Descartes on Musical Training and the Body
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Descartes on Musical Training and the Body book
These are the opening lines of Rene Descartes's first treatise, the Compendium Musicae (1618). Sound, delight, the passions. It would seem that Descartes began his philosophical career in the body, a body craving sensual delight and pleasure. The world of the Compendium-to recall its own examples-is one where thunder and cannon fire offend the ear, where animals dance to music, where duple meter excites "gentle and sluggish motions, such as a kind of Languor, Sadnesse, Fear, Pride, and other heavy and dull Passions," where antipathy causes a drum made of wolf skin to silence one made of sheepskin.2 It is a world still far from the philosopher's celebrated dislocation of mind and body, even while the intellectual method by which he would arrive there is very much on the horizon.