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The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  114 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Copernicus Books (first published 1993)
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May 05, 2016 Owlseyes rated it really liked it
Shelves: music

It all started with Pythagoras: music as expression of celestial Harmony, the Divine. Then Renaissance and later Romanticism, and things started changing?...especially due to the increasing role of Science?...and the Divine got silenced?

Under scrutiny great names of Science: Newton,Kepler and Einstein...;

but also great Music masters: Mozart,Beethoven,Bach,Haendel...and Schoenberg,Stravinsky,Cage and Glass.

(Karl F. Schinkel's stage-set for Die Zauberflöte (Act II, Scene 7) of Mozart).
A. J. McMahon
Aug 11, 2015 A. J. McMahon rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be revelatory. James explores what he calls The Great Theme, which is the idea throughout history that the world forms an integrated whole which can be explored through the perspectives of music and science, which are deeply connected to each other. The origin of the Great Theme is the figure of Pythagoras, and his doctrines were expanded on throughout the subsequent ages until everything came crashing down with the advent of the Enlightenment, or the so-called Enlightenment ...more
Will Byrnes
The version I read was published by Copernicus, an imprint of Springer-Verlag. That edition was not available on GR, so I selected this one.

This is clearly a book by an academic. The author is a music critic, and holds a very high opinion of his opinions, which gets very old very fast. Still, there was interesting material in the book, most particularly about the influence (long forgotten) of Pythagoras, as the Renaissance Man before there was a Renaissance, the genius of his day, producing semi
Debbie Bridge
Jun 10, 2015 Debbie Bridge rated it it was amazing
‘In the modern age it is a basic assumption that music appeals directly to the soul (which has been called by many names – sensibility, temperament, the emotions, among others) and bypasses the brain altogether, while science operates in just the reverse fashion, confining itself to the realm of pure ratiocination and having no contact at all with the soul. …. These suppositions would have seemed very strange to an Athenian of Plato’s day, to a medieval scholar, t an educated person of the Renai ...more
Dec 27, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
So much fun to read. Parallel histories of music and science and their [I think tragic] divergence during the romantic age. Kepler and Bach, Mozart and Newton, Schonberg and Einstein. Interesting discussions of Newton's Principia and the opera The Magic Flute.
Mikael Lind
Apr 13, 2014 Mikael Lind rated it liked it
This book is a pretty decent read on music and science. It's mainly concerned with composer's who have used music to portray a greater theme, a celestial harmony, or the greatness of God's kingdom, as they then imagined it. Before romanticism, James argues, classical music in the Western world was concerned with conveying something that was much bigger than the composer's ego. With romanticism came the philosophy of the larger-than-life composer that had an urge to get his/her own ego across to ...more
Dec 31, 2013 Yazan added it
Read this book in high school. Definitely inspired me to look at science and art in a different way. Would love to get a hold of a copy to reread.
May 09, 2016 A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I have a new-found respect for Pythagorus and Kepler.
couldn't finish
Jun 03, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2009
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