Sonic emblems & magic squares

Monday 30 November, 16:00 (BST)   Online with Zoom

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oxford atalanta bilakludwig

Explore the digital edition: Furnace and Fugue; UVAP Book Launch (Aug. 25, 2020); The making of Furnace & Fugue; More about the presenters: dbilakpraxis – Donna Bilak PhD / Loren Ludwig PhD – Performer Scholar


Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

Donna Bilak (Independent Scholar) & Loren Ludwig (Scholar Performer)

Sonic Emblems & Magic Squares: Atalanta fugiens and Ludic Humanism in the 21st Century

Atalanta fugiens is a musical alchemical emblem book that has fascinated readers since its publication 400 years ago. A virtuoso work that fuses music, art, and natural philosophy into a paean to wisdom achieved through alchemical practice, it playfully engages our senses of sound and sight in unpacking the book’s complex, enigmatic alchemical program. Its experience is reimagined in Furnace & Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary (Nummedal & Bilak, eds. UVAP, 2020) through, for example, manipulable vocal recordings of Atalanta’s “fugues,” and a multi-functional space that allows readers to curate and share image collections. The Oxford HSMT presentation by Donna Bilak and Loren Ludwig (Furnace & Fugue Music Director and contributor) discusses the ludic qualities of Maier’s book and ways that Furnace & Fugue extends sensory interactivity with Maier’s ideas through digital technology. Atalanta’s “alchemical fugues” are cleverly conceived as musical games whose solutions work across multiple registers (musical, alchemical, and Classical); also, Maier seems to have designed Atalanta’s emblems around a concealed a mathematical puzzle that is revealed to the reader upon decoding clues that are scattered throughout the work. These aspects of Atalanta fugiens challenge our notion of “reading.” As a digital artefact, Furnace & Fugue playfully expands the ludic possibilities suggested in Maier’s book for engaging with musica, alchemy, and history.

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