Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Musical Universe and Knowledge

There was a time when the universe was believed to cohere, when human life had a meaning and purpose. A person who devoted himself to a lifetime of study, instead of coming out at the end of it the author of a definitive treatise on the pismire, or a catalogue of the references to Norse sagas in Finnigans Wake, would actually have a shot at discovering the key to the universe.

The concepts of the musical universe and the Great Chain of Being originate in the classical bedrock of our culture, flow through the Christian tradition, and remain firmly centered in the Renaissance and the Age of Reason. They are at the core of the culture. It was not until the nineteenth century that the perspective shifted decisively to the earthly, the tangible. Materialism and sensuality, qualities that had been deeply mistrusted throughout most of the Western tradition, emerged ascendant.

—Jamie James, The Music of the Spheres: Music, Science and the Natural Order of the Universe

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