“Music directly imitates the passions or states of the soul…when one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion; and if over a long time he habitually listens to music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form.” – Aristotle
This quote goes along with the themes I’ve been discussing in my recent blog posts. Aristotle believed that music very much influences our passions which then influence our actions. We are a race of weak-willed people. We fall for sin extremely easily, and means such as music can make it less or more easy to do so. I have been focusing a lot on how inappropriate music has a negative effect on us, but appropriate and beautiful music can similarly have a positive effect on us! Think about when you listen to a Beethoven song and you feel the tune flow through you…it moves your good passions. Even think about when you are listening to a tender love ballad and think about your lover or even an imaginary one, you feel passions of love. This is how real music should make you feel. Music is a great thing…but like I’ve said many a time, we must discern the good from the bad. And we can do this in some way by observing how a song makes you feel.
Everyone is always more concerned with the inappropriate lyrics of contemporary pop music, but this article says that Plato and Aristotle “claimed that people generally and the young especially are influenced most powerfully not by the words of a song but by the music itself—the rhythm, harmony and tune.” The philosophers are not claiming that music forces the listener to do bad acts, but rather “they contend that music moves the passions,” which can make the listener have a harder time discerning right from wrong.
Plato and Aristotle believe the ultimate happiness is leisure time, but the question arises, does pop music “incapacitate the young for the kind of leisure that is at once more reasoned and truly fulfilling?” Critics today do not concern themselves enough with the effects pop music has on the human soul. The author claims that “intercourse itself is presented not only as a source of physical pleasure but also as an occasion for self-assertion, as a handy means of gratifying the body with the aid of another while simultaneously asserting one’s self by degrading that other” in today’s pop music. There is an obvious need for a call to virtue.
C.S. Lewis said that “civilization can only be preserved by people who care about things higher than civilization.” I think this is an amazing quote…we can only survive as a wholesome society if aspects in our culture, like music, reflect goodness.