Until comparatively recent times, music was understood to reflect the workings of an orderly and purposive cosmos. In fact, the heavens were thought to produce music as the stars and planets moved through them: The music of the spheres. From Pythagoras to Newton, the best scientific minds of the West regarded this music as real but too rarefied to be heard by ordinary human ears. Jamie James, a music critic for the London Times, follows the history of this idea and its decline. He also traces changes in the status of composers, who were unimportant lowlifes in the ancient world, good citizens with day jobs in the Baroque era, and superstars in the Romantic, and are now an ‘establishmentized’ avant-garde, entitled (or even obliged) to disdain their audiences. He relishes the sheer quirkiness of intellectual history, rescuing some of the battier beliefs of scientists and composers from the revisionism of textbook biographies and producing a graceful and entertaining account of matters seldom presented to the general reader.
— Lindsley Cameron
in The New Yorker, July 12, 1993