(b Lowick, Northants., bap. 20 July 1726; d Nayland, Suffolk, 6 Jan 1800). English curate, composer and writer. From 1740 to 1745 he was educated at the Charterhouse, where J.C. Pepusch was organist and teacher of singing. During this period he was also a private cello pupil of James Oswald. From 1745 to 1751 he continued his music studies privately at Oxford, where he learned about Rameau's doctrine of fundamental bass from an ‘old Italian Master … who later published a treatise’ (probably Giorgio Antoniotto). Subsequently, he held various appointments as curate, including the perpetual curacy of Nayland, 1777–98, where he composed music and wrote on the philosophy and theory of music. That he also played the organ appears from remarks in his anonymously published Observations in a Journey to Paris by Way of Flanders, in the Month of August 1776 (London, 1777). From 1775 he was a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Jones was a zealous opponent of the deists, dissenters, republicans and ‘levellers’, seeing in these and other groups a challenge to the established high church and government. His convictions also appear in his belief that music is the gift of God; that man is a musical instrument of God's forming; and that the proper end of music is to serve the establishment and improve the understanding. But Jones developed these beliefs by recourse to unorthodox tenets of the Hutchinsonians, a school of British anti-Newtonians who developed a modified Cartesian philosophy. Rejecting Newton's vacuum, action-at-a-distance and inertial motion, Jones explained material phenomena by the efflux of an ‘electric ether’ supposed to be composed of particles of fire, light and air and, hence, to be an emblem of the Trinity. His indefatigable efforts to promote this cosmological doctrine gained him the nickname ‘Trinity Jones’, and led Thomas Twining to state that Jones was ‘tinctured with some prejudices very unphilosophical for a Philosopher’.
In his 1780 essay, ‘Of Taste’, Jones argued that ‘tripartite’ principles in music are found also in painting, architecture and mind. In his 1781 philosophical treatise, Jones included a chapter of eight sections devoted to the physics, mathematics and theory of music, in which he described his improved aeolian harp for illustrating that musical sound is caused by ‘the intervention of some cause more moveable and more powerful than the air itself’, namely, the electric ether. And in his 1784 treatise on music, he expounded an aesthetic of unity in variety based on a machine theory of matter in motion: variety results from combinations and permutations of musical elements (matter), whereas unity results from temporal isochronism and commensurability (motion). Hence, Jones preferred the music of the ‘ancient’ (chiefly Baroque) school, which fitted his cosmological doctrine more closely than that of the ‘modern’ (Classical) school.