Boethius vs Erigena (long - part 2 of 2)

Harry Miller hmiller at u.washington.edu
Sat Oct 7 12:41:09 PDT 1995


Continuing on in Albert Seay, "Music in the Medieval World" 2nd ed. 
(Prentice Hall History of Music Series):

p.20: "On the second level, Boethius placed musica humana, "humana" being 
interpreted both physically and spititually.  In the first sense, 
reference is made to the external symmetry of the human body, the balance 
of its members and their placement; in addition, there is the beauty of 
the internal organs and their arrangement, as well as the harmony between 
their functioning and man's well-being.  On the other hand, there is also 
a harmonius relation between the body and the soul, a harmony seen in the 
health of the body and the functions of the soul - intelligence, love, 
etc.  These relationships are a form of music, for they are, like music, 
founded on the same numerical laws. ... The highest level, that of musica 
mundana or, as it is usually called, "the music of the spheres," is that 
harmony standing as the foundation of all the world about us, not only 
that on earth but also that of the stars and planets, as well as heaven 
itself.  It is the regular succession of the seasons, the months, and 
years; the movements of the heavens; the varying combinations of the four 
elements (fire, earth, air, and water)... The movement of the planets was 
thought by many medieval philosophers to produce sound, a true "music of 
the spheres"; that this sound was unheard was because of a lack of 
sensitivity in men's ears.  Others argued that sound was not a part of 
musica mundana by its very nature."

p.21: "With this scheme in mind, it is easy to understand the medieval 
definitions of various kinds of musicians, for specific terms were used 
to indicate specific levels.  It was not enough to produce or enjoy music 
as an aural delight; the men who did only this, the cantores, knew only 
the how.  The true musicus was one who knew the why, the ratios in back 
of the delight that he obtained. ... The Boethian scheme of levels of 
kinds of music was not the only one to appear in the treatises of 
medieval writers, for the definition of music and its areas assumed many 
shapes during the period.  Nevertheles, there is a certain similarity 
between all of them because there is at the top of the hierarchy a kind 
of music that is celestial and at the bottom there is the purely sounding 
music which is the product of human activity.  As on example, we may cite 
the approach of Johannes Scotus Erigena (b.810 - d.886), in part derived 
from Martianus Capella.  He speaks of but two broad categories of music, 
musica naturalis and musica artificialis.  Natural music is that which is 
not made by instruments or by man; it comes from the divine, i.e., it 
includes the music of the spheres, the harmony of the body and the soul.  
Here, it is analogous to Boethius's musica mundana and musica humana, 
described above.  The second category, artificial music, is that created 
by an, a manifestation in tangible sound of that which is intangible in 
the higher classification, natural music."

Your humble scribe,
Gruffydd Llandaff
Familia Goliae



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