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Description - The Music of the Spheres by Jamie James

From the 5th century BC, when Pythagoras first composed his laws of Western music and science, until the flowering of Romanticism over 2000 years later, scientists and philosophers perceived the cosmos musically, as an ordered mechanism whose smooth operation created a celestial harmony - the music of the spheres. The separation of science and music began with the scientific revolution during the Renaissance, and reached a peak with Romanticism, which celebrated what was human, individual and local. 20th-century science and music, argues Jamie James in this book, have rejected the Romantic ideal and placed the ultimate focus outside the reach of human reason once again. The book provides a survey of the history of science and music, a reassessment of Romanticism and the modernist reaction to it, and a radical intellectual journey.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349105420
ISBN-10: 0349105421
Format: Paperback
(199mm x 126mm x 19mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 16-Feb-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - The Music of the Spheres by Jamie James

Book Reviews - The Music of the Spheres by Jamie James

US Kirkus Review » Music in relation to science is a theme that James has explored in popular articles (Discover, etc.). Here, he contends that, until the 19th century, music embodied the classic ideals of an ordered universe - having harmonies among the music of the spheres (musica mundana), the music of the human organism (musica humana), and ordinary music-making (musica instrumentalis). In parallel, science was a noble pursuit aimed at establishing the natural order of things (embodied, for example, in the Great Chain of Being). James cites Pythagoras as the prime begetter of these ideas. The sixth-century Greek thinker espoused a philosophy of the interrelatedness of all things and a system of dualities (one/many; odd/even; limited/unlimited, etc.) that led to his elaborate numerology. Pythagoras is also credited with the discovery of the ratios (1/2, 2/3, 3/4...) that define the harmonic intervals of the scale: the octave, the major fifth, the fourth, etc. The tradition of cosmic harmonies continued through Plato, Plotinus, the Christian mystics, and the Hermetic cults, with James reminding us of the links that joined astronomy/astrology and science/alchemy in the works of Kepler and Newton. In the 19th century came what James regards as the great anomaly in music history: Romanticism, with its earthy expression of human passions. Similarly, science divorced itself from lofty ideals to be measured on the human scale. Paradoxically, music and science became pursuits of an elite - a tradition that has continued to the present, albeit with a reaction to Romanticism in atonality, aleatory music, and other experiments. Ours is not a happy time, James notes rather sadly, saying that perhaps we need to be reinfused with cosmic consciousness....or to seek it outside the concert hall. Doubtless, experts will accuse the author of overstatement and will find exceptions and countercurrents; but, overall, his discussion is lively and stimulating. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Jamie James

Jamie James was born in Houston Texas and is now the New York Correspondant for The Times and frequently contributes to the New York Times. He is a founding member of Discover and a contributing editor of Archeology.

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