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Myth, Science, and the Power of Music in the Early Decades of the Royal Society


While the Royal Society’s experimental and mathematical investigations of the 1660-90s opened up new areas of acoustical knowledge, these did not simply overturn older traditions of musical wisdom. Fellows continued to draw on stories of music’s power contained in Classical mythology and Ancient history, as well as more contemporary anecdotes. Considering how they used, evaluated, and interpreted these stories, this study reveals the interdependence of myth, anecdote, and scientific thought in the Royal Society’s musical investigations. Their blending of Humanism with empirical philosophy proved a productive site for developing new conceptions of musical creativity and purpose.