sired. For this reason the power of the intellect
ought to be summoned, so that this art, innate
through nature, may also be mastered, comprehended through knowledge. For just as in seeing
it does not suffice for the learned to perceive colors and forms without also searching out their
properties, so it does not suffice for musicians to
find pleasure in melodies without also coming
to know how they are structured internally by
means of ratio of pitches.
Boethius, from Fundamentals of Music. Born
to a noble Roman family around 480, Boethius
derived much of this influential treatise from works
by Nicomachus and Ptolemy. Elsewhere in it he
delineates a hierarchy of performer, composer, and
critic, deriding the task of the first as “manual labor”
and commending the last’s “faculty of reason and
thought.” A friend and adviser to the Ostrogothic
king Theodoric, Boethius was accused of treason and
incarcerated in 523. He wrote his Consolation of
Philosophy while awaiting execution.
The Dance Lesson, by Edgar Degas, c. 1879.