Music and the Arts and Sciences in the Renaissance

Tuesdays, 11:30-13:00, June 4 to July 2, 2019

This course takes up some musical themes in the arts and sciences in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Musical concepts are explored in themselves, and in relation to different arts and sciences. The class will include practical sessions as well as the reading of original texts (usually in Latin but with English translations). No prior knowledge of music theory or practice is required, but an appreciation of the music of the period would be an advantage.


Music and the quadrivium. The basic text of Boethius. The monochord (including a practical demonstration)

June 4, 11.30am - 1pm

Primary sources: selected readings from Boethius, De institutione musica.

Further reading: Henry Chadwick, The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy, Oxford 1981; Alison White, ‘Boethius in the Medieval Quadrivium’ in Boethius: His Life, Thought and Influence, ed. Margaret Gibson, Oxford, 1981, pp. 162-205; K.J. Sachs, ‘Boethius and the Judgement of the Ears: A Hidden Challenge in Medieval and Renaissance Music’, in The Second Sense: Studies in Hearing and Musical Judgement from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century, eds C. Burnett, M. Fend and P. Gouk, London, 1991, pp. 169-98.


The physics of hearing

June 11, 11.30am - 1pm

Primary sources: Aristotle, De anima, bk 2, ch. 8; selected readings from Pseudo-Aristotle, Problemata, bks 11 and 19; Grosseteste, De generatione sonorum; Jacques de Liège, Speculum musicae (c. 1320); Fabricius de Aquapendente, De voce sive de larynge vocis organo, 1600.

Further reading: The Second Sense: Studies in Hearing and Musical Judgement from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century, eds C. Burnett, Michael Fend and Penelope Gouk, 1991; Michael Wittmann, Vox atque sonus: Studien zur Rezeption der Aristotelischen Schrift “De anima” und ihre Bedeutung für die Musiktheorie, 2 vols, 1987.


Musica instrumentalis. The adoption of Arabic musical instruments and music (with demonstrations)

June 18, 11.30am - 1pm

Primary sources: Al-Farabi, De scientiis, trans. Gerard of Cremona.

Further reading: E. R. Perkuhn,  Die Theorien zum arabischen Einfluss auf die europäischen Musik des Mittelalters, Walldorf-Hessen, 1976; C. Burnett, ‘European Knowledge of Arabic Texts Referring to Music’, Early Music History, 12, 1993; Owen Wright, On Music: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 5, Epistles of the Brethren of Purity, Oxford, 2010; H. G. Farmer, ‘The Influence of al-Farabi’s “Ihsa’ al-‘ulum” (De scientiis) on the Writers on Music in Western Europe’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1932, pp. 561-92; Max Haas, Musikalisches Denken im Mittelalter, Bern etc. 2005; ‘Mode’ V,2 and ‘Arabic Music’ in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

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Musica humana. Music and medicine

June 25, 11.30am - 1pm

Primary sources: selections from Ibn al-Jazzar, Guide for the Traveller (Viaticum); Ficino, De triplici vita (1489);

Further reading: Peregrine Horden (ed.), Music as Medicine: The History of Music Therapy since Antiquity, 2000; W. F. Wack, Lovesickness in the Middle Ages, 1990; N. Siraisi, ‘The Music of the Pulse in the Writings of Italian Academic Physicians (Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries),’ Speculum, 50, 1975.

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Musica celestis. Music as a cosmic principle

July 2, 11.30am - 1pm

Primary sources: select readings from Plato’s Timaeus (with the commentary of Calcidius).

Further reading: D. P. Walker, ‘The Harmony of the Spheres’ and ‘Kepler’s Celestial Music’, in Studies in Musical Science in the Late Renaissance, 1978; Penelope Gouk, Music, Science and Natural Magic in Seventeenth-Century England, 1999; Laurence Wuidar, Musique et astrologie après le Concile de Trente, 2008.

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