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Re: Greeks, Ethos and Rock Music
My invocation of Plato was for two reasons:  it's important to think things
through so you ask questions in the most useful way (especially on the
Internet?), and  Plato has some pertinent things to say on this subject.
Plato argued for the positive contributions that music could contribute to
producing an internal balance within the individual. He also commented on the
differing types of music then heard in Athens, and thought that some forms of
music were more beneficial than others as regards, ultimately, the development of
the truly 'just' individual. Unfortunately, there are large gaps in our
knowledge of the music that Plato was familiar with. For example, the aulos, or
'double pipes', which is widely known from visual representations in works of
art, is not well understood today, despite even having the air columns of such
instruments available in museums (e.g., British Museum and the Louvre). The
reason is that we don't know anything about the double reeds used on this
instrument (the assumption that it used a double reed is an inference from Greek
writings and research) Thus, there is no direct evidence of how they sounded or
what their tunings actually were (due to the big influence of what may have been
a broad large reed on intonation). I don't think Plato was too fond of the
music of the aulos for its potential function in developing the just individual,
but on what basis did he form that view, and on what basis do we form our views?
The original question posed is really a very deep question: what is the
influence of music on the person? As far as I have ever encountered, Plato was
the first writer to propose that some forms of music can have "bad" as well as
"good" effects on a listener.
Plato framed questions concerning the influence of different types of music on
the individual in an exceedingly useful manner. OK, now we have the scientific
method to investigate musical matters, but we are still limited by the quality of
the questions we ask. Let's begin the study of the possible existence and
function of the ethical, moral and educational value of music.
James Wright Mcgill wrote:
> In response to postings re. Rock Music, Morality, and Plato (though this
> may be swerving from the usual thread of dialogue on the Auditory list ...):
> Though Plato certainly argued for the ethical, moral and educational value
> of music, it may be worth pointing out that there was little concensus
> among the Greeks on this question. For example, in his treatise "Peri
> Mousikes," the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus (100 BC- 40 BC) unleashed
> a sustained attack upon Platonic beliefs in the power and ethical value of
> music. For Philodemus, music was irrational and so could not influence
> the soul in any choice or avoidance of action: "Music has never in itself
> made ethos manifest" (Peri Mousikes, 4.ii.41-3).
> See also:
> Anderson, Warren (1966) Ethos and Education in Greek Music (Cambridge,
> Mass.), p. 153.
> Wilkinson, L.F. (1938) "Philodemus on Ethos in Music," Classical
> Quarterly, xxxii, p. 174
> James Wright
> Doctoral Candidate
> Faculty of Music
> McGill University, Montreal, Canada
> Phone: (613) 523-7846
> Fax: (613) 523-8486
> Douglas H. Keefe writes:
> > You might take a look at what Plato wrote in "The Republic" on the subject
> > of music and the effects of music. Your questions need some refinement.
> > (In general though, I would avoid the key of E.)
> > --Doug Keefe
> > Dan Ellis wrote:
> > > Dear List -
> > >
> > > Do any of you know of actual research relevant to this question?
> > > Thanks.
> > >
> > > DAn.
> > >
> > > ------- Forwarded Message
> > > From: "ATOM BIGGS" <email@example.com>
> > > To: <dpwe@ICSI.Berkeley.EDU>
> > > Subject: ROCK MUSIC
> > > Date: Mon, 1 Jun 1998 21:03:51 -0700
> > >
> > > Dan Ellis:
> > >
> > > Dr. Al Bregman said you might be able to help me, or at least send out a
> > > post on your "auditory" e-mail list. I'm involved in a discussion over
> > > the topic of "rock music". It's being said that the syncopated beats of
> > > rock music create physiological desires for sex and violence which
> > > completely offsets any altruistic message that a rock song might
> > > contain. Does this reasoning have any credence whatsoever? My
> > > understanding is that, apart from the lyrics, music's effect on thoughts
> > > and moods vary greatly from person to person and culture to culture.
> > > What is your insight on this? Do you know of any related research?
> > >
> > > atom biggs firstname.lastname@example.org
> > >
> > > ------- End of Forwarded Message
> > >
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