Fibonacci in music (Tool’s Lateralus)
The Fibonacci sequence can be found in various artworks throughout history, perhaps the most well known is in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Others might not be so well known or that obvious. For instance, “Lateralus“, a song by American progressive rock band Tool, the Fibonacci sequence in infused in the music and the lyrics. The song is the third single and title track of their third studio album Lateralus. A lot of interpretations for Tool’s Lateralus can be found on the internet, and for some this song carries a larger than life meaning.
Maynard James Keenan, often referred to by his initials MJK, is best known as Tool’s vocalist. Maynard James Keenan’s vocals during the first few minutes of Lateralus form a Fibonacci sequence. The number of syllables progress to the sixth step, then back down to the first step; up to the seventh step, and then back to the fourth step:
Lyrics Tool’s Lateralus
 black then
 white are
 all I see
 in my infancy
 red and yellow then came to be
 reaching out to me
 lets me see
 there is
 more and
 beckons me
 to look through to these
 infinite possibilities
 as below so above and beyond I imagine
 drawn outside the lines of reason
 push the envelope
 watch it bend
Explanation Fibonacci in music
The Fibonacci sequence shares a relationship with Phi, the golden ratio. The golden ratio is used to describe spirals, which are mentioned several times in the lyrics:
“Swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be human”, “Spiral out, keep going” twice, and “Spiral out, keep going.” five times. Also, Keenan first begins singing 1 minute and 37 seconds into the song, which equates to 1.617 minutes (the golden ratio = approximately 1.618).
The time signatures of the chorus change from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8, symbolizing a spiral. In addition, the number 987 is part of the Fibonacci sequence.
“Black then white are all I see in my infancy”
“Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me – lets me see”
The lyrics probably refer to the alchemical stages lead must go through to become gold, the philosopher’s stone (nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, rubedo) — this was viewed by Carl Jung as the individuation process, spiralling toward the higher self. Lateralus and Ænima both feature many Jungian concepts in their lyrics, and Lateralus mentions spirals quite often.
Despite this, some speculate that the lyrics refer to what an infant may see after opening its eyes for the first time: black, white and the rest of the visible color spectrum.
These words have also been interpreted to signify a psychedelic experience induced by high doses of Marijuana, LSD or DMT.The next lyrics “As below, so above and beyond, I imagine – drawn beyond the lines of reason.
“Push the envelope. Watch it bend.”
Push the envelope. Watch it bend have been thought to describe the infinite choices and possibilities presented by a presumably infinite universe, a concept which is expanded upon as the song progresses.”Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
“Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.”
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.” brings to mind a passage from Frank Herbert’s Dune:”Do you wrestle with dreams?
Do you contend with shadows? Do you move in a kind of sleep? Time has slipped away. Your life is stolen. You tarried with trifles. Victim of your folly. -Dirge for Jamis on the Funeral Plain, from “Songs of Muad’Dib” by Princess Irulan”. It also echoes themes from other Tool songs, including The Grudge and Ænema. It deals with the human tendency to become too immersed in trifles which, in the end, matter very little on a cosmic scale.
” “I embrace my desire to feel the rhythm, to feel connected enough to step aside and weep like a widow, to feel inspired, to fathom the power, to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain…””
Next, “I embrace my desire to feel the rhythm, to feel connected enough to step aside and weep like a widow, to feel inspired, to fathom the power, to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain…” again may refer to the human “experience”, and the possibilities it presents.
The following lyrics:
“To swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human.”
“To swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human.” point toward the belief of human ascension towards divinity expressed in alchemy, or possibly describe pushing the limits of ingenuity and imagination, while retaining humanity.
The final, climactic verse:
“With my feet upon the ground, I lose myself between the sounds and open wide to suck it in.
I feel it move across my skin. I’m reaching up and reaching out. I’m reaching for the random or whatever will bewilder me, whatever will bewilder me.
And following our will and wind, we may just go where no one’s been.
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.
Spiral out. Keep going, going…”
These lyrics may be interpreted as reaching a higher state of consciousness, or otherwise bettering oneself in a profound way.
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