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Richard Rambuss, chairman of Emory University’s English Department, puts the matter in simple terms: “Everyone knows that Robert Spano is a cutting-edge figure in the music industry. But, along with his accomplishments in music, he’s also an intellectual polymath and reader of pantagruelian appetites.”

Now Emory is set to announce that the university will tap the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s music director as a three-year Distinguished Artist in Residence. Spano will jointly teach and lecture on multi-faceted programs combining literature, philosophy, science and music starting March 28-April 10, 2010 and continuing for three weeks each spring semester. He will also guest-lecture in some Department of Music classes and strengthen the connections between the Atlanta Symphony and the Emory campus. (Spano starts just as Salman Rushdie concludes his five-year term as Emory’s Distinguished Writer in Residence.)

For 2010, Spano and Emory composer Steve Everett will teach on metaphysics and the origins of music in a class named “Tonality and Sonata Form: Pythagorean Tuning, Numerology and Cosmology.” It consists of lectures and three concerts with Spano at the piano, focusing on violin or cello sonatas by Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven.

Emory will likely put more information about the project here.

This is Spano’s written description of the course:

“It has always fascinated and inspired me that, before studying philosophy at the Platonic Academy in Athens, the aspiring student first needed to study arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. The intellectual underpinnings of Western music and their relations to these other disciplines are perhaps best expressed in Pythagorean theory. The work of Pythagoras connects music not only to these disciplines but to cosmology, psychology and spirituality. The roots of our Western musical language are extremely close to the study of metaphysics. I eagerly anticipate exploring the interdisciplinary nature of music within the vital intellectual environment at Emory, and am deeply honored to have been invited to collaborate with this dynamic academic community.”

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