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Music, according to Aquinas

Violoncello, 2 Clarinets


John Rea, composer

Music, according to Aquinas (excerpt)John Rea
00:00 / 03:22



That Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274)—philosopher and theologian who reconciled faith with reason—should also write about music is not surprising. For, in addition to his classical education as a child in medieval Naples, he received musical instruction from the Schola Cantorum at nearby Monte Cassino, the Benedictine monastery founded in 529.  


In Paris, as a young Christian scholar, he would write critical texts (the Summae) and other commentaries, drawing his own conclusions about Arabian-Aristotelian thought.  Here, discussions of music occupy a privileged place, including important observations by Boethius and Augustine.  On one occasion, even, he considers the significance of quarter-tones!


In my composition, I have chosen a variety of texts that, with respect to music, point to the three Thomistic conditions of beauty - integrity, proportion, and clarity.  By way of subtle imagery and compelling metaphors, these words also point to the encounter of faith with reason. (JR)

‘Music, according to Aquinas’ was part of X—Ten Centuries/Ten New Works.  Ten pieces were commissioned from ten different composers, each relating to a different century between 1000 and 2000; be it through text or musical or historical references.  Four of the pieces were performed by musica intima, with and without instrumental ensemble, at the Chan Centre in September 2000. The project was conceived by Owen Underhill and put on by Vancouver New Music, funded by the Canada Council’s Millennium Fund.

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