The diagram above shows the relationship of the planets to the four elements of the sublunary world and to the four humours or bodily fluids; it also shows how the musical modes are related to the fundamental notes generated by the movement of the planetary spheres and what effects they might have. There were many variations of these ideas, but all agreed that the planets influenced the minds of men, and that music could enhance and control these influences. As medical studies based on observation and dissection advanced through the century, the link between the old model and medicine grew weaker, though you still find allusions to the humours in literature well into the 18th century.

In the sixteenth century, Florentine hermetic philosophers such as Marsilio Ficino studied these effects of music. Ficino himself wrote magical hymns to call down the angels of the spheres, the gods of the planets – a fascinating recording was made a few years ago experimenting with the reconstruction of Ficino’s hymns (‘Secrets of the Heavens’ produced by Riverrun Records ).

Experience the music of the spheres with this new CD recording of the Hymns of Orpheus, translated from Greek into Latin in the 15th century, now set to music by the Marini Consort with the singers Catherine King and Mark Tucker. In Renaissance Florence the magus and philosopher Marsilio Ficino likened himself to Orpheus, as he took up his lyre and sang hymns to the planetary gods - both to alleviate his own melancholy and to heal others. We have followed his descriptions of astrological music, and used the different musical modes attributed to the planets by 15th century music theorists, to compose our own settings of Orphic invocations, which are interspersed with 15th and 16th century music and song in the spirit of each god. The director of the Globe Theatre, Mark Rylance, reads the words of Ficino himself to introduce each invocation. Accompanied by the delicate but powerful sonorities of voices, lute, viols and lira da braccio, we invite you on a journey through the spheres from the Moon to the highest sphere of Saturn, the planet devoted to divine contemplation. As Ficino tells us: "These celestial bodies are not to be sought by us outside in some other place; for the heavens in their entirety are within us, in whom the light of life and the origin of heaven dwell."



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