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Paper: Galileo and Music: A Family Affair
Volume: 441, The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena VI
Page: 57
Authors: Fabris, D.
Abstract: According to Viviani, Galileo's first biographer, the scientist was an excellent keyboard and lute player. In turn Vincenzo Galilei, father of the illustrious scientist, had been one of the most influential music theorist of his age and also a great composer and virtuoso of the lute. Galileo and his brother Michelangelo, born in 1575, inherited Vincenzo's duel skills, both in theory and practical music: Galileo's correspondences show indeed his competence in the music and in the lute playing; Michelagnolo, after being educated in part in Galileo's house in Padua, transferred to Germany in Munich, where he became a court lute player. Nevertheless, Galileo helped for the rest of his life not only his brother but also his nephews, as documented in dozen of family letters quite important to establish the central role of the music in Galileo's everyday life, a fact almost ignored by most modern biographers. The importance of music in Galileo's output and life has been first outlined by the historian of sciences Stillman Drake and by the musicologist Claude Palisca. After their studies starting in the 1960s there is a great belief that Vincenzo influenced his son Galileo, directing him towards experimentation. The aim of this paper, following the reconstruction of Galileo's soundscape proposed by Pierluigi Petrobelli, is to reexamine the surviving historical accounts on the musical passion and talent of Galileo and his family in the several houses where they performed music (in Florence, Padua, Munich, etc.) in particular on the lute, the instrument that was an important experimental tool for the scientist.
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