Plato’s Cosmic Bowl Instrument

The Greek Philosopher Plato also believed in the music of the spheres. He also believed that the universe could be likened to a giant musical instrument. 

Plato used a different instrument illustration than what Pythagoras did to demonstrate his concept of a musical universe. 

The imaginary musical instrument that Plato used to symbolize his idea, was similar to a glass armonica. Ironically, this type of instrument did not actually exist at that time. It was invented many years later by Benjamin Franklin. 

Plato envisioned an instrument which was constructed out of glass bowls. It consisted of a series of seven bowls, with a spindle running through the center of them. The largest glass bowl was on the bottom. Then a slightly smaller bowl was suspended on the spindle just above the bottom glass bowl. The bowl just above the bottom bowl, had a circumference around its rim that was just slightly smaller than the circumference of the bowl beneath it. The second bowl’s circumference was just small enough that it could fit into the circumference of the rim on the bowl just beneath it. However, it was suspended just above it.

Each bowl on the spindle was suspended just above the bowl below it. Each of the bowls just kept getting smaller in the circumference of the rims as they went up the spindle. (See picture) 

The rim of each glass, represented the orbital pattern of each planet. If you have ever ran your finger around the rim of a wine glass and heard the musical tone it makes you get the idea. 

In Plato’s illustrative idea, these rims represented orbital patterns of the planets. As the planets went around these great cosmic rims, each one at an elevated level above the preceding planet, Plato believed that a siren went along with the planet, singing one note of the musical scale. So therefore, each planet would have a musical note it was connected with. This was Plato’s conception of the musical universe.

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