Music and Esotericism


Editor: Laurence Wuidar
This collection of essays analyzes the relationships that exist between esotericism and music from Antiquity to the 20th century, investigating ways in which magic, astrology, alchemy, divination, and cabbala interact with music. The volume seeks to dissolve artificial barriers between the history of art, music, science, and intellectual history by establishing an interdisciplinary dialogue about music as viewed against a specific cultural background. The synthesis of scientific and historical contexts with respect to music, explored here on a large scale for the first time, opens up a wealth of new approaches to music historical research, music performance, and musical composition. Each chapter presents either a unique example of music functioning within esoteric and scientific traditions or a demonstration of the influence of those traditions upon selected musical works.

L’ouvrage analyse les relations entre l’ésotérisme et la musique de l’Antiquité au 20ème siècle étudiant comment la magie, l’astrologie, l’alchimie, la divination et la cabale ont interagit avec la musique. Il vise à dépasser les frontières entre l’histoire de l’art, l’histoire de la musique et l’histoire des sciences et des idées afin de nouer un dialogue interdisciplinaire sur la musique autour de contextes historiques et scientifiques précis. L’ouvrage offre une première synthèse sur les rapports entre ésotérisme et musique ainsi que diverses pistes de recherche à poursuivre.
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Biographical Note

Laurence Wuidar, Ph.D. (2007) in Philosophy & Letters - Musicology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, is Research Fellow at the FNRS. Her publications include the books Musique et astrologie après le Concile de Trente (Brepols, 2008), Canons énigmes et hiéroglyphes musicaux dans l'Italie du 17ème siècle (Peter Lang, 2008) and L'Angelo et il Girasole. Conversazioni Filosofico-Musicali (ESD 2010).

Review Quotes

Having read the book with much pleasure, I would like to applaud the authors for their expedition into this intriguing field of relations between music, science and ‘esotericism’. I hope that the essays will be read not only by scholars interested in the individual philosophers and musicians analysed, but also by those concerned with general patterns within the European history of religion and the theoretical considerations arising from a study of this researchfield. - Isabel Laack, Universität Heidelberg in: Religion, Volume 42 (2012), Issue 1.

Table of contents

Laurence Wuidar

Music and Magnetism, from Abu Ma‘shar to Kircher
Charles Burnett
Le medecin et les sons : Musique et magie dans Le Livre des eschez amoureux moralisés d’Evrart de Conty
Amandine Mussou
Prophecy, Harmony, and the Alchemical Transformation of the Soul: The Key to Lasso’s Chromatic Sibyls
Marjorie A. Roth
Dwelling in Darkness: Dowland’s Dark Songs as Hermetic Pessimist Gnosis, and Could this be ‘Evidence’ of the Esoteric ‘School of Night’?
Anthony Rooley
Orpheus “Recured”: The Healing Art of Thomas Campion
Barbara Kennedy
Giovambattista della Porta e l’efficacia terapeutica della musica
Concetta Pennuto
Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639) e la musica
Marta Moiso
Representation esoterique et pensee scientifique. Le cas de la vibration par sympathie chez les savants et theoriciens de la premiere moitie du 17e siecle
Brigitte Van Wymeersch
Musical Theory and Astrological Foundations in Kepler: The Making of the New Aspects
David Juste

Apercu sur le role de l’harmonie musicale dans l’oeuvre de Proclus
Maël Mathieu and Daniel Cohen
Quelques philosophes du XIXe siecle et la musique comme esoterisme moderne
Jacques Amblard

The Mysteries of Sound in H. P. Blavatsky’s ‘Esoteric Instructions’
Tim Rudbøg
Evoking the Mystical: The Esoteric Legacy of Ferruccio Busoni
Judith Crispin
Musica pietrificata, sculture sonore: Aleksandr Skrjabin tra estasi e teosofia
Barbara Aniello
The Unspeakable and the Law: Esotericism in Anton Webern and the Second Viennese School
Wouter J. Hanegraaff
Music, Magic and Postmodern Historical Metafiction: Helmuth Krausser’s Melodien (1993)
György E. Szönyi


All those interested in music history, intellectual history, Western esotericism, history of science and ideas


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