Show Less
Restricted access

The Power and Value of Music

Its Effect and Ethos in Classical Authors and Contemporary Music Theory


Andreas Kramarz

Nobody doubts that music has a special, somewhat mysterious power. Less clear is how we can evaluate that power. What makes music good or bad? Are there objective criteria for such a distinction? What impact can or should music have on individuals and on society as a whole? What are the factors responsible for the effect of music? This book summarizes and discusses how authors of classical antiquity addressed these questions on musical «ethos» and how they can be approached from a modern-day perspective.
After systematically assembling and assessing the value-carrying characterizations of music in poetic literature, the author reviews all noteworthy Greek and Latin writings which enlighten musical «ethos» from the theoretical-philosophical perspective. He then carries the intuitions of the ancients into our time by proposing a coherent model to explain the relationship between music, ethos, and emotions based on the results of contemporary research in the disciplines of music psychology and philosophy. The concept of harmony, understood as the appropriate measure or as the balance of opposites and so central to the reflections of the ancient authors, plays a key role in shedding light on the value and impact, both positive and negative, of music in human existence.
This book provides the most comprehensive overview available about the effect and ethos of music in antiquity and discusses many related questions of scholarly interest. It includes numerous references provided in the original language with translation, ample empirical material for further research, and an extensive bibliography.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter Two. The Effect of Music in Greek and Latin Literature


| 34 →


The Effect of Music in Greek and Latin Literature

What Music Does—Phenomenological Survey

The Place of Music in Greek and Roman Culture

Music has been an integral component of life in all cultures and throughout all ages.1 It plays a particularly large role in the ancient Greek way of life, much more than is usually acknowledged.2 About seventeen centuries ago, Aristides Quintilianus describes the presence of music within the life of the ancient Greeks in these terms: ← 34 | 35 →

There is certainly no action among men that is carried out without music. Sacred hymns and offerings are adorned with music, specific feasts and the festal assemblies of cities exult in it, wars and marches are both aroused and composed through music. It makes sailing and rowing and the most difficult of the handicrafts not burdensome by providing an encouragement for the work. It has even been employed by some of the barbarians in their funeral rites to break off the extreme of passion by means of melody.3

In antiquity, lack of musical knowledge equaled lack of education; in ancient Greece, instruction in lyre playing, for example, “was considered indispensable to education, not merely at Athens but throughout the Greek city-states,” and all educated youths learned to play lyre between the ages” between the ages of fourteen to sixteen.4

Marrou asserts that “Greek culture and education were artistic rather...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.