Listen to part of a lecture in a music class.
Today we are going to do something a little different.
In the past few classes, we've listened to traditional music from around the world and we've talked about the characteristics of these music, what makes these styles distinctive, what kinds of instruments are used.
And you've talked about what sounds familiar to you and what sounds strange.
And many of you found some of what we've listened to very strange indeed.
Well, today I want to start talking about western music and I am going to start in ancient Greece.
But, now here's part that's different.
We're not going to talk very much about the actual music.
Instead, we are going to talk about what the Greeks believed about music.
Now, there are some very good reasons to approach the material in this way.
First, well, we don't have very much ancient Greek music studied.
Only about 45 pieces survived... uh... these are mostly records of poems and songs.
And we are not sure how well we can reproduce the melodies or rhythms, because they were apparently improvised in many cases.
So we really don't know all that much about what the music sounded like.
What we do know about - and this really is the most important reason I am approaching today's lecture the way I am - is the Greek philosophy about music and its continuing influence on western attitudes toward music.
Now, if we're going to understand the philosophy, we have to first understand that music for the Greeks was about much more than entertainment.
Yes, there was music at festivals and we have sculptures and paintings showing people listening to music for many of the same reasons that we do.
But this isn't the whole story.
The important thing about music was that it was governed by rules, mathematical rule.
And for those of you who are also studying music theory, you'll see that it is in fact highly mathematical.
Um.... and for the Greeks, the same mathematical principles that govern music also govern the universe as well as the human character, the essence of personality.
People's characters were believed to be very sensitive to music.
If you started playing around with the rules, you know, messing up the mathematical order, you could do serious harm.
That's why music was considered so powerful.
If you knew the rules it could do great good.
But if you broke them, you could do great harm to the character of the listener.
So, we have this Greek idea that music is directly related to human character and behavior.
The philosopher, Plato, talks about this in the context of education.
For Plato, music is an important element in education, but only the right kind of music.
That means the kind of music that builds the kind of character a good citizen or a future leader would need.
Yes, for Plato, there is a kind of music that instills the qualities of leadership, just as there is a kind of music that makes a person soft and weak.
Now, Plato has very specific, very conventional kinds of music in mind.
He is not fond of innovation.
There were musicians in Plato's day who were experimenting with different melodies and rhythms.
A definite no-no for Plato.
He thinks that breaking with tradition leads to all sorts of social problem, serious problem, even the breakdown of the fabric of society.
I am thinking back now to when I first started listening to rock'n'roll and I remember my father saying it was a bad influence on us.
I think he would have gotten along well with Plato.
Anyway, I don't need to tell you what I think about Plato's ideas about innovation, do I?
Though I have to say it's interesting that the same arguments against new music and art are still being made.
Perhaps like the Greeks, we recognize, and maybe even fear the power of music.