Chapter ID: CBB920974842

The Science of Harmonics and Music Theory in Ancient Greece (2016)


Music was the subject of much and varied technical discussion in ancient Greece, from the most abstruse to the abstract: the use of instruments, tuning of key scales, settings in tragedy and other forms of poetry, and its role in individual psychology, society and education. The science of harmonics had the more limited ambition of setting out the notes, intervals, and scales (harmoniai and tonoi) of melody, and in particular the precise tunings of the tetrachord in each genus. From early Pythagorean acoustics in the sixth century BCE to Boëthius in the sixth century CE, two basic approaches to music theory developed: the mathematical (Pythagorean) and broadly empirical (Aristoxenian). Later theorists relied heavily on these two streams, combining them with one another. They also often included the number mysticism and cosmology evident in early Pythagorean theorists, employing the significant numbers appearing in musical structures.

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Authors & Contributors
Bellissima, Fabio
Charrak, André
Barker, Andrew D.
Fabbri, Natacha
Kennedy, J. B.
Caleon, Imelda
Bollettino di Storia delle Scienze Matematiche
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Micrologus: Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Science and Education
J. Vrin
Cambridge University Press
Columbia University
Harmony (music theory)
Music theory
Ptolemy, Claudius
Mersenne, Marin
Philo of Alexandria
United States
Baghdad (Iraq)
18th century
Early modern
16th century

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