Both from the Ears and MindThinking about Music in Early Modern England

Both from the Ears and MindThinking about Music in Early Modern England

Linda Phyllis Austern

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226701592

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This interdisciplinary study shows the extent to which literate sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English people considered music beyond its heard and performed aspects. It explains the remarkable range of ways in which they wrote about music and understood it to inform other endeavors, and how musical ideas were connected to other trends during an era marked by intellectual change. Music was considered both art and science, had a long-established place in many human enterprises, and inhabited the fluid conceptual space between abstraction and concretion. Music and musical terminology thus enabled explanation of complex ideas and provided points of contact between otherwise discrete fields of human learning across audible, visual, literary, and performed media. Music and musical language also facilitated carefully coded approaches to some of the era’s most hotly contested topics such as religion and the rising domains of scientific inquiry. Such understanding, in turn, influenced ways in which sounding music was practiced, and its materials were created, marketed, and presented. Furthermore, reading, writing, and talking about music were valuable skills for a culture in which the subtleties of musical knowledge signified status, and in which gentlemen in particular fraternized through discourse as well as sociable practice. Yet no matter how esoteric reference to music became, there always remained something of its audibility and potential to affect the body, soul, and all five senses.