Composing the world: harmony in the Medieval Platonic cosmos by Andrew Hicks

By Andrew Hicks

We will be able to listen the universe! This was once the positive proclamation at a February 2016 press convention saying that the Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory (LIGO) had detected a "transient gravitational-wave signal." What LIGO heard within the morning hours of September 14, 2015 was once the vibration of cosmic forces unleashed with mind-boggling energy throughout a cosmic medium of both mind-boggling expansiveness: the brief ripple of 2 black holes colliding greater than one billion years in the past. The affirmation of gravitational waves despatched tremors during the medical group, however the public mind's eye was once extra captivated via the sonic translation of the cosmic sign, a valid detectable merely via an act of conscientiously attuned listening. As astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka remarked, "Until this second, we had our eyes at the sky and we could not listen the song. The skies is not the same."

Taking in hand this present "discovery" that we will be able to hearken to the cosmos, Andrew Hicks argues that sound--and the harmonious coordination of sounds, resources, and listeners--has always been an essential component of the historical past of learning the cosmos. Composing the World charts one constellation of musical metaphors, analogies, and expressive modalities embedded inside a late-ancient and medieval cosmological discourse: that of a cosmos lively and choreographed in line with a particularly musical aesthetic. the categorical historic terrain of Hicks' dialogue facilities upon the realm of twelfth-century philosophy, and from there he bargains a brand new highbrow heritage of the function of concord in medieval cosmological discourse, a discourse which itself concerned about the reception and improvement of Platonism.

Hicks illuminates how a cosmological aesthetics in line with the "music of the spheres" either ruled the ethical, actual, and psychic equilibrium of the human, and warranted the coherence of the universe as an entire. With an extraordinary convergence of musicological, philosophical, and philological rigor, Hicks offers a story journey via medieval cosmology with reflections on very important philosophical hobbies alongside the best way, elevating connections to Cartesian dualism, Uexküll's theoretical biology, and Deleuze and Guattari's musically encouraged language of milieus and (de)territorialization. Hicks eventually means that the types of musical cosmology renowned in overdue antiquity and the 12th century are suitable to our smooth philosophical and medical undertakings. Impeccably researched and fantastically written, Composing the World will resonate with numerous readers, and it encourages us to reconsider the position of song and sound inside our larger figuring out of the universe.

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A. Barth, 1940), 159: “All die zahllosen Umwelten liefern … die Klaviatur, auf der die Natur ihre überzeitliche und überräumliche Bedeutungssymphonie spielt. ” On this passage, and the media-​archeological history of its keyboard analogy, see Roger Moseley, “Digital Analogies: The Keyboard as Field of Musical Play,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 68 (2015), 151–​228 (at 206–​207). 50 Daniel Chua, “Vincenzo Galilei, Modernity and the Division of Nature,” in Music Theory and Natural Order from the Renaissance to the Early Twentieth Century, ed.

68 Inst. mus. 15–​21). 66 22 22 Composing the World ­ roken by the tenuity of the pitch, but the whole is consistent and b harmonious with itself: so too in the music of the world we discern that nothing is able to exist which would dissolve anything else by its excessiveness. What is most surprising about this statement is not its conclusion but the analogical ground of its argument. ”69 For Boethius they doubtless do. And yet Boethius’s description here of the musica mundana relies not on the concept of number but on the physical (not metaphysical) equilibrium that the manifold bodies of and in the cosmos maintain.

25 On one level Gushee was absolutely correct: the often speculative and generally non-​practical deployment of music theory in the writings of many twelfth-​century authors—​especially, but not only, those commonly associated with the “School of Chartres”—​had everything to do with the “notorious (neo) Platonism” that characterizes much (though certainly not all) of twelfth-​century thought. But I must caution that if we neglect as extramusical or as somehow less relevant to musicology medieval musical writings that do not directly bear on the “practical concerns of standard plain-​chant” (and Gushee is right that these twelfth-​century authors have little to say on such matters), then we have done ourselves and the discipline of musicology a grand disservice.

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