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Ficino on Song

December 9, 2009

ficino.jpegI came across a beautiful if slightly knotty quote yesterday in Thomas Forrest Kelly's book about classical music world premieres that changed the course of music history, First Nights.

This is the Fifteenth Century Florentine humanist, Marsilio Ficino, on the power of song:

"Remember that song is the most powerful imitator of all things. For it imitates the intentions and affectations of the soul, and speech, and also reproduces bodily gestures, human movements and moral characters, and imitates and acts everything so powerfully that it immediately provokes both the singer and hearer to imitate and perform the same things."


  • Ficino is one of my favorite Renaissance humanists. Some more music quotes (from "Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters of Marsilio Ficino"):

    "A man is not harmoniously formed who does not delight in harmony."

    "Medicine heals the body, music the spirit, and theology the soul."

    "There our four kinds of divine frenzy: love, poetry, the mysteries, and prophecy. The common and completely insane love is a false copy of divine love; superficial music, of poetry; superstition, of the mysteries; and prediction, of prophecy."

    "Prose should be adorned with the rhythms and numbers of poetry."

    By Anonymous Valentino: a play in verse, At December 22, 2009 at 2:27 PM  

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