With the framework of history or philosophy to bolster a topic, a chapter takes on added appeal, lending a layer of comprehension that bears out Johnson’s “holistic view of cognition and emotion” in an approach that allows for the “presentation of knowledge as much as possible in the form of stories.” In this regard we get, within Chapter 5 and “Polyphony,” some fascinating sequence of events in which (in one side of two concerned schools of theoretical metaphysics) Plato’s philosophy of the Ideal finds transitional traction into the Gregorian chant, which developed into this many-voiced art of combining lines in a musical fabric. In the subsequent chapter, “Tonality,” Renaissance art comes into the big picture.
Finally, What Johnson also ensures is included in the overall perspective of Dancing with the Muses’ integrative, historical look back are further original outlooks, including a new biologically-based theory of rhythm, and an explanation of the way that volition, free-will, is manifest in music — in the system of tonality. He also demonstrates that the diatonic scale is a timeless and universal cognitive pattern, not a "Western social construct" but a phenomenon natural to the human auditory system. The book also offers a more realistic assessment of the role of the church in music’s past.
All taken into account, then, Dancing with the Muses is just about note-perfect as a concise teaching aid, a reference of essentials, and captivating chronicle that can turn a reader into a believer that the magic’s in the music — and its history, theory, and philosophy.