A Word from the Author
In my novel Murderous Requiem, Jeremy is asked to transcribe a musical document from the Italian Renaissance, supposedly written by the neoplatonist scholar and alchemist, Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). The significance of the manuscript isn’t immediately clear, but Jeremy is aware that Ficino spent much of his life studying medicine. In fact, he was a doctor of good reputation. However, the theory of healing Ficino employed was very different from the way doctors think about it today. It involved bringing the body and spirit into harmony with the soul. This is a very in-depth subject, but I’ll try to lay out the basics here.
The Theory of Forms
Plato, whose work strongly influenced Ficino (Ficino is credited with being the first to translate the body of Plato’s work from ancient Greek into Latin), believed that the objects we see in the physical world are imperfect versions or “reflections” of their perfect archetypes or “forms.” For instance, a cube of some substance is a physical instance of the form of a cube, and it is only a “cube” to the extent that it comes close to approximating that perfect form. In the physical world, it may be slightly lopsided or the sides may not be perfectly straight. Likewise, Plato believed that there exists a perfect form of a man, and someone like me is only an approximation of that perfect form. To a neoplatonist like Ficino, there would actually exist a perfect form of my specific form—Jamie Fessenden—and I would be an approximation of that perfect form. As my physical body grows out of shape or ill, I stray from my perfect form.
The alchemists of Ficino’s time viewed the soul as the perfect self, or the perfect “form” of a person. To the extent which a person strays from his or her perfect self, he or she becomes more or less unhealthy. It was the goal of Ficino’s medical work to learn how to bring his patients closer to, or more in sync with, their animabus (I think that’s the correct Latin plural.). As my physical body grows more “in tune with” my anima, I grow more robust, since my perfect state is naturally one of perfect health. All of these individual souls are part of the one universal soul, or the Anima Mundi—“the Soul of the World.”
The Spiritus—“Spirit” or “Animal Spirit”
The spiritus is the bond between the physical body (corpus) and the soul (anima). Since my anima represents my ideal form, strengthening the bond between that and my physical body is how I can best achieve a state of well-being and health in the physical world. Ficino believed that the spiritus could be influenced by the foods we eat and other aspects of our lives.
The Role of Music in Neoplatonic Alchemy
To Ficino, one of the things that had a powerful influence upon the spiritus was the music we listen to. We’ve all had the experience of listening to a piece of music and feeling uplifted by it, or moved to passion. We’ve also known music to make us feel saddened and lethargic. This, in Ficino’s view, is because music excites or depresses the spiritus, therefore strengthening or weakening our bond with the anima. Plato and other Greek philosophers, such as Pythagorus, wrote a great deal about the influence of music upon the spirit. Certain tunings were considered to be more conducive to our well-being than others, and certain rhythms could invoke peaceful feelings or stir us to aggression. Likewise, some instruments were considered more conducive to our spirits than others. Ficino and his peers took these ideas and extrapolated upon them, forming a complicated system of correspondences between music and the four elements, bodily humors (a complicated subject, in and of itself), and astrology. (His fascination with astrology brought him into conflict with the Catholic church. But fortunately for him, he had powerful connections which allowed him to escape the Inquisitors not once, but twice!)
Anyone interested in more information on the subject would do well to dig up a translation of Ficino’s De Vita Libri Tres (“Three Books of Life”), though I’m afraid the only one I’m aware of isn’t a wonderful translation (http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Life-Dunquin-Series/dp/0882142127/ ). Another book which discusses Ficino’s theories and other occult theories of music is “Harmonies of Heaven and Earth” by Joscelyn Godwin.
Title: A Murderous Requiem
Author Jamie Fessenden
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Published: 18th April 2013
Genre: M/M (mystery)
Rating: 5 Stars
Jeremy Spencer never imagined the occult order he and his boyfriend, Bowyn, started as a joke in college would become an international organization with hundreds of followers. Now a professor with expertise in Renaissance music, Jeremy finds himself drawn back into the world of free love and ceremonial magick he’d left behind, and the old jealousies and hurt that separated him from Bowyn eight years ago seem almost insignificant.
Then Jeremy begins to wonder if the centuries-old score he’s been asked to transcribe hides something sinister. With each stanza, local birds flock to the old mansion, a mysterious fog descends upon the grounds, and bats swarm the temple dome. During a séance, the group receives a cryptic warning from the spirit realm. And as the music’s performance draws nearer, Jeremy realizes it may hold the key to incredible power—power somebody is willing to kill for.
This story ticked off all the boxes I love. An extremely intelligent plot that fits so many categories; murder-mystery, occult, supernatural, history and music. I couldn’t have wished for more.
Jeremy is called back to an occult order that he started with two other friends, Bowyn and Seth. Although he has left the order Seth and Bowyn still run it, but need his expertise in translating, to piece together an ancient musical manuscript based on a requiem allegedly written by Marsilio Ficino a renaissance philosopher. The manuscript has come into the hands of Seth and he wishes this piece of music to be performed. But it has to be performed at a certain time. Jeremy needs to translate the notation into modern day musical notation. Well, for me the whole idea of a unique ancient manuscript having to be translated just gripped my imagination from the very beginning. It had something of a Dam Brown mystery about it.
Jeremy left the order as he found that the lifestyle in the order was no longer what he wanted from life. Bowyn stayed but when they were together in the order, one that practices free sex like a hippy commune, wasn’t what Jeremy wanted anymore. I thought I as going to read a book that just jumps from one gangbang to the next. Well, the M/M romance is there, as is the hot sex, but not as much as I feared thank goodness when I thought where the happenings take place. This book relies on its incredibly intelligent plot, the sex is well placed and adds to the story, but it never takes the upper-hand or ever detracts from the mystery element. Jeremy had a love for Bowyn that had no future within the realms and beliefs of this order. At first, the whole concept for me was a little strange of this occult order, but once I started reading and just accepted the fact that such occult orders probably do exist then the book just took off. It actually provided a great backdrop for a story that is intrinsically linked with occult happenings.
I also loved the fact that there were so many interesting ideas, facts and philosophies contained in this book I even learnt a few things myself;
Certain groups of fundamentalist Christians have been on a kick about the harmful effects of rock music – above and beyond the content of the lyrics – for decades, and their theories of the Renaissance, even though they try to phrase it in medical terminology. A doctor in Australia claimed that the anapestic beat – two short beats followed by a long beat, like the drum beat in Queen’s We Will Rock You – actually destroyed the symmetry between the hemispheres of the brain, causing everything from feelings of panic, to sexual excitement, to aggression, to a complete breakdown in the ability to distinguish harmful and healthy stimulation.
The order live together in a big Victorian style mansion with secret servant passages. On the grounds is a chapel, but one where the order preach their beliefs. Here they believe in everything, from Christianity, to Odin, to Zeus. Basically, anything you wish to believe in is OK. If you ask me the whole idea is actually quite non-discriminatory, complete religious freedom.
The manuscript at first sight appears to be like a normal Requiem with its normal parts, Credo, Kyrie, Agnus Dei, etc. OK, I do have the advantage that I studied music, but seriously if you haven’t, then no need to worry as it is all so well described and an in-depth knowledge of classical music is not necessary. What becomes apparent is that the teachings of Ficino believes that music has healing properties ~ music hath charms to sooth the savage beast ~ however the more we learn about this manuscript and the more Jeremy unravels it’s translation mysterious things start to happen and it becomes apparent that this is no normal Requiem. Seth has other plans for it.
As the manuscript nears completion, more and more strange things start to occur at the house, flocks of ravens appear in huge numbers, bats take up residence in the dome of the church, things that can’t be explained. Supernatural or more dastardly, earthly, human plans at work? This provided such a great feeling of suspense and mystery I was unable to put the book down.
The characters were great. Jeremy who tries to keep a level head all the way through. Seth the leader of the order, where you could say the power has gone to his head a little. Alex, Seth’s wife, although now a platonic relationship runs a strict regime in the kitchen. Bowyn who is still madly attracted to Jeremy. Marianne who keeps the order’s accounts. Rafe who at first seems to be nothing but one of Seth’s catamites and then damaged, hurt, dark, brooding, mysterious Christopher. All lead to a rich and engaging read.
Like all murder-mystery novels, this book has so many threads I would either have to write a review as long as my arm or give everything away and then there would be no fun in reading the book. All I can say is that this book is intelligent, well thought out, nicely paced and well researched. An absolutely engaging read. LOVED IT!
About The Author
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school's literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn't until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. He then began writing novels and published his first novella in 2010.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie recently left his "day job" as a tech support analyst to be a full-time writer.
Contact The Author
……also by Jamie Fessenden
Jamie will be giving away one ebook copy of A Murderous Requiem.
Enter the draw below and good luck!!!