A Little on Octaves

When we think of octaves, we are understandably given to think of 8s. The clue is in the name after all. Octopus. Octagon. Octet, they’re all to do with eights. The Latin prefix octo (from the Greek okto) literally means eight.

Why then do we call a run of seven tabloids an octave?

When people are first asked to define what an octave is, they will invariably think of the eight notes of the standard musical scale. There are only seven unique pitches however. The eighth of those notes is the same pitch class as the first. In music theory they are even attributed the same letter or name.


solf├ĘgeDo re mi fa sol la so do

On a standard piano for example, middle C (also known as C4) has a frequency of 262Hz. The next C is C5, and has a frequency of 524Hz, exactly double. They continue to double (C6=1048Hz; C7=2096Hz etc). As you might expect, going down an octave halves the frequency.

When singing the seven unique notes in an octave, and ONLY those seven, it just feels wrong. Incomplete. Not convinced? Try it. The eighth note completes the cycle, and brings us to a different but familiar place.

So it is within the Fools’ Journey. We have seven unique frequencies per octave, with the eighth tabloid having something of the same pitch as the first.

Three rows of seven tabloids.
Seven columns of three tabloids.

The 21 tabloids of the Fools’ Journey are engineered so that they can be arranged in three rows of seven (or seven columns of three, depending on your perspective). It is with this simplified layout that we can prelude how the octaves work. We will use this representation throughout this work. Understand though that this is by necessity a 2D representation of a different structure. The whole structure could really better be described as a spiral around the outside of a cone, in which the eighth card completes one full circuit, one level beneath the first.

The bottom most layer* hosts the first seven tabloids, which represent the standard issue for all planetary life. This is pertinent to our biological position the animal kingdom, and primarily of course the meat chariot we travel around the planet in. This row tells us of the Genesis and evolutionary jumps the earth and its denizens made in order to be able to host us here. It says that if we do nothing else but what is in that standard issue, that is OK. It provides enough to survive here. The gaps left by finer process not activating will be filled with things from the coarser cultural life or of other manufacture.

* Some people may find it easier to view it with the lower octave on the top of the grid, with the subsequent levels sitting below them.

If that works better for you it can be done that way, but remember ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ in this context is not about ‘upwards’ or ‘downwards’. Direction here is more about ‘inwards > outwards’ and ‘outwards > inwards’.

In later sections we will be detailing the opposing spiral, travelling the other way.