The Beginnings of Rhythm and Meter According to Aristides Quintilianus
Aristides Quintilianus was a Greek philosopher from the late Antique period, the writer of the treatise “On Music,” comprised of three books – the most thorough systematic description of the discipline of music preserved up to the present day. Basing himself entirely on the outlooks of his predecessors in regards to the key categories of the musical science, Aristides Quintilianus develops his own discourses into a complete well-grounded system. He examines consistently the general issues – concerning the place and the significance of music amid the other arts and sciences, about the manifestation into life of the laws of the cosmos sanctioned by the demiurge, etc., – as well as the “technical side” of the art of music – harmony, rhythm and metrics. The present article is devoted to examining rhythm and metrics (Book I, Chapters 13-19) presented by Aristides in the context of a broad milieu of ideas based on the Pythagoreans, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle and Aristoxenus. It is known that rhythm as a science about music, which has been preserved up to the present day in a very fragmented manner, is asserted for the first time in the works of Aristoxenus, along with his theory of harmony. Consequently, the most detailed conception of rhythm at present is demonstrated by Aristides Quintilianus. The treatise develops the categories and conceptions of the theory of meter and rhythm, which are partially derived from the teaching of harmony and partially developed analogously to it, and traces out the inseparable connection of music with poetry and the other arts. Rhythm is examined by Aristides as a phenomenon of order of physical phenomena existing in the states of motion and rest, perceived by means of seeing and hearing. Identically to Aristotle’s conception, rhythm in its pure form manifests itself only in dance or pantomime. Meter, in correspondence with the traditional outlook, is developed by Aristides as an integral system – from elements of sound (“sound-letters”) to syllables, feet and varieties of meters. He follows the rhythmical laws of sounds of human speech and of the art of music.
Keywords: Aristides Quintilianus, antiquity, harmony, metrics, rhythm, Neo-Pythagoreanism, Neo-Platonism
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