Sounding a Sonativum: Robert Grosseteste Day

robert-grosseteste-day-2016-sonativum

The annual Robert Grosseteste Day takes place at Bishop Grosseteste University on Friday 7th October (Grosseteste’s feast day in the Christian Church is 9th October). Organised by Jack Cunningham the activities include a public lecture, and the launch of a new collection of essays from the 2014 International Grosseteste Society Conference, also held at BGU.

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Imaging Fast Phenomena: September 2nd

Durham II Public Lecture Poster

The next in the Ordered Universe public lecture series will feature Professor Clive Siviour, of the Department of Engineering and Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Clive will be speaking about his on-going research into High-Speed photography and the extraordinary images it produces, and to experiments derived from Robert Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds. Continue reading

Through a Glass Darkly – Creative Collaboration Seminar 1

Grosseteste Poster 1

Next Tuesday, 31st May, sees the first activity in the collaboration between the Ordered Universe and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, Through a Glass Darkly. We have a day of creative collaboration across a wide range of media. Brian, Giles, Hannah, Clive, Josh, Ana Dias – a PhD student in medieval manuscript illumination at Durham, with Ross Ashton, Alexandra Carr and Alan Fentiman, will explore Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula with Cate Watkinson, Colin Rennie and undergraduate and postgraduate students at the National Glass Centre. Continue reading

Gravitational Waves and the Cosmic ‘Sonativum’

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Artistic rendition of the merging black holes that gave rise to the gravitational waves reported in February 2016. Image from LIGO collaboration

Only an Ordered Universe blogpost could deserve a title like that.  We cannot let a discovery of such reach, beauty, conceptual depth and powerful simplicity (yes indeed) as the LIGO team’s announcement this month of the first detection of gravitational radiation go without a celebratory comment from the Robert Grosseteste club here.

Robert did, after all, engage in the magisterial De luce in the work of imagining the entire cosmos, and indeed in the propagation of waves across it in the process of its first formation.  Another centrepiece of his thought world was the connection of the universal with the present and microscopic. Continue reading

Generating sounds: help us write our next paper!

IMG_0190IMG_0168At the last Ordered Universe symposium the group made its third, and final, collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s treatise De generatione sonorumOn the Generation of Sounds’. An intriguing, characteristically dense piece of writing, with the usual editorial conundrums, and a strange beauty to its construction, the DGS also sparked a series of reflections from a modern scientific perspective. The treatise deals with the notion of what sound is, showing Grosseteste’s familiarity with Aristotle’s De anima (probably in the translation by Gerard of Cremona), and human vocal production, showing his knowledge of Augustine (354-430) and Boethius (c.480-524) on music, Priscian (flourished around 500) and Isidore of Seville (c.560-636)on grammar and phonetics. However, as always with these works, the question of Grosseteste’s own interests and observations need to be considered, and not merely from the perspective of how he constructs his treatise and orders his thoughts. Continue reading

On the liberal arts and the generation of sounds

lumiere_postcard_21-1024x682Robert Grosseteste suggested in his treatise on the liberal arts that in all areas of human endeavour it is necessary to choose carefully the hour most propitious for the undertaking one wants to carry through. Plants carry more fruit if planted when the celestial spheres are correctly aligned, and base metals are transformed into gold more easily if processed under favourable planets and stars. We no longer believe this to be true, of course, and we may even speculate about the extent to which Robert himself gave credence to such theories; nevertheless, had Robert been around at the Ordered Universe workshop organised in Durham last week, he may have inferred that the organisers had chosen a favourable hour indeed. Discussions and deliberations carried much fruit, and base drafts were transformed into golden light of understanding. A liberating experience indeed, and one which generated the right kinds of sound! Continue reading

Robert Grosseteste’s Early Treatises and their Reception

IMG_0125OU logo large text 2015The next in the Ordered Universe symposia series starts today. The research group will be taking its final look, at least in session, at the treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds (De artibus liberalibus and De generatione sonorum). So, vowel shapes, musical measure, the powers (or not) of astrology, and Grosseteste’s rising familiarity with the De anima of Aristotle. Continue reading

David Howard at the Proms…

IMG_2834IMG_4619David Howard (University of York), and Ordered Universe stalwart, will be featured in a Proms Concert Interval programme, tonight, talking about his amazing research into human voice production and its reproduction by machines. ‘Singing Machines’ will be broadcast in the UK at about 19.10 and will be available on the BBC Radio 3 website for about 30 days thereafter. Continue reading

Living in an Ordered Universe

Hortus_Deliciarum,_Die_Philosophie_mit_den_sieben_freien_KünstenAstrolabeThe De artibus liberalibus (On the Liberal Arts) has felt somewhat different from the three treatises that the Ordered Universe group had looked at before. Unlike the De colore, the De iride, the De luce and the De generatione sonorum, the De artibus liberalibus isn’t primarily aimed at elucidating a phenomenon of natural order – be this colour, the rainbow, the cosmos, or sound.[1] Instead of focusing on aspects of the natural world, the De artibus liberalibus offers a justification for the foundational structure of scholarship and education that was around at Grosseteste’s times: the seven Liberal Arts. Continue reading

The Liberal Arts at Lincoln and a Choral Homage in Grosseteste’s Chapel

Easter Week saw the Ordered Universe project team converge for three days on the ancient city of Lincoln – where Robert Grosseteste was Bishop from 1235-1253.  It felt almost like a pilgrimage for those of us who have been studying the scientific works of this 13th

Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral

century polymath together for 5 years now.  We even brought our very own bishop (and medieval scholar) with us in the form of David Thomson (Huntingdon). Familiarity (and depth of scholarship) go back far futher for Prof. Cecilia Panti who joined the group once more from Rome, and Neil Lewis, who ‘skyped’ in from Georgetown.    It felt rather like a family gathering with new friends. Continue reading