“What’s the secret to your success?” A simple question asked frequently of those who have achieved greatness in their field. Sometimes, that secret is so well disguised even the successful individual is unaware of its influence.
When it comes to sung-through musical theatre, it turns out, that is indeed the case. Since 1972, when Jesus Christ Superstar premiered on Broadway, the most popular sung-through musicals have almost unanimously employed a centuries-old formula known as “the golden ratio” – and surprisingly, they appear to have done so completely by accident.
The golden ratio is an irrational number approximately equal to 1.618. It exists when a line is divided into two parts, with one part longer than the other. The longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.
The ratio is found in nature, such as in the patterns of seeds within a sunflower, the shape of snail shells and, most recently suggested, in the human genome. Its connection with the aesthetic beauty of nature has attracted creatives throughout history to use the number to create art, music, and design...
Stephen Langston, Programme Leader for Performance, University of the West of Scotland
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
Audio narrated by AI.