Lawrence M. Zbikowski

in Conceptualizing Music

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780195140231
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199871278 | DOI:

Series: AMS Studies in Music


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This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of two theories from Greek antiquity, the music theories of Pythagoras and Aristoxenus. These theories, and the music to which they refer, are unfamiliar even to those who make music theory the focus of their research. However, the disorienting effect of this unfamiliarity also serves to loosen our notions about what a theory of music, or a theoretical construct, should be. It is argued that the music theories of Pythagoras and Aristoxenus belong to a world remote from our own. Not only did these theorists have to grapple with the most basic of principles, but also the music they would describe is microtonal, one that is primarily concerned with the successive notes of melody rather than the simultaneous notes of harmony. Despite this, Pythagorean and Aristoxenian accounts of musical organization provide us with a glimpse into how theories are formed and, more important, the cognitive processes that are basic to these theories. In particular, three cognitive processes can be seen at work: categorization, cross-domain mapping, and the use of conceptual models. An overview of the succeeding chapters is presented.

Keywords: Green antiquity; Pythagoras; Aristoxenus; cognitive structure; theory of music; melody

Chapter.  8996 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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