The Notion of Synthesis in Harmonic Science (and Beyond)

TitleThe Notion of Synthesis in Harmonic Science (and Beyond)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsRocconi, E
Ancient AuthorsAristoxenus Mus. (TLG 0088)
JournalGreek and Roman Musical Studies

In ancient Greece, harmonics fully acquires the dignity of ‘science’ thanks to Aristoxenus of Tarentum, who first gives an account of a rigorous method of analysis of the structures underlying melodies. One of the most interesting concepts discussed in his extant writings is the notion of synthesis, which he uses to describe any orderly combination of elements (whether they are sounds, intervals or letters) into a sequence. This principle, which according to him governs the way of combining items in patterns, is described as a ‘natural’ principle (i.e. inherent in melos or lexis) and lies at the very bottom of his idea of ‘attuned melody’ (melos hērmosmenon), the specific object under investigation in his harmonics. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the pivotal significance of this notion within Aristoxenus’ thought and to identify its reception in later authors, not only within harmonics but also within the realm of rhetoric. []


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