14:17 PM

Religions journal publishes Dominic Aquila’s article: “Music as a Liberal Art: The Poetry of the Universe”

Dr. Dominic AquilaThe international, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, open access online journal on religions and theology — Religions — recently published UST Professor Dominic Aquila’s scholarly article titled “Music as a Liberal Art: The Poetry of the Universe” in its special issue, Catholic Education and the Liberal Arts. 

“In this essay, Dr. Aquila offers us a rich and capacious account of important perspectives on music, including its power to shape our souls and how it bridges disciplines and spheres of reality,” Dr. George Harne, UST executive dean of Arts and Sciences, said. “Assembling a chorus of voices from Pythagoras to St. Augustine, from Dante to Bach, and from Marshall McLuhan to Frank Zappa, he instructs us in the details of the overtone series and the music of the spheres while animating his inquiry with the big questions: Why is music important? And what are the aims of liberal learning? He reminds us of what is essential about music as a liberal art: It can educate our desires while leading us from the work-a-day world to a place that stands apart from space and time. And he reminds us of the purpose of liberal learning within which music must play a role: shaping our souls so that we see reality aright, growing to love the Good above all else.”


This article explores the place of music in the classic liberal arts curriculum, which consists of the trivium (the arts of language) and the quadrivium (the arts of number). Music is part of the quadrivial disciplines and is studied as applied arithmetic. However, as argued in this article, it also bridges the discipline of rhetoric, which is part of the trivium. His article begins with a brief review of St. Augustine’s De Musica, the first in a planned (but unrealized) series of dialogs on the value of the classical liberal arts to the emerging Christian culture of Antiquity. It discusses music and its relation to the contemporary American liberal arts curriculum. Aquila uses two case studies that address the ontological reality of music as a time-bound medium and attempts to mute this reality to create a sense of timelessness. Thus subsuming the temporal into the Divine – what Augustine called “a poem of the universe.” The first case study is Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso, a journey through the heavens with each planet representing one of the seven liberal arts preparatory to the Beatific VisionThe second case study focuses on J.S. Bach’s attempts to create a sense of timelessness in the St. Matthew Passion by the use of musical forms and musical rhetorical devices that tend to abolish time. The articles conclude with suggestions on how teachers can use 20th and 21st-century movements in Western art music as pathways to appreciating music’s pivotal role in the Catholic liberal arts tradition.

Learn more about Dr. Dominic Aquila

Before his career in higher education, Aquila was a professional musician in New York City and held administrative positions in the American Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, and Garth Fagan’s Dance Theater. He has an Ed.D in Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech University, an MBA in Marketing from New York University, and a Bachelor of Music, Percussion, from The Julliard School. 

In addition, he earned a Doctorate from the University of South Africa in History with course work from the University of Rochester.

Aquila has 35 years of experience in public and private higher education. He is a Trustee and Chair of the American Academy of Liberal Education Council of Scholars. Music and culture and higher education administration are his areas of research. As a faculty member at several colleges and universities, he taught various disciplines, including art history, business ethics, great books, history, humanities, management, marketing, music, political science and theatre.

Aquila has published more than 40 articles, books, scholarly papers and book reviews in liberal arts education, political theory, the arts and American culture.