For Chua, as well as for the majority of music-historians, this was an «attempt to transfer music from the medieval quadrivium of music, geometry, astronomy and arithmetic to the rhetorical arts of the trivium». He situated it in the late 16th century milieu of the Florentine Camerata; most other Renaissance scholars, however, have diagnosed the beginnings of this change in an earlier phase of that century, whether as an autonomous musical development, or in some version of an all-encompassing intellectual, social, political and religious perspective. [34] To the best of my knowledge, no one has discerned this avant-garde spirit in Leonardo’s passages on music. [35] Moreover, as I propose here, it is not even the shift from quadrivium to trivium that underlies his musical thought, but a more untimely conception that gropes for an as-yet impossible articulation: a whole new idea of music as an abstract auditory event, rather than a referential, mimetic res facta.

Handedness and Faciality

For Leonardo, the hand resembles the face as a mode of an active, shifting selfhood turned outward. In the Libro di pittura he has claimed: «The hands and the arms with all their operations are to demonstrate the intentions of their mover when possible because with them, sensitive judgment can grasp the mental intentions».

Failing this condition, «the figure shall be judged as doubly dead, that is, dead because it is not alive, and dead in its actions» (Le mani e braccia in tutte le sue operazioni hanno da dimostrare la intenzione del loro motore quanto sia possibile, perché con quelle, chi ha <a>ffezzionato giudizio, s’acompagna l’intenti mentali […] se non […] essa figura sarà giudicata due volte morta, cioè morta perché essa non è viva, e morta nella sua azzione). [36]

The passage then returns to its initial topic, namely the ways in which the face divulges the «accidenti» of personality and circumstances. A parallel connection comes to light in the anatomical page that contains the note about the hand of the organ-player, together with the face-dissection reports and an exploration of the nerves of the hand.

But here, in the context of an anatomical exploration, the obvious and manifest signs of the life of the motore (notably, it is unclear whether this means the depicted figure or the painter) are themselves problematized. At issue is the linkage of the seen and unseen, the biological observables and their surmised, imponderable origin.

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