In this project Year 12 students selected a book from the Chetham’s library which they then researched, viewed in the library and wrote the following webcasts detailing their experience and findings. This webcast is aimed at younger audiences.

Join our Year 12 students as they introduce you to the mysterious Astrologica. This beautifully illuminated mid-fifteenth-century astrological and astronomical work is one of the most gorgeous objects in the Chetham’s Library archives.

Astrologica webcast transcript

Welcome to the Chetham’s library webcast. Today we will be exploring a beautiful treasure of the Chetham’s library called the Astrologica. Our visit to the library was something magical, it reminded me a lot of Hogwarts.

It’s amazing how this historic building has held itself strong for almost 600 years. We saw and discovered many artefacts and ancient books and treasures, but what really drew our attention was the book of Astrologica. By the name you can already tell that we are in the realm of astrology and how it was used many years ago. The use of astrology dates back to the Ancient times of the Babylonians, and they were the first ones who instated the idea of the twelve Zodiacs.

The Astrologica is one example of what people at the time used as a scientific instrument, which gave them the information they were looking for. It’s essentially a really old book consisting of information on astrology. This ranges from information on the twelve Zodiacs to lunar cycles, the planets, volvelles and many other pieces of data which contributed to medical treatment. (Big tick)

During the Middle Ages people used astrology for more practical and absolute tasks. Astrological charts would be used to create predictions for weather forecasting, farming and medicine. Some people like John Dee, who was a really smart guy who studied mathematics and astrology would sometimes help with horoscope predictions for Queen Mary. The main paper devices they would use are called volvelles, which would be used for horoscope predictions, especially in relation to medical treatments.

A volvelle is a rather complex paper device, it consists of several components which include paper discs, a yearly calendar, lunar cycles and even the twelve zodiacs. Essentially this instrument will tell us the position of the moon and which zodiac region it falls under. With this data astrologers are able to interpret the region and in turn give us a horoscope prediction. This was particularly used in the practice of medicine.

The use of medicine in relation to the stars was actually an Ancient practice, but reached it’s epitome of use in the medieval times. The practitioners regarded the twelve zodiacs as having governance over different parts of the body, as well as medicines that would be most efficient.

Doctors would diagnose a patient depending on when they fell ill in relation to the constellation of the moon. So, if you fell ill in the constellation of Aries, the chances would be that you would have an illness based on the head. Or if you fell ill in the constellation of Virgo, you would get diagnosed with an illness of the nervous system or the digestive system.

It’s really interesting how the idea of astrology came into its development. I mean, discovering the nature of different zodiac regions within the galaxy. In particular, the Milky Way galaxy, a spiralling galaxy, which can almost be said to be discovered in something natural. A spiral. We find them all over nature and in the universe. These spirals represent the typical mathematical figure known as the Golden Ratio.

Whoa! You’re on a completely different topic but I’m really intrigued… so, what is the Golden Ratio? Well the Golden Ratio, it’s basically an irrational number approximating to 1.618033988. This number is found when you take the ratio of two Fibonacci numbers and in turn it gives an estimation of the Golden Ratio. So, wherever you find a Fibonacci spiral, you basically have the Golden Ratio! Many architects use the Golden Ratio as it’s said to be the most satisfying ratio to look at. In nature, there are plants that form natural spirals, in order to achieve maximum sunlight. And the ratio can even be found in music.

Yeah, do you ever just listen to a song or a piece and just get a sense that it sounds or feels naturally satisfying? Well, it’s probably that the Golden Ratio is used. These can be found within the proportion of bars or little rhythms of Fibonacci numbers would be played. And sometimes a proportion of a song could hit a Golden Ratio moment.

Let’s listen to some examples:
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

The famous first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is made up of bar proportions of the Golden Ratio.
It also features a Golden Ratio Moment; this is a climax 61.8% through the piece. 61.8 is derived from Fi. So, if you find the Fi moment of a piece, you’ll find the climax. This is that moment in this piece:
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

Unfortunately, since this is an audio recording, we are unable to show visuals of how it works and what we are eventually talking about so maybe do some more research and you’ll find it yourself.

Other examples include the beautiful Bach Goldberg Variations, Bartok Music for Strings and Percussion, Handel Concerti Grossi and many, many more.

That’s so cool! So, to finish off this webcast, lets listen to some other examples of how the Golden Ratio is used in music. This is Aria, from Bach’s Goldberg Variation, BWV 988.

We hope you enjoyed this webcast, if this was interesting to you, then go and look on the Chetham’s library website and you can see loads of different blogs about all of the artefacts and the treasures of the Library.

This particular book is from the 101 Treasures series and there’s a list of so many other interesting treasures of the library there. Thank you for listening. Bye!

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