Music is medicine and alongside mourning, marriage, dancing and language one of our sacred cultural universals.
Micheal Bonshor, professor of Music Psychology at the University of Sheffield speaks to the profoundly healing power of song, “The neurological pathways which process sound affect the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for emotional responses, memory and behavior. It can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol, [which is] the stress hormone.”
According to Michael Spitzer, professor of music at the University of Liverpool, we’ve been making noise since time immemorial.
The original instrument was the human voice, followed presumably by rocks and anything else our ancestors could beat a beat out of. Going back 40,000 years, we see the implementation of bone flutes made from the remains of vultures, the most heavy metal s–t I’ve ever heard.
Spitzer maintains that as we evolved, so too did our methods of making sound. Hunter-gatherers opted for lightweight instruments and their music was “of the moment,” spontaneous and impossible to duplicate. Once our forefathers took to farming, their rhythms of life and approach to music took on the circle of seasons and sound, song and rituals that could be replicated.
In honor of the sounds that were and the songs to come, we bring you a list of the zodiac signs as musical genres. Tune in and turn it up.
As the firstborn sign in the zodiac, Aries is, if you’ll allow the Stooges reference, raw power baby; close to the bone, hand over the flame, alleged to the truth and hurtling at high speed towards any and all impulses of the ID.
Cardinal fire, Aries is ruled by Mars, aggro planet of getting it on and getting it done. Named for the god of war, punk rock is what would be lunging out of that infernal deities’ dragster, flame decal on the side and nary a f–k to give. Punk rock is not so much a sound as a primal pulse and Aries the artery that carries it.
Taurus is classical music at it brings to mind stately gardens, simmering rage expressed through refined sound and tight bow strings. Taurus is built to last out of sheer refusal to submit, concede or compromise and classical music is among the most enduring sources of sound in modern history. Add to the mix that most classical music is performed by a symphonic ensemble led by an exacting conductor and Taureans, historically speaking, make for influential leaders and infamous dictators, sometimes both.
Gemini is ruled by Mercury, planet of communication and exchange and as legendary jazzman Wynton Marsalis reminds us, “Jazz music is the power of now. There is no script. It’s conversation. The emotion is given to you by musicians as they make split-second decisions to fulfill what they feel the moment requires.” Living in the present, leaned close for the sacred swap of conversation and making it up as you go along? Gemini at their mutable, musical best.
Cancer is the sign with the strongest tether to the past and country music is a genre that immortalizes, contemplates, elevates and repeats in three chords the stories of days gone by. From love lost, time served, dreams shattered, storms weathered, dogs buried and home sought, memory is the rusted lifeblood of the genre and the amniotic fluid on which the people of the crab sustain themselves.
Fun fact: Hip hop has a birthday and it falls in the lion’s heart of Leo season.
As reported in “Complex Magazine,” it all began on August 11, 1973, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, when DJ Kool Herc (an abbreviation of Hercules) performed during a “back to school jam” for his kid sister. ‘Twas here that Herc combined the essential and to this point independent elements that would come to define hip hop; scratching, breakdancing and MC’ing.
Leo rules over the fifth house of the inner child, the domain of pleasure, play, creativity and carnivals. So it’s apropos that this Herc’s signature move was the “Merry-Go-Round,” “a technique that he used to elongate certain parts of funk records that the kids on the dance floor would lose their s–t to.”
An art form born from a party and designed for dance floor excelsis? Full bore Leo roar.
Virgo, like heavy metal itself, is not so much a single entity as a hallowed lifestyle. You don’t just listen to metal, you are metal a kind of inverse religion in keeping with a sign associated with temple worship. Metal heads ride the line between purism and elitism and Virgo is symbolized by the virgin and characterized by a mild superiority complex. Unlike punk rock, heavy metal takes discipline and Virgo, with their exacting natures and hard ons for proper form and hospital corners, hits the high notes.
Ruled by smooth the edges, fluff the pillows and contour the cheekbones planet Venus, Libra deals in the pleasant, the hard to hate and the easy to nod along to — be it pop songs, hummus, sitcoms or any and all Paul Rudd movies. In this way, Libra is pop music, crowd-pleasing, subtly subversive and pretty on purpose.
Scorpio rules the eighth house of sex, death and transformation and the blues is pain changing shape to song. Like the fixed, threshold headwaters of Scorpio, the Blues sounds like sweetness and suffering, grave dirt and slamming doors, mattress springs straining, a whistle wailing and the insistent thud of survival. Scorpio doesn’t mind the dark but cannot abide the feigned. and the blues, in kind and in sadness, can’t be faked.
Sagittarius takes its symbolism from the centaur of Greek myth and musical theatre was born from a similar pedigree, the theaters of ancient Greece where music, dance and the moral compass of the chorus joined forces under animal skins in the 5th century BCE. Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, big betting, jazz-handing planet of luck and levity and the ebullient nature of mutable fire finds a kindred spirit and a happy ending in the comically inclined, bright colors and sunny side-up sing-alongs of musical theatre.
Rock n’ roll
In the Major Arcana, the tarot card associated with the sign of Capricorn is the Devil and true to form, rock n’ roll has an illustrious history as the devil’s music. From Robert Johnson bartering his soul at the crossroads and the satanic swivel of sea goat Elvis Presley’s hips to Beatlemania inspiring spontaneous pants p–sing, rock n’ roll has long been a friend of the devil and the soundtrack to living free.
Aquarius is the sign of community, activism and ideals and reggae is closely tied to the Rastafari movement which rose to prominence in Jamaica in the 1930’s. As much a philosophy as a sound, reggae music is rooted in the Rasta tenets of social justice and mystical consciousness. Bob Marley, the most notable reggae artist of all time was born on February 6, making him a card-carrying, denim-sporting, free-loving, ganga-billowing, water-bearing prophet for the ages.
Pisces lives for an altered state be it the oxytocin rush of an ill-advised love affair, the pill they found in a gas station bathroom or astral projection and EDM is the soundtrack of getting lost and found, tits up and far out in the sonic, psychic pulse of it all.
Astrologer Reda Wigle researches and irreverently reports back on planetary configurations and their effect on each zodiac sign. Her horoscopes integrate history, poetry, pop culture and personal experience. She is also an accomplished writer who has profiled a variety of artists and performers, as well as extensively chronicled her experiences while traveling. Among the many intriguing topics she has tackled are cemetery etiquette, her love for dive bars, Cuban Airbnbs, a “girls guide” to strip clubs and the “weirdest” foods available abroad.