Composing the World: Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos - Critical Conjunctures in Music and Sound (Hardback)
  • Composing the World: Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos - Critical Conjunctures in Music and Sound (Hardback)

Composing the World: Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos - Critical Conjunctures in Music and Sound (Hardback)

Hardback 344 Pages / Published: 09/02/2017
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We can hear the universe! This was the triumphant proclamation at a February 2016 press conference announcing that the Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory (LIGO) had detected a "transient gravitational-wave signal." What LIGO heard in the morning hours of September 14, 2015 was the vibration of cosmic forces unleashed with mind-boggling power across a cosmic medium of equally mind-boggling expansiveness: the transient ripple of two black holes colliding more than a billion years ago. The confirmation of gravitational waves sent tremors through the scientific community, but the public imagination was more captivated by the sonic translation of the cosmic signal, a sound detectable only through an act of carefully attuned listening. As astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka remarked, "Until this moment, we had our eyes on the sky and we couldn't hear the music. The skies will never be the same." Taking in hand this current "discovery" that we can listen to the cosmos, Andrew Hicks argues that sound-and the harmonious coordination of sounds, sources, and listeners-has always been an integral part of the history of studying the cosmos. Composing the World charts one constellation of musical metaphors, analogies, and expressive modalities embedded within a late-ancient and medieval cosmological discourse: that of a cosmos animated and choreographed according to a specifically musical aesthetic. The specific historical terrain of Hicks' discussion centers upon the world of twelfth-century philosophy, and from there he offers a new intellectual history of the role of harmony in medieval cosmological discourse, a discourse which itself focused on the reception and development of Platonism. Hicks illuminates how a cosmological aesthetics based on the "music of the spheres" both governed the moral, physical, and psychic equilibrium of the human, and assured the coherence of the universe as a whole. With a rare convergence of musicological, philosophical, and philological rigor, Hicks presents a narrative tour through medieval cosmology with reflections on important philosophical movements along the way, raising connections to Cartesian dualism, Uexkull's theoretical biology, and Deleuze and Guattari's musically inspired language of milieus and (de)territorialization. Hicks ultimately suggests that the models of musical cosmology popular in late antiquity and the twelfth century are relevant to our modern philosophical and scientific undertakings. Impeccably researched and beautifully written, Composing the World will resonate with a variety of readers, and it encourages us to rethink the role of music and sound within our greater understanding of the universe.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780190658205
Number of pages: 344
Weight: 596 g
Dimensions: 243 x 164 x 28 mm

Composing the World is itself well-composed - its chapters flow, despite their many long citations from the works under discussion. As the book is very much about these texts, most readers will be glad of this florilegium ... Hicks has done a wonderful job of making a complex subject and its somewhat forbidding texts accessible and of drawing out their importance and relevance to manifold wider concerns. * Speculum *
Andrew Hicks has been so bold as to add a new book about world harmony, the music of the spheres, and the medieval reception of the Pythagorean concept of a creation organised according to musical principles to the already existing wealth of scholarship ... Hicks has chosen an approach which is new and refreshing, and which goes far beyond the boundaries of what already exists on the subject. * Plainsong & Medieval Music *
Andrew H's Composing the World is a well-written and informative work. It was undoubtedly a courageous and imaginative decision to embark on a study of the notion of cosmic harmony in twelfth-century Latin sources, since a successful outcome could only be achieved by someone who combines many skills including not only musicology but medieval Latin philology and paleography, not without some acquaintance with the histories of philosophy and science ... Andrew H. is obviously a person of great intelligence and already of considerable learning. It seems to me that with his range of expertise he is adding greatly, and could presumably so add in the future, to medieval musicology and medieval studies more generally. * Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch *
This ambitious book opens a new window onto twelfth-century philosophical thought, and successfully shows how deeply Platonic conceptions of harmony were embedded within it. As well as becoming essential reading for medievalists who want to develop their knowledge of speculative music theory, it is also worth the attention of early modernists and scholars who focus on present-day philosophical and scientific thought. * British Journal for the History of Science *
Hicks writes towards the beginning of his book that, if we neglect the natural philosophers of the twelfth century, 'we have done ourselves and the discipline of musicology a grand disservice' (p. 8). By bringing a musicological perspective to his engagement with these natural philosophers, he enriches our understanding of the twelfth century's musical speculation and raises new questions that broaden musicology itself. * Music and Letters *
There is no other work on this topic that can compare in terms of depth, scope, and complexity. This book is likely to become an indispensable point of reference for the study of both medieval musical theory and the school of Chartres. * Bryn Mawr Classical Review *
fascinating insights into the way the medieval mind worked as it tried to develop the notion of "a cosmos animated and choreographed according to a specifically musical aesthetic". * Andrew Benson-Wilson, Early Music Reviews *

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