Embryology as a Paradigm for Boethius’ musica humana

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At the beginning of Boethius’ De institutione musica, musica humana is defined as a coaptatio , a well ordered relationship between body and soul and between the parts of the body and the parts of the soul. Boethius promised to expand the topic later, but he never returned to it. As a consequence Medieval and Renaissance music theorists gave it different interpretations. This paper is part of a wider project which aims at recovering the historical meaning of musica humana and its natural implications for human life, by identifying Boethius’ sources on the relationship between music and the human body. Analyzing some of the Pythagorean, Hippocratic and Neoplatonic treatises on embryology, numerology and music as well as their reception in the Latin culture, this paper will explore the definition of musica humana as a style of thought which connected music and science using the same interpretative models, metaphors and images, well-known at Boethius’ time.

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... The first one, the music of the world, concerned heavenly phaenomena, the combination of elements, and the variety of seasons. The second one, the music of human beings (Restani 2016), corresponded to the harmonic combination within the human soul and body. The last one was the music of the instruments, which accompanied sung performances. ...
Petrification is a process, but it also can be understood as a concept. This volume takes the first steps to manifest, materialize or “petrify” the concept of “petrification” and turn it into a tool for analyzing material and social processes. The wide array of approaches to petrification as a process assembled here is more of a collection of possibilities than an attempt to establish a firm, law-generating theory. Divided into three parts, this volume’s twenty-plus authors explore petrification both as a theoretical concept and as a contextualized material and social process across geological, prehistoric and historic periods. Topics connecting the various papers are properties of materials, preferences and choices of actors, the temporality of matter, being and becoming, the relationality between actors, matter, things and space (landscape, urban space, built space), and perceptions of the following generations dealing with the petrified matter, practices, and social relations. Contributors to this volume study specifically whether particular processes of petrification are confined to the material world or can be seen as mirroring, following, triggering, or contradicting changes in social life and general world views. Each of the authors explores – for a period or a specific feature – practices and changes that led to increased conformity and regularity. Some authors additionally focus on the methods and scrutinize them and their applications for their potential to create objects of investigation: things, people, periods, in order to raise awareness for these or to shape or “invent” categories. This volume is of interest to archaeologists, geologists, architectural historians, conservationists, and historians.
In the ancient and medieval Mediterranean, the concept of music was not only related to aural experiences, but was also applied outside the realm of sound. This was possible because ancient Greek harmonicists were able to derive a series of numerical ratios from the investigation of sound phaenomena. These ratios were regarded as the foundation of beauty and applied to aspects that have been recognised as fundamental in the design of early churches, i.e. visual aesthetics, theology, and cosmology. Nevertheless, the influence of ancient musical concepts on the architecture of early churches has not been systematically analysed. This chapter examines the theoretical and practical premises that are necessary to investigate this problem from the fourth to the ninth century CE. The deliberate employment of harmonic ratios in architecture is confirmed by both written sources and archaeological data from 3D laser scanning. Furthermore, a significant awareness of acoustic phaenomena is evidenced already in the sixth century CE. These first results indicate that the research needs to be expanded to new case studies. The conclusions of the chapter discuss the canonisation of philosophical notions in early churches as a dynamic of ‘petrification’, in line with the main topic of the present volume.
After an overview of the major inheritances of the Greek music theory in the Byzantine, Arab, and Latin worlds, the chapter examines Boethius’ De institutione musica , the most influential work of music theory in Latin Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Attention is paid to how Boethius describes the ancient methodological approaches to musical sciences, starting with Pythagoras, and their presence in medieval treatises. The last section deals with the reception of Ptolemy, Aristoxenus and the pseudo‐Aristotelian Problemata in the late Middle Ages.
The relationship between music and medicine involves the notions of affinity between the human body and musical structures, relief, catharsis, and therapy. The Homeric poems attest to the use of healing songs (paeans) and spells (epaoidai ). The early Pythagoreans used musical catharsis for both the soul and the body. The doctrine of musical ēthos (whose main source is Plato) presupposes a relationship between music and character based on mimēsis , also establishing a link between therapy and ēthos . According to Aristotle, melodies performed in the rites are able to arouse emotions and purify the participants from their excesses (the same dynamics appear in Theophrastus). The musical notions first detectable in the Hippocratic On Regimen for the development of the embryo, together with Herophilus’ application of the model provided by musical rhythms to the study of the pulse, show a fertile exchange between music and medicine, also attested in Aristides Quintilianus’ De musica .
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