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The Science of Harmonics in Classical Greece

  • Date Published: June 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521289955

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  • The ancient science of harmonics investigates the arrangements of pitched sounds which form the basis of musical melody, and the principles which govern them. It was the most important branch of Greek musical theory, studied by philosophers, mathematicians and astronomers as well as by musical specialists. This 2007 book examines its development during the period when its central ideas and rival schools of thought were established, laying the foundations for the speculations of later antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It concentrates particularly on the theorists' methods and purposes and the controversies that their various approaches to the subject provoked. It also seeks to locate the discipline within the broader cultural environment of the period; and it investigates, sometimes with surprising results, the ways in which the theorists' work draws on and in some cases influences that of philosophers and other intellectuals.

    • Proposes alternative interpretations of important texts
    • Relates the musical theorists' work to that of philosophers and other intellectuals
    • Written by a world-renowned authority in the field
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'This is a fine, important book from one of the pillars of Greek musical scholarship, and should be carefully digested to the last footnote by every serious student of the subject.' Mnemosyne

    Review of the hardback: 'The significance of Harmonics in Classical Greece - which displays all the features needed to become a classic for both studies in Classics and in musicology - does not only regard ancient philosophical and scientific studies. Indeed it sheds light on important aspects for medieval musicologists and for 16th and 17th -century debates, marked by a return to the ancient, even thanks to the Latin translation of Plutarch's De musica published by Carlo Valgulio in 1507.' Nuncius: Journal of the History of Science

    Review of the hardback: 'Barker has written an important book for anyone interested in ancient Greek music theory and its relationship with other intellectual activities of the time, such as philosophy and the empirical or mathematical sciences.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521289955
    • length: 494 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.72kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Preliminaries: Introduction
    1. Beginnings, and the problem of measurement
    Part II. Empirical Harmonics:
    2. Empirical harmonics before Aristoxenus
    3. The early empiricists in their cultural and intellectual contexts
    4. Interlude on Aristotle's account of a science and its methods
    5. Aristoxenus: the composition of the Elementa harmonica
    6. Aristoxenus: concepts and methods in Elementa harmonica Book 1
    7. Elementa harmonica Books 2-3: the science reconsidered
    8. Elementa harmonica Book 3 and its missing sequel
    9. Contexts and purposes of Aristoxenus' harmonics
    Part III. Mathematical Harmonics:
    10. Pythagorean harmonics in the fifth century: Philolaus
    11. Developments in Pythagorean harmonics: Archytas
    12. Plato
    13. Aristotle on the harmonic sciences
    14. Systematising mathematical harmonics: the Sectio canonis
    15. Quantification under attack: Theophrastus' critique
    Postscript: The later centuries.

  • Author

    Andrew Barker, University of Birmingham

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