Alexander Rehding and John McKay (both musicologists at Harvard U.) have published an article in the most recent issue of Apeiron on the musical structures in Plato’s dialogues. I welcome this erudite and constructive paper.
Their main point is that the 12-note, symbolic ‘scale’ found in Plato’s dialogues is not one of the conventional scales used by ancient performers of Greek music. This is correct. As others have pointed out, the scale is really a ‘division of the canon’ and was constructed by music theorists to exhibit the most important musical harmonies. The 12-note scale was well-known to theorists and is described explicitly by Theon of Smyrna in his first century On the Mathematics Useful for Reading Plato. Theon describes this ‘scale’ as a way of dividing the string on a monochord (a canon), and it is probable that this 12-note scale emerged in this context and not performance.
I have drafted a paper replying to Rehding and McKay. Please email me if you would like a pdf: comments and criticism are welcome. There are two appendices on the musicological background to Plato’s symbolism in my book, The Musical Structure of Plato’s Dialogues, and many of Rehding’s and McKays questions are answered there.
Lecturing on Plato in Rio at SBEC
I enjoyed meeting many new friends in Rio at the conference of the Brazilian Society for the Study of the Classics. Thanks to Professors Gabriele Cornelli and Henrique Cairus for the invitation to speak. Thanks also to Fernando Muniz for his introduction to Rio and to Hugo Koning for this photo.
The Philosopher’s Magazine just published a short piece on the consequences of my research for the philosophy of Leo Strauss: here. I argue that one implication of my work is that Strauss’s interpretations of Plato are now known to be wrong. Thanks to the editor, Jeremy Stangroom.
I’m also delighted that the Dutch Magazine Filosofie has just published an interview with me about my new Plato book: here. Thanks to Maarten Meester.
The University of Manchester issued a press release announcing the publication of my new Plato book. I attach here some pretty, open-domain pictures and about 1500 words of background (the banner for this web-page is included). The press release is here.
UPDATE: The University of Manchester has just issued a press release (here) to announce the publication. Perhaps the most significant part of the book argues that Plato’s symbols force a radical rethink of Plato’s ethical philosophy, and especially his philosophy of love.
After a busy spring, my new book The Musical Structure of Plato’s Dialogues will appear in late August. Acumen Publishing has done a great job and brought out a handsome volume in record time. They have simultaneously published both the hardback and paperback in both the UK and USA (click for Amazon). This book contains many new ideas and many new kinds of evidence for hidden musical symbols in Plato. It shows that interpretations of Plato’s writings on love (the Symposium) and religion (the Euthyphro) will have to change in surprising ways. This book was revised in real time as I responded to many questions and criticisms that came in during the series of lectures I gave, and I thank all who contributed.
The debate over Plato’s musical symbols has grown so wide that Acumen Publishing has commissioned essays from a dozen scholars for a volume scheduled to appear in late 2012. Leading scholars in classics, philosophy, musicology, and literary history from the UK, USA, Canada, Italy, Brazil, and Germany have accepted invitations to contribute.
The University of Manchester encourages all their faculty to do outreach and filmed a six-minute interview with me about my recent research on Plato. This interview is intended for a general audience and borrows shamelessly from a university press release. It will be available on Friday, 19 August and has the title Kennedy: Plato’s Symbolic Code. Search for “Kennedy Plato” or click here or go to Youtube here.
Many thanks for a warm reception and much good conversation at the Classical Association annual conference at Durham University. My lecture was a general report on the debates over my work.
The Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Classicos has invited me to lecture at their national congress in Rio de Janeiro, 17-21 October 2011. The Society’s website is here.
Professor Gabriele Cornelli, the new head of the International Plato Society, has invited me to lecture at the University of Brasilia in mid-October 2011.