astrology, you're probably familiar with the concept of stronger and weaker planets, as they relate to our personality. Looking at a birth chart, an astrologer tries to determine the relative strength of each planet. There are many techniques for measuring this strength, but for our current research we tested a new, really simple technique, developed at the Dubbhism lab.

In a nutshell, we use the set of 14 so-called Golden Aspects (as in Golden Ratio) proposed by Theodor Landscheidt in his book Astrologie: Hoffnung auf eine Wissenschaft. An aspect is nothing but an angle between two planets. Landscheidt, who passed away in 2004, left us the Golden Aspects, and although he claimed they are useful in natal astrology, he only hinted at how to actually use them.

Our initial findings suggest something remarkable. As far as we know, Landscheidt himself hasn't mentioned or noticed it before. Looking at the charts of certain famous musicians, we're led to assume a correlation between the distribution of Golden Aspects in a birth chart and the relative strength of the planets. For example, when we look at the chart of Iggy Pop (rating A) and count the number of Golden Aspects per planet (3° orb), we find:

8 Uranus
6 Saturn
5 Sun, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Neptune  
4 Mars, Pluto
3 Moon

This would suggest that Uranus (independent, rebellious, eccentric) is the strongest planet in Mr. Osterberg's chart. Not bad! This is just one example. To get a better feeling for the potential of this approach, we have looked at birth charts of 250 famous musicians (from classical composers to dj's) and a control group of 400 famous people from showbizz, art, science, politics, royalty and religion. The results are quite astonishing. We notice valid correlations between:
  • the planets and their common, classic astrological meanings;
  • the personality of musicians who would seem to resonate exceptionally strong with certain planets.
A typical high score for a planet would be 7 or 8 aspects (3° orb). A nine-ball would be extremely rare. So far, we have only found one, in the birth chart of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: his Uranus has the maximum of 9 Golden Aspects (10 including Chiron, rating AA).

If you want to know more about the methodology, scroll to the end of the article, but first we'll do a guided tour of the planets and some of the musicians who represent their astrological meanings - according to our research. This illustrates the kind of influence a certain planet might have on musicians. The key principles for the planets are from Bernadette Brady's Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark.

Key principle: the self, vitality, life
Keywords for musicians: strength of personality, musical vision, independence

In astrology, the Sun is the most important heavenly body, but for musicians, the Sun can be a mixed blessing. You don't need a lot of Sun to be a great musician (a strong Moon seems more useful) and on the other hand, a very strong personality can get a musician into serious trouble if there's no room to express it. For example because of angry father figures or the hard hand of the recording industry.

Yellowman: the birth chart of Yellowman is full of cosmic 'challenges', but his strong Sun keeps him attractive. Pretty girls love Yellowman.

W.A. Mozart: bright shining light.

Duke Ellington: simply one of the greatest of all time. Big vision.

Sam Cooke: the King of Soul, strong vision, ran his own record business, active in the civil rights movement.

Armin van Buuren: #1 DJ of the world for many years, smart, knows everything there is to know about the legal side of the music business. Almost the opposite of

Karen Carpenter: talented drummer, singer, songwriter who got crushed by the music industry in a dramatic way.

Key principle: emotions, the feminine, nurturing
Keywords for musicians: feel the beat, feel the vibe

Every musician needs a bit of Moon.

Maria Callas: no comment.

Björk: perhaps a bit of a surprise. Her Uranus is relatively weak.

Dr. Dre: who feels it knows it.

Laurie Anderson: has a lot of everything in her chart, but the Moon is her strongest influence.

Lou Reed: must have recognized Laurie Anderson's strong Moon (because he had one himself). They got married. 

Paul McCartney: the perfect creative partner for John Lennon, who had a weak Moon and a strong Mercury.

Key principle: communication, the collection, processing and distribution of information
Keywords for musicians: media-sensitive, in fine style, superb technique, cerebral

Music is a mode of communication, but musicians with a strong Mercury are not just communicators in a musical sense, they also know how to look good, what to say to the press and so on. Traditionally, Mercury is also associated with nimble fingers and dexterity. This doesn't show up as clearly as media-sensitivity but there's enough reason for further research.

Grace Jones: extraordinary communication skills.

Miles Davis: style, style, style.

Eminem: more style, more skills.

David Guetta: knows a thing or two about hype and the media.

Wayne Shorter: excellent technique and refined, slightly cerebral compositions.

Niccolo Paganini: a true virtuoso with a very high dose of Mercury.

Key principle: relating, relationships
Keywords for musicians: classical beauty, love songs, acoustic guitars, niceness, money

In his article Star Melodies, composer/astrologer Dane Rudhyar emphasized the importance of Venus and Neptune in (classical) music. Our results confirm the importance of Venus, but only up to a point. Venus is not about music in general. It's more about chick singers, acoustic guitars, love songs, poetry, and pretty music. And about money. Most classical composers do have at least a bit of Venus. Some have a lot. While Rudhyar thought of Venus and Neptune as the most musical planets, our research suggests that the combination of a strong Moon, Neptune and Mercury has the most musical potential. The average score per planet for musicians was actually lowest for Venus, followed by Saturn and Sun. The control group had a much stronger Venus on average.

Sugar Minott: for the ladies, gentle voice, nice it up, love song specialist. 

Coxsone Dodd: the founder of Studio One, the Jamaican answer to Motown, Stax etc. A lot of pretty music, and Mr. Dodd also made some money from it.

Ludwig von Beethoven: tragic genius with a strong 'dark side', but we're quite sure that Venus can't get enough of the 6th Symphony.

Dmitri Shostakovich: relatively difficult classical music, a bit a-typical perhaps.

Loudon Wainwright: Venus loves unplugged music. 

Nana Mouskouri: possibly the ultimate chick singer.

Key principle: drive, focused action, directed motivation
Keywords for musicians: musical powerhouse, high energy 

Some of these strong Martians are really no-brainers ~ just listen to their music ~ but there is also another side to Martian musicians, which is more about physical action, strength and willpower than about loud music and heavy distortion.   

Scientist: probably the ruffest and tuffest dub engineer of all time, fights space invaders, pac-men and vampires, and wins the world cup, has also challenged the music industry in court more than once.

Janis Joplin: original club 27 member, lived hard, played hard.

Tina Turner: musical power, willpower, staying power.

Skrillex: specializes in really loud dance music. 

Ornette Coleman: father of free jazz, high energy, somewhat agressive saxophone style.

Frank Sinatra: mellow voice, strong willpower, would punch a journalist in the face if necessary.

Key principle: expansion of the world view, growth, movement
Keywords for musicians: big names, greatest hits, tall guys, gurus, hot air

Jupiter's musical profile isn't as clear as some of the others. There are many artists who have scored big hits or had great musical careers without any help from Jupiter. There's also the concept of a 'big sound' (Gustav Mahler, Duke Ellington, Phil Spector etc.) but we can't find it in the data. We do find a few names suggestive of the spiritual/guru element of Jupiter. And there's some hot air as well (but that's really a matter of taste). For now, musical Jupiter remains a bit elusive. 

Michael Rose: one of the great voices of reggae music, actually sounds big. 

B.B. King: King of the Blues, perhaps the #1 blues artist of all time.

Otis Redding: one of the biggest in soul and rhythm and blues.

Afrojack: built for big successes and greatness.

Brian Eno: certified guru.

John Cage: guru or hot air?

Key principle: structure, responsibility, commitment, authority
Keywords for musicians: hard work, exercise, a serious message

A strong Saturn isn't very common for musicians, but the profile is quite clear. We see musicians who work hard, and think about serious things.

John Coltrane: incredible practice routine. 

Jimi Hendrix: incredible practice routine.

Mahalia Jackson: very serious about her music and about issues like civil rights. 

Chuck D: the conscience of rap music.

Kurt Weill: music with a message, idealistic about social reform. 

Key principle: fast unexpected change, awakening, freedom
Keywords for musicians: independent, rebellious, eccentric

Musicians with a strong Uranus are relatively easy to spot. They are somewhat unusual, and proud of it.

Iggy Pop: no comment.

Patti Smith: Chelsea Hotel, CBGB, spoken word poetry meets punk rock.

Richard Wagner: German opera at it's biggest, controversial in each and every aspect.

La Monte Young: enfant terrible, avant-garde, minimalism, The Well-Tuned Piano, loud drones.  

Sun Ra: claimed to be from Saturn, we say he made that up. Deliberately!

Pharrell Williams: forget the Neptunes. Pharrell is different enough to be a true Uranian.

Key principle: loss, confusion, the world dissolving, boundaries disappearing
Keywords for musicians: intuition, inspiration, spiritual hedonism, glamour, illusion, dope

Neptune is a difficult planet. It's positive and negative influences get entangled quite easily.

Peter Tosh: reggae superstar, Mystic Man, Bush Doctor, Legalize It. 

Sonny Rollins: classic jazz tenor, long retreats, genuine spirituality, great hair and sense of style.

Herbert von Karajan: conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, sublime musical sense, the spiritual glamour of the symphony orchestra, great hair. 

Kylie Minogue: one of the most glamorous queens of pop. 

Maurice White: the spiritual glamour of the 70ties band Earth, Wind & Fire.

Brian Jones: important in the early years of The Rolling Stones, musical inspiration, spiritual glamour icon, dopehead, great hair.

Key principle: transformation through deep emotional reactions
Keywords for musicians: new style taking over, rebirth (the phoenix)

Pluto is the King of the underworld. Think transformation, on the deepest level. Musicians with an exceptional Pluto are the ones who create a new, fresh, revolutionary style, strong enough to completely redefine a musical culture. The power of these innovators is felt on a world wide scale. They are the milestones of musical history.   

King Tubby: the King at the controls, originator of dub music, father of the remix, one of the first mixing engineers who used his studio-equipment as creative tools.

Tom Jobim: the father of the Bossa Nova, superb songwriter, took Bossa Nova to an international level.

Elvis Presley: the King, controversial in the 1950's, broke sexual and racial taboos and emerged as the international king of rock & roll, superstar, left a terrible corpse.  

Charlie Parker: one of the fathers of Bebop, high-speed, high-octane, blew away the competition, lived fast, left a terrible corpse.    

Herbie Hancock: jazz phoenix, serial inventor of new sounds and styles, from the classic Miles Davis Quintet recordings to Rockit, the first single that featured the scratching sound of turntablism.

Avicii: a bit of a mystery, has a really strong Pluto but so far his sound doesn't seem that different. Maybe he will have a phoenix-like career, like retiring often and coming back often, or it could be some influence that isn't directly related to his music.

Astrology and its methods
Just like music, astrology is one of the most ancient arts practiced on this planet. Many millennia of astrological history have produced many different methods and approaches. And of course scepticism about the value and the methods of astrology has a long history as well. Philosopher/astrologer Richard Tarnas says that in the modern Western society, astrology is "the gold standard of superstition".

Some astrologers - usually the more scientific ones - have mixed feelings about the big bag of astro-tools that have been developed through the ages. The situation is even more difficult for the new digital generation, who have easy access to lots of old and brand new theories, classic methods, esoteric ideas from ancient times and distant cultures and so on. This abundance, but especially the lack of holistic integration, can be confusing.

Meet the reformers
Methodological reform also has a long tradition in astrology. Some of the most famous astrologers, like Ptolemy, Kepler and Dane Rudhyar were reformers. Notable reformers from the last 400 years include:

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Criticism: throw out the zodiac signs, the houses etc.
Contribution: three new aspects (quintile, biquintile, sesquiquadrate)
Seminal texts: De Fundementis Astrologiae Certioribus, Harmonices Mundi, Tertium Intervens
Preferred terminology: Harmony of the Spheres

Reinhold Ebertin (1901-1988)
Criticism: throw out the zodiac signs, the houses etc.
Contribution: medical astrology, integrated Witte's midpoint-research
Seminal text: The combination of stellar influences (COSI)
Preferred terminology: Cosmobiology

Theodor Landscheidt (1927-2004)
Criticism: throw out the zodiac signs, the houses etc.
Contribution: Golden Aspects, rethinking the physics of astrology
Seminal texts: The Golden Section: A Building Block of Cyclic Structure, Astrologie: Hoffnung auf eine Wissenschaft
Preferred terminology: Wissenschaft

Geoffrey Cornelius
Criticism: throw out science
Contribution: critiques 2000 years of mainstream astrology  
Seminal text: The Moment of Astrology
Preferred terminology: Divination

Richard Tarnas (1950)
Criticism: throw out the zodiac signs, the houses etc.
Contribution: improved Dane Rudhyar's Jungian/archetypal astrology
Seminal texts: Cosmos and Psyche, Prometheus the Awakener
Preferred terminology: Archetypal Cosmology

Theodor Landscheidt's Golden Aspects
Landscheidt often emphasized the physical or astronomical side of astrology. In most of his publications, he researched the anatomy of sunspot-cycles and their physical influences on 'life on earth'. His extraordinary work in this field, especially his ideas about the motion of the Sun around the centre of mass of the solar system (the solar system barycentre) and his more general ideas about the role of rational and irrational numbers in relation to the stability of the solar system got some praise from official scientists, even though Landscheidt, being an astrologer, was tabooed by most. But his solar activity predictions were better than those of his sceptic rivals.

Perhaps Landscheidt's most practical innovation for astrologers (although he didn't include a manual) is a set of 14 Golden Aspects, all derived from one source: the Golden Ratio. Astrological aspects are nothing but angles between planetary positions. Since the beginning of time, astrologers have worked with these angles. Conjunction, opposition, square and trine are the most familiar examples. But of course it's possible to use other angles as well. Landscheidt's Golden Aspects are simply a coherent set of 14 'unusual' angles, which are all based on the same source: the Golden Ratio.

So far, Landscheidt's Golden Aspects haven't been used much in astrology. In fact, they're pretty much neglected by the astrological mainstream. There might be several reasons for this. To begin with, Landscheidt was no 'typical astrologer'. Some of his material is only available in German, and his writing style isn't always as clear as it could be. Somehow, the Golden Aspects haven't caught on yet.

The astrological meaning of the Golden Aspects
In astrology, each angle/aspect has it's own body of meaning attached to it. A conjunction is qualitatively different from an opposition or a square, and so on. Golden Aspects may be quite different in this regard: we could look at them as a coherent whole. Depending on the definition, there are about 12 to 14 aspects in the Golden Aspect set, and normally this would mean 12 to 14 different qualities. But Landscheidt did not find or propose any specific meanings for the various angles. In his book Astrologie: Hoffnung auf eine Wissenschaft? he only speculates about the meaning of 14 aspects as a whole. Primarily, he suggests to look for the quality of stability~instability, because according to Landscheidt and other researchers, the Golden Ratio co-regulates the physical (in)stability of the solar system

Golden Aspects and mental (in)stability
Interestingly, our research suggests that the total number of Golden Aspects in a person's birth chart is somehow related to stability of the mental kind. On average, those people who have a large total number of Golden Aspects (say 26 or more, using a 3° orb) seem to be more fiery, intense and neurotic. Typical examples from our research would be the charts of Kanye West, Brigitte Bardot, Richard Dawkins, Leni Riefenstahl, Sly Stone and the notorious King John I of England. On the other hand, a low Golden Aspect count (under 15) seems to be related to people who are earthy, cool, stoic, introverted or rock solid: the birth charts of Sly Dunbar, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Kate Moss, Princess Diana, Gandhi, Immanuel Kant or Max Planck would be examples pointing in this direction.

This suggests a scheme where rigid personalities have a minimum number of Golden Aspects, averagely stable personalities have an average number of aspects (around 20 using a 3 degree orb), and very instable personalities have a maximum number of aspects.

Distribution of the Golden Aspects in 650 birth charts, using a 3 degree orb. The birth charts of Sly Dunbar, Snoop Dogg, Kate Moss and Immanuel Kant are on the left, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Kanye West, Nicky Minaj and Richard Dawkins are on the right.

Theodor Landscheidt left us the Golden Aspects, but no manual for their practical use in astrology. Our research seems to confirm Landscheidt's intuitions about the usefulness of his set of 14 aspects, if used and interpreted as as a whole. Using a transparent, kindergarten-level method (count the number of Golden Aspects per planet) we find strong correlations between Golden Aspect high-scores in birth charts and the classic astrological meanings of the indicated planets. Landscheidt's intuitions about the polarity stability/instability as a starting point for interpretation also get confirmed.

Implicitly, these results raise a 'philosophical' question: how could Landscheidt predict a connection between on the one hand physical (in)stability of the solar system, and on the other hand very different kinds of (in)stability, which seem intimately related to the expression of 'life on earth'? A common reaction would be to invoke Jungian synchronicity. In our opinion, this would be an incorrect use of the term synchronicity. In the spirit of the ancient hermetic saying 'as above, so below', the mystic Landscheidt was actually contemplating a comprehensive integration of the organic, physical realm and the symbolic, metaphysical and even divine realms. He found (in)stability as a starting point. Buckminster Fuller, another great cosmic architect and mystic, would have called it "structural integrity".

Landscheidt explored more 'big polarities'. In his version of celestial mechanics, rational numbers create instability (resonances in planetary orbits caused by conjunction, opposition and square) while Phi, the most irrational of all irrational numbers, does the damping, the acoustic treatment of the heavens so to speak. With this basic mechanism in mind, Landscheidt also sought to interpret the Golden Aspects along the lines of rational~irrational and consonant~dissonant. It seems deeply ironic that the concept of stable heavenly consonance, the Harmony of the Spheres, depends crucially on the fine-tuning capabilities of the most irrational number possible. Pythagoreans would have killed a man for a lesser heresy.

If you want to do your own astrological research based on the Golden Aspects, you need astrological software that allows you to create a set of custom aspects. Here are the Golden Aspect values as given by Landscheidt:

21,25° | 34,38° | 42,49° | 47,51° | 55,62° | 68,75° | 84,98° | 111,25° | 124,38° | 132,49° | 137,51° | 145,62° | 158,75° | 174,98°

Before you start, try to read this paper by Landscheidt, or his book Sun-Earth-Man. Reliable astrological data can be found at the Astro-Databank. We advise against the use of dates without time, because it will mess with the Moon-aspects, and possibly with other planets as well. Also, the method we propose doesn't always give good results for birth charts with a lot of conjunctions. Be careful when analyzing birth charts with 3 or more conjunctions.

Coda: Why Phi?
If you have read all the way to the end, you may still ask yourself what the importance of the Golden Ratio is. Landscheidt had some really deep ideas about this, but perhaps it's better to start simple: think optimization. From a mathematical point of view, the Golden Ratio is a limit case. It is the most irrational of all irrational numbers. Maybe the video below will give you a better idea about the mathematical properties of Phi. If not, just remember that in nature, Phi often points in the direction of optimization and growth. See also this technical paper, inspired by some of Landscheidt's ideas.