133 - Strings Attached: Music and Philosophy

Posted on 16 June 2013

Peter turns DJ, with some actual music interspersed with discussion about theories of music in works by al-Kindī, the Brethren of Purity, and al-Fārābī.

Further Reading

• P. Adamson, Al-Kindī (New York: 2007), ch.7.

• H.G. Farmer, The Sources of Arabian Music (Leiden: 1965).

• P. Horden, Music as Medicine: the History of Music Therapy Since Antiquity (Ashgate: 2000).

• F. Shehadi, Philosophies of Music in Medieval Islam (Leiden: 1995).

• A. Shiloah, Music in the World of Islam (Detroit: 1995).

• G.J. van Gelder and M. Hammond (eds), Takhyīl: The Imaginary in Classical Arabic Poetics (Warminster: 2008) [for music see the papers by J. Montgomery and Y. Klein]

• O. Wright, “Music and Musicology in the Rasā’il Ikhwān al-afā’,” in N. El-Bizri (ed.), The Ikhwān al-afāʾ and their Rasāʾil: an Introduction (Oxford: 2008), 214-47.

• O. Wright, Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Music (New York: 2010).


Links to the sources and musical groups featured in this episode:

Mike's Ouds

Ensemble de Musique Classique Arabe

Bezmara Ensemble

Ensemble Marāghī


Ken 27 July 2013

No comments on this episode? I really enjoyed it and was fascinated by the idea of a sophisticated philosophy of music. I have learned to play several instruments growing up including the trumpet and french horn and am an avid music fan. I will likely look into those books you have listed and I have enjoyed the websites linked to.

I just want to say thank you Professor Adamson for what you are doing with this podcast. Though I am staunch Kierkegaardian (and can't wait until you get to him) I am very exited about what you are doing here with philosophy in the Islamic world (or Arabic-language philosophy). I was wondering if I want to know more should I check out the book you edited on this era of philosophy as a beginners course?

Hi there! Glad you liked the episode, I was also fond of it, I liked having the music come in. If you mean the "Cambridge Companion," yes, that is intended as an introduction to the subject. In due course the scripts for these episodes will also appear as a book and that will be more detailed I guess, but you will only be getting my point of view whereas the Companion is a collection of chapters by various experts.

a. serap avanoğlu 1 August 2013

Please, tell me, what is this beautiful music at the beginning?

a. serap avanoğlu 1 August 2013

Sorry, I did not have enough patience, you have the answer at the end of the podcast about the piece of music. Thank you very much for these lovely podcasts, I have been enjoying them very much.

Glenn Russell 31 August 2014

Great episode, Peter.

Perhaps you are aware of the connection of philosophy and music in the practice of nada yoga from India, which understands the universe as a series of various vibrations. And in their quest to accord with the harmony of the cosmic vibration, not only does the nada yogi employ music but also the inner, 'unstruck' sound, called the nadam.

In the West, the nadam is called tinnitus.

Thomas Mirus 29 March 2015

I love that picture - a Moor and a Christian playing lutes together in 13th-century Spain. It's a miniature from the song collection Canticles of Holy Mary, which I remember hearing in a music history class. Today I came across the picture in Lapham's Quarterly (a really awesome historical/literary magazine), it reminded me of the awesome music in this episode, and when I came back to this page I noticed you used the same image.

yousef damra 2 June 2015

Dear Mr.Peter,

In what language is the last song is sung, I can recognize that it is not in Arabic.By the way, the way you presented the last song make it seem as if it is Arabic while in reality it isn't.

Peter Adamson 3 June 2015

In reply to by yousef damra

Do you mean the clip at the very end of the episode? That is by the Ensemble Maraghi and I believe their singer sings in Persian.

Majid Bakhshi 18 May 2022

In reply to by Peter Adamson

My original language is Persian. She doesn't sing in Persian. Perhaps a branch of the Turkish language inside Iran. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the complete version of the music. 

Doğukan Kuru 25 January 2023

In reply to by Majid Bakhshi

I am turkish and i did not hear any turkish words in it. There were only 2 words that were resembling some turkish words.

I heard something like "Yağar" which means "it rains" 

and i heard something like "Dost" Which means "friend" but i doubt that they are turkish.

hydr 8 March 2023

I think that this could open up a new aspect of philosophy that might be worth commenting on :  music that the philosophers listened to. I believe Plato wrote something to the effect that changes in politics are of little consequence, but when the music changes, be very careful. 

Peter Adamson 8 March 2023

In reply to by hydr

Ha, that would be nice but he didn't quite say that, I don't think. He does have a long discussion in the Republic though about different kinds of music and which ones would be allowed in his ideal city, the idea being that certain musical forms encourage bad tendencies or emotions in the soul.

Harmony 9 March 2023

In reply to by Peter Adamson

O, dear! Plato sounds a bit like the PTA trying to censor the musical selection at prom. 

Suhaib Motala 24 April 2023

Great episode as usual - except this was special thanks to the music.

Can you let me know the song titles, please.

Can't see to find the first piece on Spotify - Mike's Ouds doesn't reallt give me anything.

Thanks again for all you do!

Peter Adamson 24 April 2023

In reply to by Suhaib Motala

Thanks, glad you liked the episode! Sorry, I'm not sure if I can give you more information than is available in those links, this was some years ago and it looks like the one to Mike's Ouds may have redirected. 

By the way links to the music clips used for intro and outro music in the episodes more generally are here, just scroll down a bit: https://www.historyofphilosophy.net/links

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