painting by Joseph Raffael

“Mathieu has found the words to tell the power of music.”

— Pete Seeger


Harmonic Experience by W.A. Mathieu

Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony From Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expression (1997)

An exploration of musical harmony from its ancient fundamentals to its most complex modern progressions, addressing how and why it resonates emotionally and spiritually in the individual. W.A. Mathieu, an accomplished author and recording artist, presents a way of learning music that reconnects modern-day musicians with the source from which music was originally generated. As the author states, "The rules of music—including counterpoint and harmony—were not formed in our brains but in the resonance chambers of our bodies." His theory of music reconciles the ancient harmonic system of just intonation with the modern system of twelve-tone temperament. Saying that the way we think music is far from the way we do music, Mathieu explains why certain combinations of sounds are experienced by the listener as harmonious. His prose often resembles the rhythms and cadences of music itself, and his many musical examples allow readers to discover their own musical responses.

Read excerpts from Harmonic Experience.

See Interview, 1997 for additional details.

Please try to buy a new copy of Harmonic Experience, for the reasons stated below.
If you're looking for a used copy, please do not purchase any of the first four printings, which you can identify by looking at the printer's number line (near the bottom of the copyright page); the lowest number in that line is the printing number of the book in your hand.

The first printing of Harmonic Experience contained quite a few errors, for which errata are available. The third and fourth printings, in particular, contain truly egregious errors.

Instead, please look for a copy that is at least the fifth printing. As of August 2019, the eighth printing is the most recent.

Harmonic Experience (eighth printing) is available from
Inner Traditions International.