Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science

Overview

In Measure for Measure, Thomas Levenson offers a compelling account of how scientific thinking development from the day 2,500 years ago when Pythagoras discovered the musical scale to the present day. The story unfolds through the tales of instruments scientific and musical: the organ, the microscope, the still, the scales, Stradivari's miraculous violins and cellos, computers, and synthesizers. What emerges is a unique portrait of science itself as an instrument, our single most powerful way of understanding the...
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Overview

In Measure for Measure, Thomas Levenson offers a compelling account of how scientific thinking development from the day 2,500 years ago when Pythagoras discovered the musical scale to the present day. The story unfolds through the tales of instruments scientific and musical: the organ, the microscope, the still, the scales, Stradivari's miraculous violins and cellos, computers, and synthesizers. What emerges is a unique portrait of science itself as an instrument, our single most powerful way of understanding the world. Yet perhaps the most important invention of modern science has been the power to countenance its own limitations, to find the point beyond which science can explain no more, to rediscover that science, like music, is an art.

In this imaginative investigation of the links between science and art, Levenson explores how we have come to understand and experience the natural world through instruments both scientific and musical. As he traces the development of the organ, the microscope, Stradivarius's miraculous violins and cellos, and computers, Levenson reveals why science itself is an art. 48 b&w line drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Levenson's gracefully written, curious, often profound inquiry into the links between science and music hinges on his view of instruments--musical or scientific--as machines that extend the realm of human perception, opening up new worlds. He charts the evolution of science from Pythagoras's arrangement of the planets on the scaffolding of his musical scale to Newton's alchemical experiments and Leeuwenhoek's invention of the microscope to computerized weather prediction and genetically engineered mice. A parallel story progresses from the invention of the organ in ancient Alexandria to Stradivari's design of the modern cello to the invention of the electronic synthesizer. Pondering Bach's fugues and Stravinsky's compositions, TV prodcuer Levenson ( Ice Time ) delves into music's mathematical underpinnings and concludes that science is ``a form of art'' that strives to make sense of the human condition. Illustrated. Newbridge Astronomy Book Club, Newbridge Library of Science and Reader's Subscription alternates. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Associate producer for PBS's Nova series, Levenson Ice Time, LJ 4/15/89 has written a probing account of the intertwining of science and music from ancient times to the present day. Levenson blames Bach for this book. After becoming intrigued by well tempering at the time of Bach's 300th birthday celebration, he delved into the subject and discovered a truth that every serious musician comes to recognize: the importance of mathematics to the basics of music. Levenson singles out special scientific and musical instruments and explores thoroughly how the two fields are related. At times he is too detailed, but this is a minor fault; Levenson is a gifted writer who has produced an engrossing work. Recommended for academic libraries and general collections where Jamie James's Music of the Spheres LJ 4/1/93 or Goedel, Escher, Bach LJ 10/1/79 circulate well. [Newbridge's Astronomy Book Club, Library of Science, and Reader's Subscription alternates.]-Kathleen Spark- man, Baylor Univ., Waco, Tex.
Booknews
An account of how scientific thinking developed from its Pythagorean origins to the present day. Discusses the impact of musical and scientific instruments and discoveries such as the organ, the microscope, and the violin. Emphasizes the historical connections between music, science, mathematics, and art. Includes b&w illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684804347
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 12/5/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 0.79 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 9
Pt. 1 By Design 17
Ch. 1 A Perfect Order 19
Ch. 2 All Is Founded in Perfection 39
Ch. 3 Nothing in Vain 71
Interlude: Sound and Light 109
Pt. 2 An Unbounded Prospect 119
Ch. 4 It Is a Great Secret 121
Ch. 5 Our Powers Increase Without Limits 155
Ch. 6 The Exactitude of Their Proportions 193
Interlude: We Cannot Go Back to That 233
Pt. 3 Making Sense of the Whole 241
Ch. 7 Light in the Cave 243
Ch. 8 We Need New Instruments Very Badly 274
Finale: Description Is Revelation 315
Acknowledgments 319
Bibliography 323
Index 333
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