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Alchemy and Music

    Naturevolume 135pages967968 (1935) | Download Citation



    THE first combined meeting of the Chemical and Musical Societies in the history of the ancient University of St. Andrews was held in the Chemistry Lecture Theatre of the United College, St. Andrews, on April 24, when Prof. John Read, professor of chemistry, delivered an illustrated lecture under the title: “The Frankfurt Emblems: a Research in 17th Century Alchemy”. The culminating event of the evening was the singing, possibly for the first time in three hundred years, of some unique alchemical music which Prof. Read encountered some time ago in his alchemical studies, and which has formed the subject of a recent research by Mr. F. H. Sawyer, lecturer in music in the University of St. Andrews. Alchemy, said Prof. Read, has been variously defined as the pretended art of transmuting base metals into gold, as the chemistry of the Middle Ages, and so forth; but in its broadest aspect it was a system of philosophy which claimed to penetrate the mystery of life as well as the formation of inanimate substances. Like modern science, alchemy had its theories, notably the theory of the four elements, with the allied conception of the Philosopher's Stone, and the sulphur-mercury theory of the constitution of metals. Alchemical theory, however, like alchemical symbolism, is a complex and intricate subject, rendered even more difficult by its protean character of change. The age of alchemy extended approximately from the early years of the Christian era until the end of the seventeenth century.

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