The Music of the Spheres: The Great Theme from Pythagoras to Penderecki

The Music of the Spheres: The Great Theme from Pythagoras to Penderecki

by Jamie James
     
 

For centuries, scientists and philosophers believed the universe was a stately; ordered mechanism - mathematical and musical. The smooth operation of the cosmos created a divine harmony (perfect, spiritual, eternal) which composers sought to capture and express. With The Music of the Spheres, readers will see how this scientific philosophy emerged, how it was…  See more details below

Overview

For centuries, scientists and philosophers believed the universe was a stately; ordered mechanism - mathematical and musical. The smooth operation of the cosmos created a divine harmony (perfect, spiritual, eternal) which composers sought to capture and express. With The Music of the Spheres, readers will see how this scientific philosophy emerged, how it was shattered by changing views of the universe and the rise of Romanticism, and to what extent (if at all) it survives today. From Pythagoras to Newton, Bach to Beethoven, and on into the twentieth century, it is a spellbinding examination of the interwoven fates of science and music throughout history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From Pythagoras onward, music was perceived as a mirror of cosmic harmony and of the Supreme Intelligence believed to pervade the universe. But 19th-century Romantic composers, in James's view, were deaf to the music of the spheres, and created instead an aberrant music of exaggerated emotional appeal. James, who writes on science and music for Discover and Connoisseur, contends that the works of Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Schonberg embody a belief in a sublime cosmic order that Beethoven overturned. This bold, pathbreaking history explains how the ancient tradition of music as a branch of divine science has found support from Plato through Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton (an alchemist and self-professed Pythagorean) to Galileo, Freemasonry and the esoteric experiments of today's avant-garde composers. A provocative, engaging reassessment of the Western musical tradition and its relation to science. Illustrated. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
The Music of the Spheres is a truly interdisciplinary book, as much science as music. The book begins with Pythagoras, who some consider both the first scientist and one of the first to study music in a disciplined fashion. Pythagoras described the heavens as seven spheres, one nestled in the next, each supporting a known planet, with the sun as the innermost sphere. This perfect system both produced and was music; the music of the spheres was celestial harmony. Pythagoras used mathematical principles to study nature, the heavens, and music, showing that they could be studied in the same way. Science writer James traces the development of science and music from antiquity through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance (including Kepler's well-described cosmology), and the present. He discusses how developments in music and science paralleled one another, overlapped, and in general reflected the position of humanity in the universe. While this book is aimed at general audiences, some familiarity with the history of music is helpful. For interdisciplinary collections.-- Eric D. Albright, Galter Health Sciences Lib., Northwestern Univ., Chicago

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802113078
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
03/25/1993
Pages:
262
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.84(h) x (d)

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