I am currently rereading Férdia Stone-Davis’ superb book Musical Beauty. See it here. It offers an examination of the very different musical aesthetics of Boethius and Kant before making constructive proposals of its own.
What has struck me both time is just how appealing Boethius’ understanding of music is. For Boethius music must be understood in terms of a grand Platonic worldview in which the entire cosmos is rationally ordered and created by God.
The cosmos is characterized by a rational harmony underpinned by number. Mathematics is thus the discipline that underpins geometry, astronomy, and music. In terms of its formal structure, music is all about “harmony”—the concordant bringing together into a whole of different things; it involves numbers in relation.
Harmony is at the heart of the cosmos itself—a universe. And “music” is about the creation of that harmony. Hence, music is at the heart of the cosmos—”the music of the spheres”: the harmonious patterns of the astral bodies.
Music is also innate within humanity: when we hear sounded music and discern its harmonies—all those diverse sounds blended into one—we are drawn to it. It resonates with our in-built desire for harmony. This is because we ourselves are created as harmonious beings (a unity of sense and reason; of body and soul) and “like attracts like.” Sounded music resonates with the structure of human being and indeed with the structure of the universe itself.
Music can have a direct impact on humans, drawing us towards greater harmony and pointing us beyond itself to the source—to beauty and thence to God.
Stone-Davis does draw attention to some weaknesses of Boethius’ vision—most notably that while he appreciates the importance of sounded music, he does tend to denigrate sound in favor of the abstracted patterns within the music. Nevertheless, I do find his grand vision to be very beautiful.
I highly recommend Stone-Davis’ book.