Music, the universe and Boethius

Boethius musicBoethius was a clever philosopher of the 6th century. Among other things, he investigated the relationships between music, humans and the world. The theory of music he developed is insightful and astonishingly modern. Boethius conceived three types of music: musica instrumentalis, musica humana and musica mundana. The musica instrumentalis refers to the music that can usually be heard in the concert halls. The musica humana reverberates within our bodies and spirits. The musica mundana corresponds to the music of the spheres.

Boethius thought that music was everywhere in nature. Why did he develop such a counterintuitive idea? Moreover, isn’t music just an acoustic phenomenon? Of course, it is not!  Boethius understood that music is pure order out of chaos. Composers work with raw musical materials, shaping and twisting notes and rhythms to come up with enjoyable pieces. Doing so, they act as relentless demiurges. Other arts replicate this process as well, however, none of them is as conceptual and intangible as music is. I dare say that Boethius recognized that, and was inspired by the ethereal consistence of music while working on his ideas.

Humans are order out of chaos. Our bodies are miraculous complex systems that challenge the second principle of thermodynamics. Indeed, we are nothing more than an incredible amount of organized information that breathes, perceives and feels. Likewise, mind is order out of chaos. Clusters of unintelligent neurons  organize together and entail the consciousness. So, yes… Boethius was right! The musica mundana really exists and incessantly can be heard throughout planet Earth. The humans, the animals and every living creature are the amazing musicians that play these wonderful tunes.


Musica mundana refers to the music of the universe

The universe is order out of chaos. A handful of fundamental physical laws allow the universe to unfold and develop over time. Those laws are incredible musical as well. They speak of ratios, frequencies and forces, all concepts that find an evident dual within the domain of the musica instrumentalis. Furthermore, the overture of the universe corresponded to a single powerful chord played by the tutti celestial orchestra. Unthinkably, that initial chord echoes even today as an endless ostinato that can be heard by a strange kind of audience, the radio telescopes. So, yes… Boethius was right again! Our universe is pure music. The spheres wildly dance following the musica mundana.


One thought on “Music, the universe and Boethius

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