Review by Angela Voss: Music in Renaissance Magic by G. Tomlinson,
First published in: Music and Letters, vol. 75,no. 4, 592-594
This is an original and quite extraordinary book, which focuses on the connection between music and magic in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Tomlinson’s key ‘magus’ is the Florentine Marsilio Ficino, and he pays special attention to Ficino’s influences, his doctrine of furor and his astrological singing – improvised hymns and invocations to planetary gods with the purpose of beneficially affecting the psychological state of the listener. Tomlinson explores the progression from the sympatheric magic of the Renaissance to the representation art of the early Baroque period, ending with an appraisal of Monteverdi’s music as embracingboth the old and the new.
Once cannot fail to be impressed by the rigour and precision of Gary Tomlinson’s use of language, the clarity of his conceptual thought and the ruthlessness of his intent to communicate to the reader the problmes involved in understanding the Renaissance world’view. Like a dog with a bone, he tussles and pulls at perspectives and methodologies, drawing on a vast number of secondary sources and often leaving the reader somewhat stranded (with his dictionary) amid a sea or erudite terminology. One is left with the impression that this is a very clever book, but that, in his manner of approaching the subject, Tomlinson misses the very point he strives to make.