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Embryology as a Paradigm for Boethius’ musica humana

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At the beginning of Boethius’ De institutione musica, musica humana is defined as a coaptatio, a well ordered relationship between body and soul and between the parts of the body and the parts of the soul. Boethius promised to expand the topic later, but he never returned to it. As a consequence Medieval and Renaissance music theorists gave it different interpretations. This paper is part of a wider project which aims at recovering the historical meaning of musica humana and its natural implications for human life, by identifying Boethius’ sources on the relationship between music and the human body. Analyzing some of the Pythagorean, Hippocratic and Neoplatonic treatises on embryology, numerology and music as well as their reception in the Latin culture, this paper will explore the definition of musica humana as a style of thought which connected music and science using the same interpretative models, metaphors and images, well-known at Boethius’ time.

Affiliations: 1: Università di Bologna


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