Magic chord

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Magic chord.[1] About this sound Play 

The Magic Chord is a chord and installation (1984) created by La Monte Young, consisting of the pitches E, F, A, B, D, E, G, and A, in ascending order and used in works including his The Well-Tuned Piano and Chronos Kristalla (1990).[1] The latter was performed by the Kronos Quartet and features all notes of the magic chord as harmonics on open strings.[1]

Described as, "complex and throbbing," the chord does not contain its fundamental (see root (chord)),[2] E. "When the Magic Opening Chord is obtained by playing the Opening Chord at one end of a room while the Magic Chord is played at the other (as Young set it up for me), the feeling-changes of the stereo effect as you move back and forth[-]are dazzling."[2]

The Well-Tuned Piano is based on a pitch lattice of perfect fifths and harmonic sevenths, and the tuning of the magic chord is as follows:[3]

Note Note (E) E F G A B D
Ratio (1/1) 567/512 9/8 21/16 189/128 3/2 63/32
(from C)
(About this sound 1 ) About this sound 2  About this sound 3  About this sound 5 
Step Ratio   567/512 64/63 7/6 9/8 64/63 21/16

For example, G (21/16) is the harmonic seventh of the perfect fifth (7/4 * 3/2 = 21/16).


  1. ^ a b c Grimshaw, Jeremy (2011). Draw A Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young, p.176. ISBN 978-0-19-974020-8.
  2. ^ a b Duckworth, William (2009). Sound and Light: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, p.187. ISBN 978-0-8387-5738-3.
  3. ^ Gann, Kyle (1997). "La Monte Young's The Well-Tuned Piano", La Monte Young Web Page.

Further reading[edit]

  • Strange, Patricia and Strange, Allen (2001). The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques, p.160-61. ISBN 978-0-520-22409-4.