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Hearing the Voice, Hearing the Soul Symposium

International Research Symposium

Organised by Jacomien Prins

5th June 2015, 9.30am-6.30pm at Warwick University, the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), Millburn House, Millburn Hill Road, Coventry.

Symposium theme

Just as music has fascinated scholars in the Western world continuously for thousands of years, so time and again they have felt the need to explain its power. During the Renaissance a revival of interest for ancient theories about the power of music began. Many philosophers, humanists and music theorists writing about music found themselves caught in the Plato-Aristotle controversy. They had to make a choice between two radically different theories of the constitution of the human soul: a Platonic one, originating from the Timaeus, which stated that music has a great influence on the human soul because they are somehow similar, and an Aristotelian one, originating from On the Soul, which did not postulate any special relationship between music and the soul. Privileging one philosophical model over the other brought along entirely different beliefs about the nature of music, what it does, or what it should do. The body of doctrine around these two sources, combined with Christian ideas about music and the soul and all kinds of medical and music-theoretical ideas was pervasive till the beginning of the seventeenth century. And yet, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, to learn about music’s power meant turning not to these ancient sources and their reception, but to works on the soul such as Descartes Passions of the Soul and Hobbes’ Human Nature. The purpose of this symposium is to track and to interrogate the nature, life span, and eventual radical transformation and/or demise of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance conceptions of the belief in music’s deep connections with human life.


List of Abstracts

Symposium Poster

Lunchbreak Concert Poster

Practical information

Registration: The registration fee is £10 (including lunch, lunchbreak concert and refreshments) to be paid on arrival. Participation is free of charge for students and staff of Warwick University and for members of the funding bodies but registration is required. Registration is at a first come, first served basis and space is limited! To book a place please contact me on the following e-mail address:

Location: Warwick University, the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), Millburn House, Millburn Hill Road, Coventry. You will find a map, showing the location of Millburn House (number 43 on the campus map) here: campus map

How to get to Warwick University: visiting directions

Contact: For any other queries, please contact me on the following e-mail address:

Call for Papers (closed)

Supported by:

Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), University of Warwick +++ Humanities Research Centre (HRC), University of Warwick +++ Centre for the Study of the Renaissance (CSR), University of Warwick +++ The Royal Music Association (RMA)+++ Society for Renaissance Studies (SRS)

hrc logoias_logo.jpgCSR logorma-logo.jpglogo srs



Lorenzo Costa, A concert, about 1485-95, The National Gallery, London

Lorenzo Costa, A concert, circa
1485-95, The National Gallery, London

A video of the lunchtime concert at the 'Hearing the Voice, Hearing the Soul' symposium can be found here

A review of the event can be found here