Music of the Spheres

MUSE ON FIRE: Shakespeare & The Music of the Spheres, is my original performance lecture with actors and musicians that uses a broad range of disciplines to examine deeply why music makes us feel.  Over 90 minutes we use Shakespeare and his own musical cosmos as our guide in examining the history and modern relevance of the belief of the music of the spheres and the preponderance of harmonic phenomena throughout the universe.  Using Kepler’s unexplained Third Planetary Law (the ‘harmonic law’) as a starting point, I aim to reignite an ancient curiosity in the philosophy of music, using Shakespeare as a touchstone to remind us of the rich poetic history of musica universalis and how poetry and music were once much closer siblings than they are today.

The talk looks briefly at the Elizabethan World Picture, and explores the age of Shakespeare and Kepler to address the ascendancy of literate culture and the losses of aural tradition with the beliefs that it engendered.  The great surprises of this material teach us that a trip through history provides not just an analog or reference to our modern life, but that the modern sciences of social psychology, quantum mechanics, and cosmology actually prove true many ancient intuitions, but in shocking and misunderstood ways.  Threading together such disparate areas as linguistic statistics, population theory, throat singing, religious iconography, the big bang and string theory, it is in short a poet’s theory of everything – for layman, poets, and scientists alike.

This material has been presented on the following occasions:

2014 – Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile, and La Universita de Antofagasta, Chile

2013 – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and London Academy of Dramatic Arts

2012 – Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and at the Davis Square Theatre, Somerville, Massachusetts

with the Actors’ Shakespeare Project

2011 – St. Botolph Club, Boston with Orfeo Group

2010 – Brandeis University with the MFA Acting Programme

2009 – Shakespeare & Company’s Spherical Sounds Series, and at Weston High School in Weston, MA

2008 – Boston Center for the Arts, produced by Orfeo Group and L’Academie

2007 – Year of Science Festival, University of Connecticut, and at the Mercury Theatre Company in Colchester, England.

2006 – Shakespeare & Company Humanities Lecture Series

2005 – Shakespeare & Company Humanities Lecture Series


Below is a 70 minute edit of a 2 hour performance produced by Orfeo Group and performed at the Boston Center for the Arts in 2010. It features performers from Orfeo, singers from L’Academie, and other guests and friends.

This edit is meant to share my research with parties interested in bringing this exciting research to their institution and school. The material is flexible and is always tailor-made for each iteration depending on audience, venue, and context.

If the video will not load, you can also watch it here.