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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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Kepler and the Song of the Earth

Kepler and the Song of the Earth

(p.73) 5 Kepler and the Song of the Earth
Music and the Making of Modern Science

Peter Pesic

The MIT Press

Johannes Kepler, more than anyone, incorporated music into the foundations of his innovative astronomy. This chapter relates his interest in musical practice to his novel approach to its theory, which moved him to reject algebraic results that contradicted musical experience. Kepler’s search for cosmic polyphony points to Orlando di Lasso’s In me transierunt as a moving expression of the “song of the Earth,” down to the melodic spelling of the Earth’s song. Kepler presents cosmos and music as essentially alive and erotically active, based on his sexual understanding of numbers. The pervasive dissonance of the cosmic harmonies reflects the throes of war and eros. Like Oresme, Kepler realized the essential incompleteness of the cosmic music, which seemingly could never reach a final cadence, a universal concord on which the world-music could fittingly end. This would have been a heretical view, contradicting scriptural teachings about the finitude of time. Kepler treats this as an indication of divine infinitude, inscribed in the finite cosmos. 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:   Johannes Kepler, Polyphony, Orlando di Lasso, Cosmic harmony, Planteary songs, Eros, Dissonance

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