The Music of the Spheres in the Western Imagination describes various systematic musical ecologies of the cosmos by examining attempts over time to define Western theoretical musical systems, whether practical, human, nonhuman, or celestial. This book focuses on the theoretical, theological, philosophical, physical, and mathematical concepts of a cosmic musical order and how these concepts have changed in order to fit different worldviews through the imaginations of theologians, theorists, and authors of fiction, as well as the practical performance of music. Special attention is given to music theory treatises between the ninth and sixteenth centuries, English-language hymnody from the eighteenth century to the present, polemical works on music and worship from the last hundred years, the Divine Comedy of Dante, nineteenth- and twentieth-century English-language fiction, the fictional works of C. S. Lewis, and the legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien.
David Joseph Kendall is associate professor of music at La Sierra University in Riverside, California, where he also serves as associate chair of the Department of Music.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – “The Heavens Make a Harmony”: Musica Mundana, Musica Humana, and Musica Instrumentalis in the Ancient and Early Christian World
Chapter 2 – “Thy Hearing is Mortal Even as Thy Sight”: Human Perception in the Heavenly Journey of Dante’s Paradiso
Chapter Vignette 2.5 – “I Noticed That the Grass Did Not Bend Under Their Feet”: Solid People, Ghosts, and the Sense of Touch in a Heavenly Journey of C.S. Lewis
Chapter 3 – “Behold Your Music!”: Music as a Force of Creation, Destruction, and Re-Creation in the Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis
Chapter Vignette 3.5 – Powerful Music: Horns, Trumpets, Voices, and Other Magical Instruments in Tolkien and Lewis
Chapter 4 – When the Celestial Laws Change
Chapter 5 – To Conserve, Exploit, or Embrace?: The Human and the Non-Human in Christian Hymnody
Chapter Vignette 5.5 – “Still, It May Be Useful”: The Ring of Sauron and the Value Axis
Chapter 6 – Bent Roads and Bent People
Chapter 6.5 – Musica Humana and the Limits of Musical Genius
Chapter 7 – The Music of the Spheres and the Modern Worship Wars
Conclusion – Da Capo
"Long before the age of Hubble and Webb, our species was attuned—literally—to the cosmos, its movements and meanings, though mainly through the imagination and not the telescope. Music, mathematics, theology, and speculative philosophy have all played a crucial role in helping us to comprehend the universal order and our place in it. Kendall traces this intellectually ambitious history with admirable aplomb, presenting the reader with fascinating insights on nearly every page."
"Keeping one foot firmly planted in his field of specialty (musicology), Kendall adroitly steps across boundaries to address the impact of 'the Music of the Spheres' on narrative (Dante, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Milton, Melville, Charlotte Brontё, and Steinbeck), poetry (Christian hymnody), and philosophy. A model of interdisciplinarity."