Online Encyclopedia

MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 648 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MUSIC OF THE SPHERES, in Pythagorean philosophy, the harmony produced by the heavenly bodies in their orbits, inaudible to human ears. Pythagoras (cf. Arist. de .Caelo, ii. g) held that the movements of stars were governed' by fixed laws which could be expressed in numbers according to the numbers which give the harmony of sounds (see PYTHAGORAS, ad fin.). It is this theory to which Shakespeare alludes in The Merchant of Venice (Act. v. i. seq.: " such harmony is in immortal souls, but ... we cannot hear it "). According to Gomperz (Greek Thinkers, i. 118, Eng. trans.) " there was nothing fanciful in the Pythagorean doctrine except only the belief that the differences of velocity in the movements of the stars were capable of producing a harmonious orchestration and not merely sounds of varying pitch."
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