The Rosslyn Motet

The incredible music discovered after 500 years carved into the stonework at Rosslyn Chapel


Stave Angel

There is also a 'Stave Angel' or music cipher that points out 3 notes of the music to The Rosslyn Motet and these 3 pitches account for 70% of the entire cube sequence. It is so subtle a decoy that you are supposed to think it is a musician playing a Harp or Psaltery, but when you look in detail, he is actually pointing strategically at 3 different lines and spaces of a stave of music. Referring to the first 3 cubes rising above his head and their relevant Cymatic pattern.

The music discovery

Nothing is wanting but the key

Rosslyn Chapel holds a musical mystery in its architecture and design. At one end of the chapel, on the ceiling are 4 cross-sections of arches containing elaborate symbolic designs on each array of cubes (in actual fact they are rectangles mostly).

The 'cubes' are attached to the arches in a musically sequential way. And to confirm this, at the ends of each arch there is an angel playing a musical instrument of a different kind.

After 27 years of study and research by Stuart's father Thomas.J.Mitchell, we believe he has found the pitches and tonality that match the symbols on each cube, revealing its melodic and harmonic progressions. It is what we could call 'frozen music', a little like cryogenics.

The music has been frozen in time by symbolism, it was only a matter of time before the symbolism began to 'thaw out' and begin to make sense to scientific and musical perception.

The designers appear to have applied this formula to record the music in stone carvings and we have translated the frequencies employing this formula to Rosslyn Chapel's cubic, carved patterns.  

Chapter 7 - What you see is what you get.

Translating the symbols into music

For a composer, it is a moment of inspiration, the spontaneous flash of creative thought that drives the ideas behind your music. Everything you have learned about in music, i.e. technique, style, form and structure up to that moment is merged into the fusion of your creation. You carry on until you are completely satisfied that you have created a unique and artistic composition encapsulating the spontaneous flash of creative thought that drove you to do it. Then you can appreciate it thereafter, as you have set it down in formal notation and as long as there are musicians who can read your music notation system. On this occasion however, the music has already been composed, and the moment of inspiration has taken place many years ago.

The creator has captured that creative inspiration in a notational form, and the creative task on my part is to understand this notational form and translate it into music using a formula. This formula will be a combination of musical academia and instinct; the search for cadences, Cymatics symbolism and their associated pitches, a good knowledge of Pythagorean tuning and Renaissance instruments. We begin at The Apprentice Pillar (this is the direction of the music in my opinion moving from South to North) and the first observation is the first two arches having similar opening notes. Is this a cadence or an opening motif? As I continue matching the cymatic symbols, a definite “key” is beginning to emerge; A minor, the aeolian mode. This mode formed part of the music theory of ancient Greece, and is based around the relative natural scale of A , in a similar manner to playing all the 2white notes” of a piano from A to A. Greek theory called this simple scale the hypodorian mode, and the aeolian and locrian modes must have formed different (perhaps chromatic) variations of this form. The term aeolian mode fell into disuse in mediaeval Europe, as church music based itself around eight musical modes: the relative natural scales in D, E, F and G, each with their authentic and plagal counterparts.

As I progressed, my attempts at pitch assignment and experiments with sections of cadences, I was finally bringing forth to my ear, melodic structure and phrasing. The sound of real music was gradually emerging, as a Polaroid photo develops gradually before you. It was such a simple and haunting melody, very old and very like a nursery rhyme. This simple phrase is repeated again on the next arch only this time moving harmonically to the dominant major key. This harmonic progression is very indicative of Scandinavian folk music, where you move from the key of A minor into E major. Considering William St Clair’s connections with Orkney, this may not come as too much of a surprise. Once I had finally covered every arch and its cubes, I could play back the melodies and begin to define their rhythmic measure. The most common combination of cubes on the arch sections are 9 to begin and then we reach an arch meeting point; then 8 more cubes until the arch merges into the East wall. The melodic phrases have a definite feel of triple time in their structure and although there is great beauty that comes forth in duple time, the music is best suited (to my ears and logic) to 6/8 time and this falls perfectly and rhythmically into place at the end of each arch cadence. Although it was common practice in the 15th Century to move without any warning from triple time to duple time and back again. This musical device I have adopted into the music score as I have read the cubes, appears on each arch as a “what you see is what you get”. Or in musical terms “what you feel is what you know.” Placing the music into measurable format, I realised I had over 45 bars of musical theme’s and phrases that flowed and moved melodically and harmonically. How do we present this music with accompanying harmonies and chord structures?

Sourcing information about musical accompaniment in Scotland during the 15th Century is very scarce as there are very few documents around that give a detailed 23 explanation in score form. A great deal of music has been lost over time and the few manuscripts that survive do not tell us a great deal. We have to turn to composers who were in fashion at the time such as John Dunstable, Guillaume Dufay and The Burgundian/Flemish Schools during the renaissance. The Burgundian School was the first phase of activity of the Franco-Flemish School, the central musical practice of the Renaissance in Europe. Of all the names associated with the Burgundian School, the most famous was Guillaume Dufay, who was probably the most famous composer in Europe in the 15th century. He wrote music in many of the forms, which were current; music which was melodic, singable and memorable (more than half of his sacred music consists of simple harmonization’s of plainsong, for example). They give us many clues regarding the common harmonic accompaniment of the time. I am certain that the choice of instruments in the “orchestra of angels” were specially chosen for their ability to accompany voices and perform popular dance/folk tunes such as they did at social gatherings and festivities. Fortunately, I had spent a great deal of my musical studies (over 20 years) researching and listening to medieval music and harmony. I had already acquired a good knowledge of what the tonal colour, rhythmic and harmonic qualities of 1400’s music contained. I knew there had to be some reason for having studied this period of music and now I could use this learning to my advantage and create an authentic realisation of the designers intended music. I have since applied the rhythms and harmonies to the Motet with all the instruments and voices into 5 distinct movements, while the Motet form usually denotes an unaccompanied vocal text.

Another highly interesting part of my research was the Inchcolm Antiphoner, a music manuscript inscribed by monks on an island in the Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh dated at around 1300. Some of its Latin chants (in praise of St Columba) incorporate both music and texts are believed to be of considerably greater ancient origin. Recent analysis of the latter manuscript – of which much remains to be done – provides strong evidence for a type of Celtic plainchant, representing a distinct regional evolution from the main European forms of this unaccompanied liturgical song. One aspect of this distinctiveness, in fact, may well have been that Celtic plainchant was accompanied, on an early version of the clarsach, or small Scottish harp. The organ was also established in Scotland by the 12th century.

The Code Cracking Team

What does it sound like

This is the most important aspect of the entire project for most people and is best explained by listening to the music. The unusual combination of instruments, their dynamics, tunings and textures re-create a sound long forgotten from the past. The melodies are simple but harmonically develops and unfolds in the most simplistic but charming way.

The sequential arrangement of the cubes at many times is a series of repeated notes/symbols signifying a more functional than aesthetic sense to the music. Sometimes it sounds a bit like a 'nursery rhyme' and there is also a feeling of a 'Celtic air' about the music, possibly connected to Orkney where the Sinclair's home once was. We recorded the piece as authentically as possible using instruments and the correct Pythagorean medieval tunings of the 1400's.


The Rosslyn Motet - Music of the Cubes - (Book/PDF)

The story of how my father and I decoded the music of Rosslyn Chapel
using Cymatics as the cipher.



'Cymatics is the science of sound made visible. It is based on the principle that when sound encounters a membrane such as your skin or the surface of water, it imprints an invisible pattern of energy. In other words, the periodic vibrations in the sound sample are converted and become periodic water ripples, creating beautiful geometric patterns that reveal the once hidden realm of sound. If we could see the sounds around us with our eyes we would see myriads of holographic bubbles, each with a kaleidoscopic-like pattern its surface. The CymaScope, in a sense, allows us to image a circular section through a holographic sound bubble. Developed by John Stuart Reid in the UK, the CymaScope reveals the once hidden realm of sound. The CymaScope, like the invention of the microscope and telescope, opens a realm not previously suspected to exist; a whole new world of visible sound.'

John Stuart Reid -

The generic term for this field of science is the study of modal phenomena, retitled Cymatics by Hans Jenny, a Swiss medical doctor and a pioneer in this field. The word Cymatics derives from the Greek 'kyma' meaning 'billow' or 'wave,' to describe the periodic effects that sound and vibration have on matter. From within the depths of silence comes form and structure that binds the matter of our universe together in geometry.

Cymatics is also about the aesthetic efficiency of nature, to squeeze together into the most beautiful forms, 'space' andt how nature utilizes space.
Through the observation of patterns in nature, we are literally surrounded by the phenomenon and any enquiring mind would be able to experience these geometries since the beginnings of understandings, especially in the field's of music, sound and acoustics..Nature herself employs sound as an infrastructure of great beauty and dynamics.

''Both silence and sound collectively contribute to the phenomenon of vibration. We cannot measure or define silence without sound as its ruler because all matter vibrates between two universes, the universe of sound within the dimension of silence, the interplay of two dimensions.
Like a poem of nature that never ends, together, sound and silence dance to the rhythms of life.''

Chladni Patterns

Chladni Patterns created with Sand, a plate and a Violin bow. The pitch is 'A' natural.


The Rosslyn Stave Angel Notes

The Stave Angel

The angel points to B with his right hand and to A and C with his left. This was taken to indicate that the music was in the key of C major, or relative A minor, with the ''leading tone'' B balanced symmetrically in the centre. From this, each of the cube patterns was matched against a particular frequency using a square Chladni plate tuned to C. The resulting pitches were ordered from bottom to top, left to right around the columns beginning with the stave angel to produce a haunting melody.




Richard Merrick - Interference Theory

Cymatics Patterns produced by John Stuart Reid

Cymatics Source Website

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn and the Grail

Mark Oxbrow (Author), Ian Robertson(Author), Simon Cox


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