Skip to main content
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: March 2008


  • Edited by Thomas Christensen, University of Chicago
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
The tradition represented by Greek works on music and harmonics assumed a prominence in the West. It acquired a sense of the esoteric and foreign, a duality of character as it retains in the modern conception of ancient Greek music theory. The corpus of ancient Greek music theory comprises three basic traditions: the Pythagorean tradition, a related scientific tradition of harmonics, and an Aristoxenian tradition. The Pythagoreans were particularly interested in the paradigmatic and mimetic characteristics of music, which they saw as underlying its power in human life. The Harmonicists are primarily known through Aristoxenus's negative assessment of them in his Harmonic Elements, at the beginning of which he defines the study of harmonics as pertaining to the theory of scales and tonoi. The most systematic discussion of ostensibly musical phenomena is found in the fragmentary Harmonic Elements of Aristoxenus and later treatises based on its principles.
Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053471
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *