Hearing the Voice, Hearing the Soul
International Research Symposium organised by Jacomien Prins
5th June 2015, 9.30am-6.30pm at Warwick University, the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), Millburn House, Millburn Hill Road, Coventry
Just as music has fascinated scholars in the Western world continuously for thousands of years, so time and again they have felt the need to explain its power. During the Renaissance a revival of interest for ancient theories about the power of music began. Many philosophers, humanists and music theorists writing about music found themselves caught in the Plato-Aristotle controversy. They had to make a choice between two radically different theories of the constitution of the human soul: a Platonic one, originating from the Timaeus, which stated that music has a great influence on the human soul because they are somehow similar, and an Aristotelian one, originating from On the Soul, which did not postulate any special relationship between music and the soul. Privileging one philosophical model over the other brought along entirely different beliefs about the nature of music, what it does, or what it should do. The body of doctrine around these two sources, combined with Christian ideas about music and the soul and all kinds of medical and music-theoretical ideas was pervasive till the beginning of the seventeenth century. And yet, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, to learn about music’s power meant turning not to these ancient sources and their reception, but to works on the soul such as Descartes Passions of the Soul and Hobbes’ Human Nature. The purpose of this symposium is to track and to interrogate the nature, life span, and eventual radical transformation and/or demise of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance conceptions of the belief in music’s deep connections with human life.
The conference is part-funded by the Royal Music Association (RMA), and is supported by the University of Warwick’s Humanities Research Centre (HRC), Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), and Centre for the Study of the Renaissance (CSR).