The commentary (hypomnema) in which the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry explains Claudius Ptolemy’s “Harmonics’ is one of the most eminent documents of ancient music theory, because of two reasons: (1) Ptolemy’s work has always been seen as learned summit of the whole of theoretical thinking about music in antiquity; (2) Porphyry comments in great detail on Ptolemy’s views and provides us with precious information from sources, that are otherwise lost. After Ptolemy’s work has been translated (with annotations) into several modern languages recently (English: Jon Solomon 1999, Italian: Massimo Raffa 2002, Spanish: Pedro Redondo Reyes 2003), it seems now rewarding to go back to Porphyry and reconsider his own contribution to an adequate understanding of the Harmonics.
Our workshop brings together internationally recognized specialists as well as more junior scholars, discussing several aspects of Porphyry’s work which are usually treated in isolation and putting them into the broader context of late ancient Neoplatonic philosophy and music theory. More specifically, we shall address the following issues: (a) the relation between the Pythagorean and Aristoxenian approach to music and the status of the criterion of harmonics; (b) the nature of tonal space; (c) the interplay between music theory and cosmology – cosmological and metaphysical aspects of the commentary (as well as of Ptolemy’s Harmonics); (d) the place of Porphyry’s commentary in his philosophy as a whole; (e) Neoplatonic music theory after Porphyry (e.g. in Proclus).
Introduction to Porphyry's Philosophy
Music Theory and Theory of Knowledge in Porphyry's Commentary on Ptolemy's Harmonics (pp. 11-15 Düring)
Contributions of the ‚Aristoxenians" to Harmonics according to Ptolemy and Porphyry
Music as the Movement of the Soul: Theophrastus and Porphyry
Placing Porphyry's Commentary to Ptolemy in its Cultural and Chronological Context: Background, Sources, Possible Readers
The Harmony of Soul in Proclus' Timaeus Commentary