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Agenda

Interplay: Rethinking Music, Mathematics, and Alchemical Praxis in Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens (1618)

  • 2015-03-14
  • 2015-03-15
  • The Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, United States
Maier’s work is unique among the alchemical corpus because it is distinguished by a three-part vocal score that accompanies each of the Atalanta’s fifty emblems. Given that emblem books were a popular early modern literary genre that paired poetry with allegorical images, in Maier's work, certain of the Atalanta’s emblems describe alchemical processes and equipment, while the music evokes elemental interactions (... and much much more, as is becoming apparent...).

But! Maier's Atalanta goes far beyond just being an elegant audio-visual articulation of alchemical theory and practice for producing the philosophers' stone. Donna Bilak's research at the Chemical Heritage in 2013 revealed that the book conceptually reconfigures into a 7x7 magic square, and functions as a game or puzzle that the erudite reader must solve, decode, play.

This workshop enables the opening of new avenues of scholarly investigation into early modern alchemical practices, and situates them within a wider cultural and intellectual context.

Workshop goals
  • to identify possible ways of reading/interpreting the Atalanta's magic square version
  • to compare the 1618 copy of the Atalanta with the 1687 edition (also at CHF), which was published without the frontispiece or the music. This reframing of the Atalanta changes entirely the nature, use, and reception of Maier's work only a few generations after its original publication.
Workshop participants

  • Robin Bier (University of York; musicology, early modern performance; also participating, three vocalists from Robin’s choral ensemble, Les Canards Chantants)
  • Donna Bilak (Columbia University; history of early modern science, emblem culture)
  • Brian D. Hadley (University of Western Michigan; mathematics)
  • Jo Hedesan (Oxford University; history of early modern science, Christian mysticism)
  • Peter Forshaw (University of Amsterdam; history of early modern occult philosophy, alchemy, magic, cabala)
  • Tara Nummedal (Brown University; history of early modern science, alchemy in the Holy Roman Empire)
  • Richard Oosterhoff (Cambridge University; book history, history of mathematics)
  • Lawrence M. Principe (Johns Hopkins University; history of early modern science, alchemy and technology)
  • Jennifer M. Rampling (Princeton University; history of alchemy and medicine)
  • Pamela H. Smith (Columbia University; history of early modern science, artisanal craft knowledge production)
  • Stephen Tabor (The Huntington Library; Curator of Early Printed Books)
  • James R. Voelkel (CHF; Curator of Rare Books)
  • Lee Zickel (Case Western Reserve University; Digital Humanities, games and game theory)

For more information, please contact the workshop organiser, Donna Bilak: dab2208@columbia.edu

Date(s): March 14, 2015 -to- March 15, 2015

Location: Philadelphia

Address: The Chemical Heritage Foundation,
315 Chestnut St,
Philadelphia,
PA 19106,
United States
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