Erica Fox BrindleyApr 16, 2013
Music, Cosmology, and the Politics of Harmony in Early China
SUNY Press 2012
Erica Fox Brindley's recent book explores the centrality of music to early Chinese thought. Making broad use of both received and newly excavated texts, Music, Cosmology, and the Politics of Harmony in Early China (SUNY Press, 2012) offers readers a history of harmony in early China. Brindley shows how the concept was integral to integrating what might otherwise be considered disparate areas - music, the body, and the cosmos - into a system that had ramifications for politics, ethics, and health. Pt. I of the book focuses on the connection between music and the state. Crucially, music was not just reflective of state health in early China, but could causally influence the health of the state and the cosmos. It was treated as a civilizing tool and a mode of cultural unification. Pt. II looks at relationships between music, politics, and religion, paying special attention to how music influenced the emotional, moral, and physical health of individuals. The concept of "music" here is expansive, incorporating many aspects of sound and the sonic. It is a wonderfully thoughtful work that contributes to a number of fields in redirecting our collective attention to the sensorium of early China and its impact on the textual archive.