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Galileo, whose full name was Galileo Galilei, was one of the great figures in the history of science. What may surprise you is that Galileo’s father, Vincenzo Galilei, was one of the great figures in the history of Western music. 

The elder Galilei was a lutenist, singer, and composer, but most importantly he was a theorist. In a book called Dialogue of Ancient and Modern Music, published in 1581, he laid out the theory of what came to be known as monody, the style of music that features a solo vocal line with instrumental accompaniment. Galilei argued that polyphony, the dominant style of the Renaissance, lacked dramatic clarity because of its multiple simultaneous voices. Monody was meant to imitate what some scholars thought to be the style of music of the ancient Greek dramas, and it was the rise of monody—championed by Galilei—that led directly to the invention of… opera.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.