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The Musical Humanism of the Renaissance and its Legacy

A University of Warwick Conference to be held at Warwick’s Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, Venice, 2-4 June 2016

in collaboration with the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group


Giovanni Antonio Fasolo, The Concert (ca 1570), Villa Caldogno, Veneto, Italy

In modern Western culture, music is often defined as the art of feeling or the language of the soul. This conception of music has its origins in the musical humanism of the Renaissance, whose influence on musical thought was as enduring as it was widespread. Even though Renaissance humanism had no concrete link to the musical practice of antiquity, humanistic concerns were pivotal for the development of contemporary music and musical thought. Ancient and medieval stories about musical ethos, in particular about the power of music to move the passions, were of special interest to Renaissance scholars. This conference will investigate these Renaissance conceptions of the connection between music and mind, their origins, and how they were ultimately developed into our modern notion of music as an expressive art. In particular, it will probe how Latin translations of ancient Greek musical sources and vernacular translations of these Latin texts promoted a new kind of musical humanism. In light of recently published work on the topic, it will examine the influence of Marsilio Ficino, whose translations and commentaries of Plato and of Neoplatonic literature shaped and conditioned many sixteenth and seventeenth-century theories about musical ethos throughout Europe. Moreover, the conference will examine how a renewed interest in Aristotelian poetics advanced the notion that by means of imitation music could move human affections. In short, the conference will study how Renaissance musical humanists extended the accessibility of classical literature on music, reshaped the ways in which this literature was understood, and, ultimately, radically transformed classical conceptions of the power of music.

Contact: For any other queries, please contact the conference convener, Jacomien Prins, on the following e-mail address:

Supported by:

The Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), University of Warwick, the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance (CSR), University of Warwick, and the Humanities Research Centre (HRC), University of Warwick; The Royal Music Association (RMA).

IAS logo hrclogonov2015.jpg avatar_photo_400x400_renaissance_studies_ruby_red.pngRMA logo


Registration: The registration fee for speakers and auditors is £80 (covering registration, refreshments, lunches and lunch break concerts). Students and staff of Warwick University, Ca’Foscari University (or other institutes or colleges in Venice), and members of the funding bodies will get a discount of 50% (£40). Registration is at a first come, first served basis and space is limited! To book a place please click here.

Programme (23 May 2016)

List of Abstracts (23 May 2016)


The Palazzo Pesaro Papafava of Warwick University. Delegate information (such as ‘Travelling to Venice’, ‘Location and directions’, ‘Accommodation’ and ‘Accessibility’) can be found here

Call for papers (closed)