Listening becomes an alert grasp of ‹vertical›, independent fragments of a compounded sonority. It is its immediacy that captivates Leonardo’s musical subject, the tenuous physicality of the beautiful concento. The cognizance of structure, being too cerebral and detached from the body, seems foreign to it; nor does this experience involve a response to the expressive content of the work. Indeed, Leonardo’s idea of music does not agree with the modern – or even Renaissance – sense of ‹work› as a unified whole comprised of functional sub-units. I would go even further and claim that his entire art-theory has little place for, and in fact has no need for such a notion of work, whether in painting, poetry, or sculpture. [31]

If so, can music deliver truth? In opposition to the repeated discussions of truthfulness in painting and poetry, only on a single occurrence in the extant text of the Libro di pittura – and nowhere else in his entire notebooks – does Leonardo touch upon this topic. In passing, he cryptically remarks that whereas the essence of painting is the «figuration of corporeal things», both the linguistic and the visual modes of indexicality «remain behind music» in «the figuration of invisible things» (figurazione delle cose invisibile). [32]

By non-corporeal and invisible things Leonardo could intend the verbal content of vocal music, in line with the newer language-dependent guidelines for musical meaning and merit. But given his stance on poetry, this is unlikely. Or, he could mean the interconnection of numerical proportions and world-order, but again this would go against the grain of his infatuation with concrete sound. The Last Supper notwithstanding, the whole tonality of the discourse on music in the Libro di Pittura counterbalances the redemption of musical transition by means of turning it into a quasi-spatial, abstract architecture of magnitudes. I therefore allege that the invisible things to which Leonardo refers, those that music enacts through its agonizing temporality, would have to be – in affinity with his overall concerns – the non-being of transformational individuation; the incessant shift towards Nothingness that makes all phenomena seeable, but not stable enough to be truly visible.

Despite the marked idiosyncrasy of Leonardo’s concept of musical truth, these percepts do indicate that he was sensitive to the earliest shifts in composition, reception and theory that decades later were to define early modernity in music. At issue is «the naturalization of music,» as Daniel K. Chua has termed this broad-spectrum move. [33] Chua has located this move at the center of a pregnant «narrative of progress and loss,» on the verge of the scientific revolution, when scientific nature and human nature were alleged to be disjointed, the sky untuned, and music declared to be affective sound, subject-oriented, with its expressivity claiming to be freed of all formal constraints.

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