From monochord to weather-glass: musica speculativa and its development in Robert Fludd’s philosophy

Guariento, Luca (2015) From monochord to weather-glass: musica speculativa and its development in Robert Fludd’s philosophy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The present thesis is an enquiry into the nature and consistency of the idea of music as a metaphor throughout the works of the English philosopher and physician Robert Fludd (1573/4-1637). Fludd was very fond of a view of the world in which man is made of the same elements and the same proportions of the cosmos. Though this idea was slowly losing credit amongst the intellectuals of the time, Fluddean thought made some impact in the British Isles, and even more so on the continent: Johannes Kepler, for instance, wrote extensively about Fludd’s use of numerical symbolism, and stressed the differences between his own idea of harmony of the spheres and Fludd’s.
After Fludd’s death, his ideas were still taken seriously amongst certain intellectual circles, e.g. in England (John Webster) and Poland (John Amos Comenius), and Fluddean thought influenced German musico-theoretical writers such as Athanasius Kircher, Andreas Werckmeister, and Johann Walther. But the subsequent centuries witnessed a general obliviousness towards Fludd. His figure began to re- emerge only in the second half of the 20th century in an increasing number of essays, papers, articles and a few books dedicated to him.
What is still lacking, though, is a reassessment relying upon a more organic approach, which takes into account the entirety of Fludd’s publications and the wide range of topics covered in them. My work attempts to address this issue. The musical metaphor is one of the strongest leitmotifs in Fluddean publications, thanks to its being fit for representing man, the cosmos, and their interrelationship. Indeed the monochord, which well before Fludd was the preeminent practical and philosophical demonstration of the Pythagorean ‘divine’ proportions, rules the pages of Fludd’s earlier volumes. In later volumes, though, a new instrument takes its place: the more up-to-date weather-glass, surprisingly also linked to musical proportions. I argue that the new scientific instrument retains some of the monochord’s traits, thus representing an original re-arrangement of ‘ancient’ music; in fact, Fludd even applies it to the human pulse – an under-studied topic that I survey in detail.
Following the whole Fluddean opera omnia is a task that gives one a glimpse of Fludd’s reactions to the deep changes that the intellectual and scientific world was undergoing from a perspective that has been, so far, largely neglected. This opens up to new fascinating outlooks on music, medicine and science at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Robert Fludd, weather-glass, weatherglass, occultism, music, musica speculativa, music of the spheres, musica humana, pyramidal science, seventeenth-century philosophy, hermeticism, rosicrucianism, harmony of the spheres, pulse, rhythm of the heartbeat
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Q Science > Q Science (General)
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Supervisor's Name: Butt, Prof. John and Charles, Prof. Burnett and David, Dr McGuinness
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Dr Luca Guariento
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6246
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2015 09:04
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2018 08:06
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