Giovanni Battista Della Porta’s experiments with musical instruments

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A section of Giovanni Battista Della Porta’s Magia naturalis (1589) celebrates the powers of musical instruments. Most of these powers are rooted in neo-Platonist natural magic: Della Porta explains that the materials of instruments retain their original properties, shaping the body and soul of the listener through their mutual sympathy or antipathy. In a series of three demonstrations presented at the end of this section on music, however, Della Porta uses musical instruments in a different fashion: like telescopes and other scientific instruments of the early modern era, his lyra-likely a lira da braccio, which held pride of place in Italian academies of the sixteenth century-becomes a vehicle for open-ended discovery and the creation of new knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-175
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Musicological Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Music


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