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Both from the Ears and MindThinking about Music in Early Modern England$
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Linda Phyllis Austern

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226701592

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226704678.001.0001

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Harmony, Number, and Proportion

Harmony, Number, and Proportion

Chapter:
(p.89) Chapter Three Harmony, Number, and Proportion
Source:
Both from the Ears and Mind
Author(s):

Linda Phyllis Austern

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226704678.003.0004

Chapter Three builds on the previously introduced tensions between bodily and spiritual epistemologies of music by considering concepts of harmony, number, and proportion from the Pythagorean heritage through increasingly empirical investigations into the nature and significance of occult musics during the seventeenth century. This chapter restores music to its position among the quadrivium of ancient mathematical arts or sciences, placing it into close relationship with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, and from there to other fields of inquiry founded on them, from architecture to numerology. Because of its paradoxical physical effects and ontological mystery, music is an especially useful tool for connecting evident and occult phenomena. Metaphor and metaphysics pivot around perceptible music, and visual signifiers of acoustic phenomena signpost secret knowledge for those who could interpret them. Music thus has a vital role in alchemy, astrology, and magic as well as the rising domain of acoustics. It also helped generate theoretical models of a changing universe, beginning with the ancient idea of music of the spheres. As an entity both literal and charged with symbolic power, music was especially important in bonds between people, or people and higher entities, including holy matrimony.

Keywords:   alchemy, astrology, concord, magic, mathematical sciences, music of the spheres, natural philosophy, occult sciences, Pythagoreanism, speculative music

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