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Both from the Ears and Mind

Thinking about Music in Early Modern England

Both from the Ears and Mind offers a bold new understanding of the intellectual and cultural position of music in Tudor and Stuart England. Linda Phyllis Austern brings to life the kinds of educated writings and debates that surrounded musical performance, and the remarkable ways in which English people understood music to inform other endeavors, from astrology and self-care to divinity and poetics. Music was considered both art and science, and discussions of music and musical terminology provided points of contact between otherwise discrete fields of human learning. This book demonstrates how knowledge of music permitted individuals to both reveal and conceal membership in specific social, intellectual, and ideological communities. Attending to materials that go beyond music’s conventional limits, these chapters probe the role of music in commonplace books, health-maintenance and marriage manuals, rhetorical and theological treatises, and mathematical dictionaries. Ultimately, Austern illustrates how music was an indispensable frame of reference that became central to the fabric of life during a time of tremendous intellectual, social, and technological change.

384 pages | 5 color plates, 25 halftones, 19 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2020

History: European History

Medieval Studies

Music: General Music


“If anyone in England from 1500 to 1700 has written about music, Austern has read it. Both from the Ears and Mind is a magnum opus that draws together twenty-five years of research and publication. No existing scholarship on ideas about music in early modern England has the range and the depth of Austern’s. Musicology scholars will find in Austern a resource that will challenge and complicate received ideas about early modern tonality, harmony, rhythm, and performance.”

Bruce Smith, University of Southern California

“Having undertaken a comprehensive survey of many and often little-known sources in manuscript and print, Austern has created an unequaled storehouse of ideas about music that circulated in early modern England. Her fascinating book practically overflows its covers with discourses of music’s powers and effects, notably on the self and society, that reveal how this elusive topic lay virtually at the heart of the early modern English intellectual enterprise. Austern vividly portrays how, at a time of rapid religious and social change, urgent debates about music’s role in worship were conducted even while music itself served as both a civilizing and disrupting influence on society. This book makes a major contribution to the expanding field of sound studies and to sensory history more generally.”

Penelope Gouk, University of Manchester

Both from the Ears and Mind is a marvelously valuable and stimulating guide to the many ways in which early modern thinkers contemplated music. It traces the importance of music through all areas of intellectual endeavor and draws upon an immense range of contemporary writings. No other analysis of this material is so encyclopedic, sophisticated, and deeply learned. Austern’s book deserves to be read by everyone with an interest in music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.”

Christopher Marsh, Queens University Belfast

"The mental, experiential and musical landscapes of human beings in the 16th and 17th centuries were different from ours. Austern’s latest book is an ambitious attempt to map out that territory in detail."

BBC Music Magazine

“The impact of Linda Phyllis Austern's Both from the Ears and Mind: Thinking about Music in Early Modern England will be felt well beyond the field of musicology. Both from the Ears and Mind is perhaps the most explicit and thorough monograph-length analysis of early modern English thought about music to date. . . . Austern shows us not only why music is absolutely indispensable to an understanding of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century intellectual life, but also why the discourse about music at this time is more meaningful than often assumed.”

Journal of British Studies

"Linda Phyllis Austern’s latest contribution to early modern studies is wide-ranging, extremely learned, and illuminating to those interested in the history of ideas in general and the history of ideas about music in particular... Austern’s book is filled with knowledge distilled and clarified. She has digested and made comprehensible many of the most important ideas from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from humoral theory to cosmology, and shown how music is at the heart of them."

Seventeenth-Century News

"Austern’s densely packed, highly learned study is an excellent guide to the various ways that our predecessors grappled with music’s slippery and mysterious powers on body and soul. . . . Both from the Ears and Mind provides a rich array of material that will undoubtedly foster much new research on early modern English musical culture."

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

"With its wide-ranging scope and multidisciplinary approach, this book should become essential reading for musicologists, historians, and indeed anyone who wants to further their understanding of the complex relationship between 'actual' music as performed and listened to and ideas about music that are held in a given society, including, but not limited to, early modern England."

Revue de Musicologie

Table of Contents


1. Praise, Blame, and Persuasion: “Of Musicke by Way of Disputation”
Praise and Dispraise (of Music): Discourse, Dialectic, Disputation
Knowledge of Music “by Witt and Understanding”
Reading as Creative Process: Toward “Places of Invention”
Constructing Arguments
Materials for Discourse

2. Debating Godly Music: Sober and Lawful Christian Use
“Musica, serva Dei”: (Textual) Places for God’s Handmaid
Music to the Praise and Glory of God: “A Methodicall Gathering Together of Authorities”
Anxieties of Aurality and Homonymies of Love
Codetta: The Prosecution Rests

3. Harmony, Number, and Proportion
Art and Science Abstracted from Bodies
Between Sense and Intellect: Music as Conceptual Tool
“The Worlds Musicke”
“A Simbolisme between the Elements”: (Re)appropriation across Domains
“Profound Contemplation of Secret Things”: Magic, Occult Doctrines, and Music
Hidden Harmonies of Earth and Heaven: Alchemy and Astrology
“Divine Consent”: Holy Matrimony as Harmony

4. To Please the Ear and Satisfy the Mind
Explaining Musical Experience
Sound, Soul, and Sense
To Captivate the Mind: Music and Interior Process

5. “Comfortable . . . in Sicknes and in Health”: Music to Temper Self and Surroundings
Music and Medicine
Music “to Preserve the Health”
Music and the Humors: Balancing the Self
Beyond Black Bile: Sorrow, Grief, and Musical Remediation
Selected Bibliography


North American British Music Studies Association: Diana McVeagh Prize for Best Book on British Music

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