slightly corrected 8/11/04
more slightly corrected 10/14/04
more more slightly corrected 10/26/04
added footnote re new I Ching translation 8/01/06
more corrections and further explanation 8/10/07
correcton: 'heads' is 3, 'tails' is 2 -- thanks to sharp-eyed Ethan Stein 3/7/12

Music of the Moment

I have evolved an interesting technique for developing unusual modes from the I Ching. I call it "Music of the Moment," with a tip of my hat to Franz Schubert (one of my favorite composers) because both the scale and the text of the piece are derived from an I Ching throw. If you are familiar with the process, then you'll understand the following:

Unchanging Yang, or "7" in the coin throw, equals a "sharp" or augmented note within the major diatonic scale, which I take as a point of departure.
Unchanging Yin, or "8" in the coin throw, equals a "flat" or diminished note within the same diatonic scale.
Changing Yin or "6", and Changing Yang or "9" I treat as a "natural" or unchanged diatonic note.

The Coin Throw in the I Ching
heads = the value "2"; tails = the value "3". Thus the four possible totals are:
9 (three tails -- changing yang)          -o-
6 (three heads -- changing yin)               -x-
7 (1 tails, 2 heads) -- unchanging yang  ---
8 (2 tails, 1 heads) -- unchanging yin    - -

With six throws of three coins, we build a hexagram from the bottom up (traditional).
   value   throw #
    - - 8 interval 6 diminished
    --- 7 interval 5 augmented
    --- 7 interval 4 augmented
    -x- 6 interval 3 "natural" (old Yin)
    --- 9 interval 2,"natural" (old Yang)
    -x- 8 interval 1 diminished

Applying this to the C major diatonic scale:

The final (uppermost) interval in the scale does not have to be derived, because the tonic note cannot change.

Comment: Here we have a mode with no dominant-to-tonic relationship, and with an enharmonic (in well-tempered) A#-Bb relationship. Inasmuch as our ears are tuned to search for the dominant-tonic, unless there's a drone sounding on C, our tendency will be to assign tonic-dominant to the F - C relationship, (as in the classical 'hypo' modes?)

If we now open the I Ching and look up this hexagram, we discover that it is Number 47 -- titled "Oppression (Exhaustion)" in the Wilhelm/Baynes translation**. If we wish, we can now use the Judgment as the lyrics for our "song of the moment:"

Oppression. Success. Perseverance.
The great man brings about good fortune.
No blame.
When one has something to say,
It is not believed.

By using this method, you will end up constructing scales (modes, if you prefer) that you would never otherwise use. If for no other reason I find this useful, although often I find an interesting correlation between the "feel" of the mode and the text of the hexagram it represents.

** More recently I have started using the translation by Taoist scholar Ming-Dao Deng titled "The Living I Ching: Using Ancient Chinese Wisdom to Shape Your Life." It seems to lend itself better to use as lyrics. For example, the Judgment, called 'the Statement' in this translation, reads as follows:
Distress. Continue.
For a pure and great person: fortune.
No fault. What is said is not trusted.

And "The Image" reads:
A lake without water;
distress. The noble one
devotes her life
to fulfill her will.

The main reading is also worth considering for lyrics, especially the last stanza:
The stranger leaned forward
rolling one eye, and grinned, then asked me
if I would buy him wine.

One can 'personalize' the lyrics further by singing the changing lines as follows.
Second line (Old Yang changing to Yin)
Distressed with wine and food,
Vermillion sashes come from all direstions.
Gain by making offerings and worshipping.
Going: misfortune. No fault.

Third line (Old Yin changing to Yang)
Distressed by rock, seized in thistles.
Entering into his palace, not seeing his wife.