Music and the Metaphysical Impulse


Throughout its history, music has been a vehicle for the expression of metaphysical and spiritual ideas. The Pythagorean discovery in the sixth century BC of the ratios behind musical intervals linked music to the cosmos and the soul and gave music both a mathematical and metaphysical dimension. Music also became a vital component of various liturgies; it was a physical, temporal, impermanent art that also pointed to the eternal and immutable. This course will examine works from the Western classical tradition that embody these ideas. Bach will be central to this class, but we will also study works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stravinsky, and Messiaen, as well as earlier composers such as Machaut, Dufay, and Palestrina. This is one of the music history component courses required for all Advanced Theory students.