Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi


  • Carla BrombergEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_889-1


During the Renaissance there was no science of sound as we currently understand it. Conjectures about sound were provided by observations of particular acoustical phenomena incorporated in buildings or in open spaces, like whispering galleries or echoes as discussed in architecture. Sound was also a topic of interest for those who studied the functioning of natural bodies (i.e., voice and hearing), artificial instruments and machines (e.g., automata and war machines), among others. Although sound could not be identified as the subject matter of any science, it was attributed a relevant role in music treatises. It is assumed that the philosophical traditions involved in its study approached sound either as motion or as the object of hearing. However, up to the seventeenth century sound, as part of music, was mostly explored within the Aristotelian framework of subalternate sciences, being studied not as a perceived quality but as the natural quality of number, the actual object of music.


Sixteenth Century Musical Instrument Mathematical Science Natural Philosopher Music Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Adkins, Cecil. 1967. The technique of the monochord. Acta Musicologica 39 (1,2): 34–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aristotle. 1984. In The complete works of Aristotle, ed. J. Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barbera, C. Andre. 1980. The persistence of Pythagorean mathematics in ancient musical thought. Ann Arbor: University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  4. Barbieri, Patrizio. 2004. The speaking trumpet: Developments of Della Porta’s “ear spectacles” (1589–1967). Studi Musicali 33 (1): 205–248.Google Scholar
  5. Barker, Andrew. 2007. The science of harmonics in classical Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biringuccio, Vanocchio. 1966. Pirotechnia. Trans. and ed. C.S. Smith, and M.T. Grudi. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bromberg, Carla, and Ana Maria Alfonso-Goldfarb. 2010. A preliminary study of the origin of music in Cinquecento musical treatises. IRASM 41 (2): 161–183.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, H.F. 1984. Quantifying music: The science of music at the first stage of the scientific revolution, 1580–1650. Dordrcht/Boston/Lancaster: D. Reidel Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Creese, David. 2010. The monochord in ancient Greek harmonic science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Crunelle, Marc. 1991. Acoustic history revisited. http://www.phy.duke.edu/~dtl/89S/restrict/CrunellePaper.pdf. Accessed 9 Mar 2016.
  11. Dostrovsky, Sigalia. 1975. Early vibration theory: Physics and music in the seventeenth century. Archive for History of Exact Sciences 14: 169–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dyer, Joseph. 2007. The place of musica in medieval classifications of knowledge. Journal of Musicology 24 (1): 3–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gaffurio, Franchino. 1993. The theory of music. Trans. W.K. Kreyszig. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gouk, P.M. 1982. Acoustics in the early royal society 1660–1680. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 36 (2): 155–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gouk, P.M. 2006. The role of acoustics and music theory in the scientific work of Robert Hooke. Annals of Science 37 (5): 573–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gozza, Paolo. 2000. Number to sound, The Western Ontario series in philosophy of science. Vol. 64. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  17. Johnstone, Mark A. 2013. Aristotle on sounds. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4): 631–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Masi, Michael. 1983. Boethian number theory: A translation of the De institutione arithmetica. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  19. McInerny, Ralph. 1990. Boethius and Aquinas. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.Google Scholar
  20. Murdoch, John E. 1963. The medieval language of proportions: Elements of the interaction with Greek foundations and the development of new mathematical techniques. In Scientific change, ed. Alistair C. Crombie, 237–271. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  21. Pasnau, Robert. 1999. What is sound? Philosophical Quarterly 49 (196): 310–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rico, Gilles. 2005. Music in the arts faculty of Paris in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  23. Saito, Fumikazu, and Carla Bromberg. 2015. Measuring the invisible: A process among arithmetic, geometry and music. Circumscribere 16: 17–37.Google Scholar
  24. Szabó, Árpád. 1978. The beginnings of Greek mathematics. Dordrecht/Budapest: D Reidel Publishing Company and Akadémiai Kiadó.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Teeuwen, Mariken. 2002. Harmony and the music of the spheres: The ars musica in ninth-century commentaries on Martianus Capella. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  26. Tronchin, L., I. Durvilli, and V. Tarabusi. 2008. The marvellous sound world in the “Phonurgia Nova” of Athanasius Kircher. Annals of Acoustics’08 Paris, Paris, pp. 4185–4190. http://webistem.com/acoustics2008/acoustics2008/cd1/data/. Accessed 10 Feb 2016.
  27. Truesdell, Clifford. 1960. The rational mechanics of flexible or elastic bodies, 1638–1788. In Euleri Opera Omnia, 2nd Series, vol. II. Pt. 2, pp. 15–141.Google Scholar
  28. Truesdell, Clifford. 1976. History of classic mechanics. Die Naturwissenschaften 63 (2): 53–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Valleriani, Matteo. 2012. Galileo’s abandoned project on acoustic instruments at the Medici Court. History of Science 50: 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Walker, Daniel P. 1978. Studies in musical science in the late renaissance. London: The Warburg Institute, University of London/Leiden: E. J. Brill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CESIMA – History of SciencePontifical Catholic University of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.EDMAT – Department of MathematicsPontifical Catholic University of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

Section editors and affiliations

  • Matteo Valleriani
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany