5th-cent. theories about sound fall into two groups. Most though not all non-Pythagorean Presocratics were concerned primarily with the process of hearing (see especially Theophr. Sens.; cf. also Hippocr. De victu 1. 8 and 15 on hearing and voice). The Pythagoreans opened a musical perspective, beginning from observed correspondences between pitch-relations and the relative lengths of pipes or strings. They showed that the correspondences hold quite generally, through demonstrations using other sound-sources (see e.g. DK 18. 12, 13; texts attributing ‘experiments’ to Pythagoras himself are unreliable). The resulting hypothesis that pitch itself is a quantitative variable prompted deeper enquiries, beginning in the 4th cent., into the physical nature of sound, its causes, transmission, and attributes, as well as the process of hearing.
The Greeks did not recognise acoustics as a separate science; the issues were studied in other contexts, mainly by philosophers interested in sense-perception, by biologists and medical writers, and above all by harmonic theorists.Less
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