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Music and the Making of Modern Science$
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Peter Pesic

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027274

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027274.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 05 July 2022

The Dream of Oresme

The Dream of Oresme

(p.21) 2 The Dream of Oresme
Music and the Making of Modern Science

Peter Pesic

The MIT Press

As the leading natural philosopher of the fourteenth century, Nicole Oresme’s references to music show its continuing importance as part of the quadrivium; his arguments concerning geocentric cosmology considers its musical correlates and consequences. Music also figured importantly in his arguments about whether or not cosmic cycles can actually recur, reflected in the debate he staged between Arithmetic and Geometry. This chapter argues that Oresme finally sided with Geometry and in favor of incommensurability in the cosmic design, reflecting the biblical preference for a “new song” over incessant repetition. Oresme’s friendship with the eminent composer Phillipe de Vitry (a leading exponent of the ars nova) also marked his astronomical views. Oresme argued that issues of incommensurability ruled out cosmic recurrences such as the Platonic Year and also ruled out the simplest versions of the “music of the spheres.” Throughout the book where various sound examples are referenced, please see http://mitpress.mit.edu/musicandmodernscience (please note that the sound examples should be viewed in Chrome or Safari Web browsers).

Keywords:   Nicole Oresme, Quadrivium, Ars nova, Phillipe de Vitry, Incommensurability, Platonic Year, Music of the spheres

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