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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.

«This book is a substantial and wide-ranging treatment of the ancients’ theories on music’s effect on individuals and society. Andreas Kramarz investigates both ancient and modern methodologies for placing value on music, giving readers an excellent sense of the diachronic attention given to music’s power over human emotions. It should be of interest not only to classicists and musicologists but to anyone who wants to know more about the role of music in everyday life in antiquity, and especially to those who study human psychology and ethics.»
(Jennifer A. Rea, Associate Professor of Classics and Graduate Coordinator, University of Florida, Gainesville)
«This thorough monograph is a welcome addition to the literature on ancient Greek and Roman music. With impressive erudition, Andreas Kramarz draws from a large corpus of ancient authors to investigate the notion of ‘musical value’ and explore the notoriously slippery concept of musical ethos. The originality of the book lies in putting modern aesthetic theory, music philosophy, and psychology in conversation with ancient musical writings, to discuss the fascinating topic of musical emotions in the context of ancient music.»
(Pauline LeVen, Associate Professor of Classics, Yale University)
«Andreas Kramarz has done a great service to several fields with this corpus of ancient ideas about ‘good and bad music’ – from Homer to the end of antiquity, including early Christian reception – that will stand as a fundamental resource for all further work on the subject. More than this, Kramarz offers a stimulating and original critical synthesis that draws on modern scholarship in aesthetics, philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science to demonstrate the continuing relevance of the ancient thinkers.»
(John C. Franklin, Associate Professor of Classics, University of Vermont, Burlington)