Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

The Moral and Psychological Effects of Music: A Theological Appraisal

by Basil Cole, O.P.


A thorough survey of the views of Western philosophers and theologians on the connection between music and the moral life, with special attention given to the ancient Greeks, the Church Fathers and St. Thomas Aquinas, and concluding with some considerations drawn from modern psychology. Though there is no real consensus on this matter in the Western philosophical and theological tradition, there are many insights to be found. This is the dissertation of Basil Cole, O.P.

Publisher & Date

Pontificia Studiorum Universitas, 1992






Personal background
The contemporary "rock" scene
Confusion in contemporary classical music
Why music and morals?
The problem of beauty


Part I: Music in Sacred Scripture
Old Testament
New Testament

Part II: Ancient Philosophical Theories Confucius and the Chinese Tradition

Aristotle and later followers
Concluding summary


Part I: Development through Albert the Great

General perspectives on the Church Fathers
The Great Greek Fathers
Ambrose and Augustine
Philosophical influences
Twelfth-century transitional figures
Albert the Great

Part II: Aquinas Develops the Tradition

Music as ars
Intellectual virtues and morality
The notion of beauty
Beauty and music
Harmony and modes
Aquinas on the effects of music
Music and moral virtue
Contemporary Relevance of Aquinas


Introduction: The Beginning Of Music Forms, Sacred and Secular

Part I: Sacred Music

Post-medieval Development through Trent
Impact of Luther and the Reformation
Post-tridenline Development through Pius X
From Pius XII through Vatican II
John Paul II

Part II: Philosophers and Secular Music

The Renaissance and Classical Periods
Kant and Hegel
Schopenhauer and Wagner
Other Late Nineteenth-Century Perspectives: Nietzche and Tolstoy

Part III: The 20th Century Interest - Other Functions of Music

Music for Healing: Ancient and Renaissance Perspectives
Early Twentieth-Century Experimenters
More Recent Developments and Findings

The origins of mood music for sale
Music and study
The return of music as an aid to medicine
Music at the movies
Music and volume
Music and physical responses
Music and inculturation
Some effects of Rock music

Concluding summary



Pre-Christian and Other Non-Christian
Early Christian
Medieval and Renaissance



Trying to write a book on the ethical qualities of music is very difficult because much of the contemporary writings on the subject are very sparse to say the least. Even more, trying to make sense of the ancient literature is also very difficult because music, as we know and experience it, did not exist, nor are the ancient musical melodies extant. Much of the research on the history of the question of music and its meaning has already been done concerning music in general but with little serious attention, or only in passing with no regard to the question of moral effects. Piecing the threads together has been a very challenging and delightful task much like trying to solve a chess problem. One has some of the data there but interpreting it and going to the bottom of it for a solution is (and I may add, has been) difficult. Finding relationships among the strands of thought among the authors consulted (hundreds rejected because of no immediate relevance) could only take place by putting their ideas on computer when it seemed relevant to the subject chosen.

I began this dissertation with the belief held by Boethius: "Thus there are also three classes of musicians; one class has to do with instruments, another invents songs, a third judges the work of the instruments and the songs."[1] It will be my thesis to show that, somehow, the listener of music (who should also be a judge) as well as the player and composer can become a better moral person through music but the conditions may not always be so easily identified. When it comes to the sacred liturgical chant, there are even other more conceptual difficulties. Recently, a well known musician has written the following:

"Why is the church running out of priests and nuns?" There are hundreds of reasons and a small but significant one is music. When it comes to music, all too often the seminaries, convents, and monasteries take careful aim and then deliberately shoot themselves in the foot. They deliberately promote music which has lots of sincerity but no crust, no grit, no credibility, no indication that it is wired directly to the deepest secrets of the universe. On a subconscious level, the music says that there is nothing special or distinctive or "heroic" about the religious life.[2]

As we shall see, much of the problem of liturgical music may come down not to musical qualities per se, but rather the positive or negative attitudes within the musicians themselves who craft this special kind of music. Liturgical music need not portray anything "heroic" about a particular religious institute but when it is true to its own end, the worship of God, a high quality of life among religious or seminaries may radiate as well.

It has taken many pages to show how and why, employing some of St. Thomas Aquinas's best pithy perspectives to help understand the subtleties of these questions. Likewise, trying to gather together some interpretive ideas on the Church's long road of incorporating music into her liturgy could not have been possible without the help of St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain.


I wish to thank my director, Bruce Williams, O.P., of the theology faculty for both his very positive encouragement and apt direction. His timely remarks and both his very positive encouragement and apt direction. His timely remarks and criticisms have made the text much more readable and reasonable than if it had rested solely on my own efforts. In addition, I would mention a words of praise and thanks to the Alfred Wilder, O.P., the second reader of this dissertation for pointing out occasional inconsistencies in the text as well as the prior of the Blessed Sacrament Priory in Seattle Washington, Brendan McAnerny, O.P., for his ability to smooth out my lack of style; and Sr. Jean, O.S.B. of Holy Rosary Convent for her work in correcting spelling and punctuation mistakes. Allen Duston, O.P., the president of the Dominican School of Theology and Philosophy at Berkeley California enabled me to get a guest-faculty library card from the University of California which possesses one of the finest music libraries in the world. Sr. Margaret Hill, O.P., a member of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Eastern States of Australia, spent valuable time setting up and printing the text. Numerous other brethren in my province and others as well gave me much encouragement over the years, especially Kevin Wall, O.P., who before he died strongly insisted that I write on this subject. To them all, I am deeply grateful.

Endnotes Preface

1. Boethius, De lnstitutione Musica, I. xxxiv (PL, LXIII, l 196b). Patrologiae Cursus Comipetus; Series Latina (ed. by J. P. Migne) as found in Source Readings in Music History. From Classical Antiquity through the Romantic Era, ed. by Oliver Strunk, W.W. Norton and Co., New York 1950, p. 88.

2. Thomas Day, Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste, Crossroad, New York 1991, p. 161.


Works of St. Thomas Aquinas:

Comm. de Sent.............................................. Scriptum Super Sententiis

In Div. Nom. .... In librum beati Dionysii de divinis nominibus expositio

Comm. De Anima ...................................... In libros de anima expositio

Comm. in Phys................................ In octo libros Physicorum expositio

Contra Gentes.... ... Summa Contra Gentiles (Liber de veritate ......... catholicae fidei contra errores infidelium)

De Pot. .................................... Questiones disputatae de Potentia Dei

De Vert. .......................................... Questiones disputatae de Veritate

In Boeth. de Trin. .............. Expositio super librum Boethii De Trinitate [or: Comm. de Boeth.]

In Eth. ............. In decem libros Ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum

In Ps. ............................................................ In Psalmos Davidis lectura

In Th. Jer. ............................ Postilla super Jeremiam et super Threnos

Met............................. In duodecim libros Metaphysicorum expositio

S. T. ..............................................Summa Theologiae

CIG Corpus Inscriptiones Graeeae

De Med. De Medicinis, Celsus.

Diog. Laert. Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius.

Eurip. Med. The Media, Euripides.

Hor. A. P. Avonis et Porphyrionis, Horace.

IGIns Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes, 1st Ed.

Meta. Metaphysics, Aristotle.

NEB New Encyclopedia Brittanica

Pol. Politics, Aristotle.

Protag. Protagoras, Plato.

Rep. Republic, Plato.

Tim. Timaeus, Plato.

SC Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Decree on the Sacred Liturgy) .


Personal background

In many ways, this work began in 1951 when, after many years of singing in a church choir and studying and playing both classical and popular dance music on the piano and trumpet, 1 had my first conscious, aesthetic experience.[1] I was listening to the famous Benny Goodman Jazz Concert of 1937 on a record in my room. The sound quality was scratchy because the original master tapes had only been recently found in 1949 and had obviously deteriorated with age. The song in question was entitled, "Sing, Sing, Sing." The piece of music was much like a "jam" session[2] which lasted for approximately twenty minutes with a very long drum solo by Gene Krupa, culminating in a finale of such exciting proportions that I was shocked. Judging from the applause which followed, the crowd must have experienced something similar to what I was going through some twenty-two years later. It was the first time that Carnegie Hall in New York City had ever been used for a jazz concert; up to that time it had been used exclusively for classical music concerts. Over the years, I not only experienced similar responses listening to Benny Goodman's groups but also discovered other great jazz artists as well as Beethoven, Bach and other great classical composers.

The second seminal experience took place one evening at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, where I was playing contemporary jazz piano with a dance band. When the time came for my turn to take a solo by improvisation (composing on the spot but based upon melodic and harmonic customs of jazz), I felt a kind of transitory transformation for about five minutes, when my improvisation became exceedingly original, as if I had penetrated into another region of my "habitus of music" that permitted me to play beyond my usual ability and at the same time to experience a profound awareness of deep surprise and joy/delight. It was to be an experience that has happened only five or six times in my life of playing jazz, the last time in 1968, during a period of great personal stress, for the community of Parisian Dominicans at Le Saulchoir. They themselves were undergoing a deep crisis of what was then called in France, the "May Revolution."

In addition, this present work was prompted by some of my theology professors back in the late 1950's at the University of San Francisco who suggested that something immoral existed in jazz music due to its strong rhythms and sensuous melodies.[3] Much to my chagrin at the time, no reasons were ever given save their own personal biases as seemingly wiser men and priests. Such attitudes were well summed up in 1958 by Cyril Scott when he wrote the following:

After the dissemination of Jazz, which was definitely 'put through' by the Dark Forces, a very marked decline in sexual morals became noticeable. Whereas at one time women were content with decorous flirtations, a vast number of them are now constantly preoccupied with the search for erotic adventures, and have thus turned sexual passion into a species of hobby. Now, it is just this over-emphasis of the sex-nature, this wrong attitude toward it, for which Jazz-music has been responsible. The orgiastic element of its syncopated rhythm, entirely divorced from any more exalted musical content, produced a hyper-excitement of the nerves and loosened the powers of self-control. It gave rise to a false exhilaration, a fictitious endurance, an insatiability resulting in deleterious moral and physical reactions. Whereas the old-fashioned melodious dance-music inspired the gentler sentiments, Jazz, with its array of harsh, ear-splitting percussion-instruments inflamed, intoxicated and brutalized, thus causing a set-back for man's nature towards the instincts of his racial childhood. For Jazz-music at its height very closely resembled the music of primitive savages. A further result of it was to be seen in the love of sensationalism which has so greatly increased. As Jazz itself was markedly sensational, the public has increasingly come to demand 'thrills' in the form of 'crook dramas' and plays, the only dramatic interest of which is connected with crime, mystery and brutality. This also applies to sensational fiction: for the sale and output of this type is prodigious.[4]

While trying to understand and refute such objections as well as defend my own identity and integrity as a musician, I was also experiencing the joys of poetry, drama, and the visual arts. At the same time I discovered the philosophy of art by the late Jacques Maritain whose work Art and Scholasticism, among others, was putting a philosophical perspective on my aesthetic and artistic experiences.

Sometimes music can become a value threat because the creativity inspires a certain enthusiasm for beauty as such, and the people hearing the music may simply be materialists or may have very dogmatic personality types, wanting to be in control of everything. In 1955, 1 very much remember creating a background tape for a food market in San Francisco, composed of classic jazz. It was played in a moderate to low volume. The negative reaction of the customers was so overwhelming that after three hours, it was turned off. While I could never prove the causes, and not yet knowing about the Muzak Corporation which researches these questions, it was clear that such creative music posed a threat. The customers did not simply dislike the music and go about their business of shopping, they became very angry and felt threatened. What was even more interesting is that the same year saw the birth of "rock" music, which to this day is the single most important worldwide cultural phenomena to endure for such a long period of time in this century'. At that time it appeared in large part as a music of social and political protest against the bland, insipid sentimental music of the time which masked feelings. It also produced a culture shock against adult values. The jazz which I put on was simply inspiring without any attempt at being in protest. Yet it may in fact have been protesting, but on another level than the rock music of the time. Finally, when I became a Dominican novice, the novice- master did two very important things that at the time were very painful, provocative and exceedingly important for my life and this dissertation. He prohibited not only my playing the piano but also listening to any jazz for the duration of the novitiate. He then made me become the head cantor of Gregorian chant. As a result I slowly and painfully came to understand the profound distinction between beautiful music and liturgical music. In sum, I had to teach myself with the help of some classes given by a master of sacred chant, who understood the techniques of the art but did not, however, know its underlying theology.

The contemporary "rock" scene

In more recent years with the rock music explosion as a Western World phenomenon, beginning in the middle of the 1950's and continuing until the present, some authors have sounded an alarm like the one I encountered. This alarm is somewhat true and somewhat false. Among many others, Allan Bloom makes the following remarks:

The present generation is addicted to music, much as Germans were addicted to Wagner in the 19th century. School, family, Church has, nothing to do with their musical world. It is available twenty-four hours a day[5]... Thirty years ago, people made children listen to european music because they not only liked it but also thought it would do some good for them[6]...

Today few have an acquaintance with classical music. No classical music can speak to this present generation[7]... Previously students looked upon Plato's obsession with music in a political theory because for them music was entertainment. Today, students dispute. Plato threatens today's student who likes rock[8].

Bloom's best seller tends to exaggerate certain problems out of proportion but some further remarks call attention to the central question of the purpose of music. He says that from Plato to Nietzsche "...the history of music is a series of attempts to give form and beauty to the dark, chaotic, premonitory forces in the soul - to make them serve a higher purpose, an ideal, to give man's duties a fullness."[9] In the following chapters, I will try to show what this really means. From Plato to Vatican II assertions on liturgical music, we shall see that some other specifically different kinds of music can be moral or contrary to moral norms, while other types of music do not immediately concern themselves directly with morals.

Psychological and even physical health can be facilitated by music, not only on the psychiatrist's couch or hospital bed, but also in the educative process. Educators have seen that certain species of music can give feeling and emotion an outlet and preserve one from becoming too rational. Bloom asserts, however, that "rock" reflects a desire for sexual release, neither love nor eros but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. Everything is legitimate. This music wants to cultivate an orgiastic state of feeling for voracious sexual appetites directed exclusively toward children, adolescents and young adults.[10] But is it the music as such, or something else?

Lyrics of most contemporary popular music of this century celebrate puppy love or need-love and fortify adolescents, among others, against traditional ridicule, personal shame, or any call to self-control. Children and adolescents with little or no conception of the responsibilities of love, marriage, and family are called by some rock music and other kinds of popular music to use sex as something natural and routine. Rebellion against parental authority which tries to keep the sexual instinct in control has also been factored in by the music of the last twenty years or more. Also suggested by this music is the notion that sexual forces must overthrow the present dominating forces of religion and parental authority, leading to a hatred for aspects of the present cultural and political order. From resentment of scripture, and a longing for a classless society (some would see in the song, "We are the World," done for charitable purposes by a collection of rock singers a kind of symbol of this yearning), much of Rock today (but certainly not all) celebrates sex, hate and smarmy brotherly love, rather than sublime, profound, delicate, tasteful or even decent love.[11]

To sum up Bloom's foreboding about the deterioration of the human spirit of our youth vis-a-vis education, he concludes with an ominous statement which also suggests what great art in general (including great music) should be doing if it possesses great moral passion:

Lessing, speaking of Greek sculpture, said `beautiful men made beautiful statues, and the city had beautiful statues in part to thank for beautiful citizens'. This formula encapsulates the fundamental principle of the esthetic education of man. Young men and women were attracted by the beauty of heroes whose very bodies expressed their nobility. The deeper understanding of the meaning of nobility comes later, but is prepared for by the sensuous experience and is actually contained in it. What the senses long for as well as what reason later sees as good are thereby not in tension with one another. Education is not sermonizing to children against their instincts and pleasures, but providing a natural continuity between what they feel and what they can and should be. But this is a lost art. Now we have come to exactly the opposite point. Rock music encourages passions and provides models that have no relation to any life the young people who go to universities can possibly lead, or to the kinds of admiration encouraged by liberal studies. Without the cooperation of the sentiments, anything other than technical education is as a dead letter.[12]

Recently, Andrew L. Minto has attempted to make the case that Rock music patterns cannot be Christianized because of Rock's associations with some of the problems Bloom identifies. He says:

Rock music is antithetical to the object of authentic praise and worship, that is, God himself. The divine life and God's deeds of salvation are in contradiction to the sexuality, emotionalism, and rebellion which the music communicates. The emotional and moral force of Rock is incompatible with the Christian message of the right order of the emotions as they are subject to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the personality of the believer as well as being in opposition to the Gospel itself. Therefore, Christian Rock is a misinterpretation of the sacred.[13]

This question, while open to debate, leads one to consider the distinction between sacred music (liturgical and religious) and secular music known in Church teaching from the Fathers of the Church until the present as is evident throughout the history of the question between sacred and secular music.[14]

Confusion in contemporary classical music

Perhaps today the problem of the musician and music is the lapse into materialistic humanism. There seems to be a lack of reference to the transcendent or to the ordering of music to the beautiful. There is a definite sense of trying to perfect music solely for the sake of profit by doing the unusual for its own sake.

A good example of this malaise can be found in serialism of the school of Arnold Schoenberg, the Viennese composer. He was the first to renounce the concept of tonality, around which music had been based for centuries, though it has been noted that he did not always follow his own rules and managed to produce some very beautiful works.

Charles Ives (1874-1954) is an inventor of bi-tonality, polytonality and atonality, multiple rhythms, polyrhythms, use of dissonance and chance as a means of creating the absence of lofty feelings or moodiness over mysticism. Formerly music raised and elevated one's consciousness; now it reflects musicians such as George Antheil [Ballet Mechanique]and Edgar Varese [Deserts, Poem Electronique] who used buzz-saws, jet engines and tape recordings of industrial sounds. John Cage in his Imaginary Landscape N. 1 (1939) used the sine continuum on records with a tam-tam in one hand and the strings of the piano under the other hand. In 1942 he wrote Credo In Us, which among other things employs the actual records of other composers in a way that seems to ridicule them. In his 4 minutes and 33 seconds performers simply lift up their instruments as if to play and do nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds! In his Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951), twelve radios and twelve performers played at random. This was to become the new doctrine of "Indeterminacy" in music, which can be spoken of as anti-music.[15]

Such nihilism was carried even further by LaMonte Young in his Composition 1960 No. 7 whereby the musicians are to simply play B and F sharp as long or short as they wanted to. Then the composer takes the concert programs and stuffs them into his violin and sets it on fire![16] All of this seems to suggest something more like hatred than love, anarchy in place of order. Traditional music whether sublime or mediocre, tended to inspire feelings of love, beauty, resolution, altruism, and other good and noble emotions. But now, as in these early instances show, it becomes reduced to raw physical vibrations.[17] Today there is an electronic composer who wishes to produce sounds that go straight to the nerves which by-pass consciousness and bring out orgasms or other LSD-like experiences (Circus, Feb. 1972, p. 41).

Another interesting manifestation is that on the album of the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper, there is a picture of Karlheinz Stockhausen portrayed. He is part of the radical new music which has become popular since World War II. He creates "music" whereby musicians come with wood, glass, plastic and paper and pound acoustic sounds that are amplified for the audience.

Why music and morals?

I think it is important that a theology of music be explored in light of the problems posed above. Aristotle said that it was not easy to determine the nature of music, or why anyone should have a knowledge of it. The following observations explain why. Music has many subjective factors that lead one to think, notwithstanding many philosophers of music, that nothing can be said about it with certain clarity or persuasion. A member of the Aristotelian school wondered why people tend to like only the music they are used to:

Why do men take greater pleasure in listening to those who are singing such music as they already know than music which they do not know? Is it because, when they recognize what is being sung, it is more obvious that the singer is as it were achieving his aims, and this is pleasant to contemplate? Or is it because it is less pleasant to learn? And the reason of this is that in the one case there is acquisition of knowledge, in the other the use and recognition of it. Further, that which is familiar is always more pleasant than the unfamiliar. (918a, 5).[18]

If it is difficult for people to delight in new musical experiences, how much more difficult to speculate about what music does to a person.

The problem with music analysis, philosophically speaking, seems to come down to what is really enjoyed, and how many kinds of music there are. The first question can be answered with relative ease. Some people merely enjoy the very sense of hearing melodies, some freely associate memories connected with music, others enjoy the artistry of the musicians, while still others delight in the tonal structure and others enjoy the proportion and unity of the music itself:[19] If this is what music is all about, how can morality fit into this human experience? Further, does the composer necessarily enjoy his own music as he writes it, or the performer who interprets the composer's music? Does morality fit into any of these functions of the musician or composer'?

If theology is about God, is there a branch that studies music in relationship with God? Has God revealed something about music? Does the Church teach anything about music?

To answer these many questions, it is clear that they like any human endeavor can be examined in the light of faith. Music of any type or species is a product of human making or crafting. In what senses, however, can it come under the purview of the theologian and the moral theologian in particular?

I will have to show that listening to music can have many effects, beneficial for the moral and spiritual life of the Christian, provided he or she knows how to listen.[20] These interior effects will have to be explained and distinguished from other observed consequences, by the common experience of those who appreciate music.[21] It will be necessary then to describe and analyze what some of the major philosophers, psychologists and theologians have said about these matters to ascertain in a critical way what is the traditional teaching on these matters and then to broaden this teaching with a renewed understanding.

Much of my work will try to show that there are clusters of virtues involved when it comes to really appreciating the beautiful in music. Going beyond the Platonic-Aristotelian and even the Thomistic tradition, we must see that moral effects do not necessarily take place simply by listening to pleasing or displeasing musical sounds.

Some psychological effects can take place without much attention on the part of the listener, such as causing sleep, or some changes in mood. Some other effects, however, are required as well to produce deeply felt reflections, such as awe and prayer.

In addition, it will be my task to show that music is like a quasi-genus with four species: non-sacred music without and with words, and religious and liturgical music with or without words. It is surprising how the Church grew in her understanding of one of these distinctions and how many theologians and philosophers of the past did not make further distinctions in their evaluation of music. Few philosophers or theologians grasped any of these distinctions until the instrumental music of the eighteenth century flowered to the present, nor was music so available to the masses since, obviously, there was no opportunity given by radio and television. Given the history of music, concert music is something relatively foreign to humankind. Even the use of chords comes much later in the history of music.[23]

One of the difficulties in approaching this dissertation has been trying to understand and agree with, when possible, the assertions of the philosophers who are not musicians and musicians who are not philosophers. All often gratuitously assert propositions about music. Their theories are largely based on their very personal experience of the music. When the many complex questions are posed concerning music, its nature and its ends, they often miss the mark precisely because of their a priori prejudices on the matter. Feelings get in the way of objective analysis.

The Fathers of the Church make strong statements that are sometimes valid for their time but not for all times nor all kinds of music. Likewise, certain modern philosophers of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries (from Kant to Maritain) make sweeping statements about past Greek philosophers concerning the moral effects of music but do not always take into account the distinctions between a pure aesthetic experience, an aesthetic experience with other emotions being generated (usually caused by words and ideas along with the music), religious aesthetic experiences and finally the prayerful-musical encounters which should occur when listening to liturgical music. Another source of the difficulty is based on the fact that the emotions can flow from the experience of art (consequent emotions from the scholastic point of view). Yet, other emotions can flow along with the music as per accidens to the aesthetic experience (thinking of a mother's funeral, or music associated with the first time one met one's spouse). To make matters even more complicated, both kinds of emotion, antecedent and consequent, may interplay because of ideas that may suggest other extraneous emotions that have nothing to do with a particular piece of music per se. Yet today there are aestheticians, disciples of Hanslick, who deny the obvious, namely, that emotions have anything to do with music.[24]

We are faced with other difficulties of an historical as distinguished from a theoretical nature. What is an aesthetic experience? What are the fine arts? St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, speaks of neither because these phrases were introduced in different eras after his times. Another great problem is due to the fact that some people are more sensitive than others to certain pieces of music because of the disposition of many factors. Kovach's observations here refer to the visual arts but they also apply analogically to the aural art of music:

...negative recall, on the other hand, is one that leaves out certain individual aspects from any given image (or sets of sounds] so as to produce a "general image," which is one that more or less represents and resembles many rather than only one object of sense perception. The creative recall, finally, is the aesthetically significant recall. It alters significantly the original image by freely substituting certain parts of it with parts of other images (or clusters of sounds] or by connecting, associating it with other images land sounds! for reasons of similarity, dissimilarity, or else simply in a completely arbitrary manner. It is at this point that the personality of the beholder has the greatest impact on the manner in which the beholder actually sees or hears] the perceived aesthetic object, altering, enriching or impoverishing it according to his cognitive and/or emotional habits, dispositions, etc. It is like imposing a layer on the objective content of the image, changing that image into a mixture of a partly objective and partly subjective mental representation of the perceived aesthetic object. This is why any two beholders, considering one and the same object, may have considerably different, if not aesthetically opposite, intuitions and emotional reactions to that object.[25]

Also, many people are trained to love different styles of music from birth. Each time they hear a piece of music, they are reminded of extraneous things besides music: their parents, homeland, even favorite foods. Since music is such a personal experience evoking some of the deepest feelings, it is very difficult to be absolutely objective about any of its moral effects. Training and suggestibility make a person feel comfortable with what he or she is used to. For a new composer to try some new harmony or melody is to take the great risk of being not only rejected by an audience (as happened with Beethoven, Stravinsky and Bee-bop)[26] but of becoming ostracized for many years by the listening public at large. With stereos today, people can more easily become comfortable with new break-throughs in chord patterns and the like, hut such was not the case prior to this century. Listeners tended, then more than now, to become very conservative in their listening habits and feel insulted or injured (especially if they paid money to hear a concert) when unexpected dissonance (new chord structures, or rhythms and the like) were introduced into a piece of music, unless done in jest. Even today, it takes long periods of time for individuals and cultures to adjust to new harmonies and radical melodies. Past conditioning makes one very slow to adapt to what is new and to he open-minded and open-hearted (strong emotions are immersed with value judgments). And finally, vast crowds of people tend to put pressure on ordinary persons to enjoy what the leaders enjoy, something very noticeable among teenagers.[27]

The problem of beauty

For a Thomist, beauty itself is difficult to define except subjectively.[28] There is an element of the sense of hearing mixed with the seizing of the latent intelligibility or the relationships among and within the melody, harmony and rhythm of beautiful music. Further, some persons only experience the delight of the sense of hearing which in turn may stir up happy memories and renew old emotions of the past. Music becomes bathos which may yield some kind of Aristotelian resolution of the emotions (katharsis, perhaps). The more deeply one's experience of music is rooted in this manner, the harder to understand what is the beauty of the aesthetic experience, and even more difficult to comprehend that the relationship between great and base music may have to do with the moral aspect of human nature. To make matters even more difficult for the theologian and philosopher, if one's experience of liturgical music has been simply mawkish sentimental tunes, or light-rock songs either at the Eucharist or para-liturgical services, all of which may have been exceedingly exciting as music but not so as prayer, then it also will be difficult to grasp the meaning of a music which leads to prayer and contemplation of divine things and the role of beauty in this complex.

Notwithstanding all these difficulties, it will be the task of this book to try to work through these questions with the help of other thinkers as well as my own experience as a musician in both the sacred and profane realms. I will try to explore the nature of the different kinds of music as we continue to see in a critical manner what great philosophers of the West and the Church herself have said about this mysterious subject. There are many dimensions to music: it can bond a group together, release a person to a higher power, dispose one to a spirit of more creativity, or, on the other hand, corrupt one’s personality. We must now proceed to understand how and why these effects can happen.

Chapter 1 Endnotes

1. The first person to use the phrase aesthetic experience was an eighteenth century German philosopher, Alexander Baumgarten. The word conies from the Greek word, aisthesis, which means perception. It is used to describe what happens when someone is "moved" by a work of the fine arts. The phrase "fine arts" come from Abbé Du Bois in a work published in 1719 called Reflexions Critique sur la Poesie et la Peinture, (Paris, 1719). Subsequently, it was used by French philosophers Abbé C. Batteux (Les beaux arts réduits a un même principle, 1746) and D'Aleinbert (Discours préliminaire) of his Encyclopédie, 1751. It will be important later on to take up what it is more profoundly so as to see its relationship to the moral life.

2. A jam session is a group of jazz musicians getting together and improvising pieces of music for prolonged periods of time for each piece. Such experiences also take place in other cultures but only in jazz is it called a "jam" session. It is a deep interaction during an informal gathering of jazz musicians to play their music by "inner-acting" with the audience like a preacher with his congregation, and so takes on some of the qualities of ritual. See New Grove Encyclopedia of Music, ed. by Stanley Sadie, MacMillan Publ. Limited, London 1980 and New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, ed. by Barry Kernfeld, MacMillan Press 1988. For more information, see the book Jazz A-Z, by Peter Clayton and Peter Gammond, Giness Superlatives Ltd., Middelsex, Great Britain, 1987 under the entry "Jazz" (2). They maintain that jazz comes from the word jass, which was the slang word among blacks for intercourse and its accompanying enjoyment and was first applied to the Original Dixieland Jazz band playing at Schiller's Cafe in Chicago 1916.

3. They had never read the following by Msgr. Josemaria Escriva: "There are not dogmas on temporal matters. It is not in keeping with man's dignity to try to lay down absolute truths in questions which each person necessarily has to look at from his own point of view, according to his own interests, his cultural preferences and his own particular experience. Any attempt to impose dogmas in temporal matters leads, inevitably, to abusing other people's consciences, to not respecting one's neighbor." Las Riquezas de la fe, in ABC,
Madrid, 2 November, 1969. However to give some critics credit, see: John Kouwenhoven, The Arts of Modern American Civilization, The Norton Library, New York 1967; Peter Guralnick, Feeling Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock and Roll, Outerbridge New York 1971; on jazz as protest see Marshall Sterns in The Story of Jazz, Mentor, New York 1965, (especially pp. 210-15). Frank Tirro makes the point in his book that jazz was felt to be lascivious and insidious from the early twenties as a symbol of crime, feeble­mindedness, insanity and sex (Jazz, A History, J. M. Dent & Sons, New York 1979).

4. Cyril Scott, Music, Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages, Aquarian Press 1958, pp. 152-153.

5. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, Simon and Schuster, New York 1987, p. 68.

6. Ibid., p. 69.

7. Ibid., p. 70.

8. Ibid., p. 71.

9. Ibid., p. 72.

10. Ibid., p. 74.

11. In the late 1980's, much of rock music has changed. The consensual acceptance of fornication of a generation ago has been replaced by such ideas as forcing oral sex at gunpoint ("Eat Me Alive") by Judas Priest in the album Defenders of the Faith, [CD] CD-39219, masturbation ("I F--­Like a Beast") by W.A.S.P., i.e., We Are Sexual Perverts [record numbers unavailable], and rebellion ("We're Not Gonna Take it") by Twisted Sister, ATC (7")7-89641.

Prince says that "incest is everything it's said to be" in his song "Sister" in the album Dirty Mind, [CD] 2-3478 and rap groups like Ice-T ("Sex") in the album Ryme Pays [CD] C2-48909, and 2 Live Crew ("Me so Horny") in the album As Nasty As They Wanna Be, [CD] XR-107 promote anal sex. W.A.S.P praise and encourage lesbianism by their song called "Ball Crusher" in the album Last Command, [CD]C2-96636.

Perhaps even more dangerous than these deviant sexual themes are Satanism ("Altar of Sacrifice") by Slayer, found in the album Reign in Blood, [CD] 2-24131, ("Possessed by Venom") in the album The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden, [CD] 2-46364), ("Disciples of Hell") by Malsteen in the album Marching Out, [CD] C2-96366, and suicide ("Suicide's An Alternative") by Suicidal Tendencies, in the album Suicidal Tendencies, [CD] FCD- 1011, ("Killing Yourself to Live") by Black Sabbath, in the album Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, [CD] 2-2695, ("Fly to the Rainbow") by the Scorpians, in the album. Tokyo Tapes [2LP] CP12-3039, ("Fade to Black") by Metallica, in the album Ride The Lightning [CD] 60396-2. These examples are only the tip of the 1980's devaluation of moral norms
which Bloom may or may not have been aware of. ........

12. Bloom, p. 80.

13. Andrew Minto, "Is 'Christian Rock' a contradiction?" Homiletic and Pastoral Review 91(1990) 7, 52-57.

14. As we shall see, the understanding and development of pure secular music will not grow among Christians during the time of the Church Fathers because they wish to develop liturgical music, and keep the faithful away from music associated with sexual licentiousness and pagan idol worship.

15. See Peter Yates, Twentieth Century Music, George Allen & Unwin, New York 1968, p.28.

16. David Tame, The Secret Power of Music, Destiny Books, Vermont 1984, p. 109.

17. Jimmy Hendrix, a sixties and seventies rock star seen by many as rock's most successful noise sculptor, used the fuzz box and feedback at fortissimo levels. (Albert Goldman, Freakshow, Atheneum, New York 1971 pp. 85-91). This could probably be described as a formless, patternless experience of high tension sound energy and abrasive aggressiveness. This gives into what Jacques Maritain will call the perennial temptation of the arts: to shock with the unusual, in this case with exotic and disconcerting sounds. It is pseudo-inspiration.

18. The Works of Aristotle, Problemata, Vol. VII, ed. and trans. by E.S. Foster, W. D. Ross, Vol. VII, The Clarendon Press, Oxford 1927.

19. Speaking on the meaningless "vowel music" of the Egyptians, the first century rhetorician Demetrius says with reference to the songs of the Yamana:

In Egypt the priests, when singing hymns in praise of the gods, employ the seven vowels, which they utter in due succession; and the sound of these letters is so euphonious that men listen to it in preference to flute and lyre (On Style, trans. by W. Rhys Roberts, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1903, section 71, pp. 104-105).

20. It is interesting to note that St. Theresa of Jesus (Theresa of Avila), was converted to a more faithful following of her religious life while reading Augustine's Confessions and at the same time listening to the hymn, "Veni Creator Spiritus" (see Joseph Machlis, The Enjoyment of Music, W. W. Norton, New York 1977, p. 411). It is also well known that Leonardo Da Vinci did much of his work as a painter while listening to a flutist.

21. For example, Jacques Maritain has a very clear idea of what happens in the aesthetic experience. Describing its effect, he says: "....So music perhaps more than any other art gives us an enjoyment of being, but does not give us knowledge of being, and it would be absurd to make music a substitute for metaphysics...." Art and Scholasticism and the Frontiers of Poetry, trans. by J. W. Evans, Scribner's, New York 1962, p. 125, n. 55.

22. Phillipe de Vitry (1291-1351) is the first to formulate an indigenous system of musical rhythm whereby music becomes independent of prosody. See the entry "Phillipe de Vitry" in New Encyclopedia Brittanica, ed. by William Benton and Helen Benton, Chicago, Ill., 1974.

23. Max Weber, Preface to the Rational and Social Foundations of Music, trans. by Don Martindale & Johannes Riedel, Southern Illinois University Press 1958, p. XXII: "The desire to reduce artistic creativity to the form of a calculable procedure based on comprehensible principles appears above all in music. Western tone intervals were known and calculated elsewhere. But rational harmonic music, both counterpoint and harmony and the formation of tone materials on the basis of three triads with the harmonic third are peculiar to the West. So too, are chromatics and enharmonics interpreted in terms of harmony. Peculiar, too, is the orchestra with its numbers in the string quartet and organization of ensembles of wind instruments. In the West, there appears a system of notation making possible the composition of modern musical works in a manner impossible otherwise."

Weber maintains that the structure of Western music shows a rationality paralleling that found in other areas of occidental, social and institutional life (p. XXIV). Harmonic chord music is a great and practically unique achievement of Western man which is dependent on the rationalization of tone relations and progressions.

24. Formalists say that the meaning of a work of art has no reference to any human experience. It is simply an intellectual experience. Artistic events mean only themselves. See Eduard Hanslick, The Beautiful In Music, trans. by Gustave Cohen, The Liberal Arts Press, Indianapolis 1957.

25. Francis J. Kovach, Philosophy of Beauty, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press 1974, p. 303.

26. See the entries of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Jazz in New Grove.

27. Rigg found out that younger people who liked a teacher found that his opinions and ideas were more easily accepted and agreed to. This is particularly clear in lower achievers who are thus influenced perhaps to gain status with their peers (M. G. Rigg, "Favorable versus unfavorable propaganda in the enjoyment of music," Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38 (1948), 78-81). Disc jockeys have a similar influence (F. D. Tanner, The Effects of Disc Jockey Approval of Music and Peer Approval of Music on Music Selection. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Columbia University 1976.) Also Farnsworth's observations should be mentioned, namely, that to a considerable extent., people tend to indicate preference for and honor that which they believe is expected to be preferred and honored P. R. Farnsworth, Musical Taste: Its Measurement and Cultural Nature, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA 1950, p. 81-82).

28. In the Summa Theologiae, I, 5, 4 ad 1, Thomas defines beauty as that which when seen pleases, a definition based upon experience. Later on, in S.T. I, 39, 8, and other places he will give a more objective definition: beauty involves integrity, apt proportion or consonance and splendor. To solve some of our problems concerning what is beautiful and/or moral, we should remember that our knowledge of the concrete is very limited in contrast to the abstract notions of beauty because of the nature of the mind (S.T., I, 86, 1).


One could describe music as a human action trying to imitate the act of creating a substance by making an accidental one-in-many through the arrangements of pitched sounds and rhythms. Man can thereby only make an accidental being that imitates the unity of a substance. Why, then, should theology be interested in the tine art of making music? If theology is about God, as Aquinas explains (S.T., I, 1, 2-8), the science of holy teaching sacra doctrina, not only does it deal with God as its principal subject matter but secondarily it deals with all things in relationship to Him. While there is no substantially revealed supernatural truth regarding the nature of music as such and its effects on the human listener, reason itself discerns some of them by reflecting on experience in light of reason and of the Tradition of faith. For example, with regard to religious music which seems to move many people to prayer, and sometimes to change their lives, there are many statements by the Church on this particular kind of music, from the Fathers of the Church to the papal magisterium, which deal with the question of both sacred and liturgical music. These issues will be treated in chapter four.

Regarding music as such, the theologian must learn from experience and from philosophers of music, where possible, and critically see if there are any certitudes, moral or possibly metaphysical, which can be incorporated in his science. Can music be moral or immoral or is it outside the domain of morality? Are the musical products of man subject to such objective moral evaluation`? Much of the time, our answers will be less than satisfying: sometime yes, sometimes no, and sometimes maybe. The problem of all philosophy in this area is one of over-generalization about what is truly beautiful and good and what is not. Aquinas himself warns us that our knowledge of the singular and of substances is very inadequate.[1]

Part I: Music in Sacred Scripture

Old Testament

When examining the early history of the Israelites in sacred scriptures, we find no mention of the lifestyle of professional musicians nor a philosophy of music.[2] The Old Testament on music is not very revelatory in this regard.[3] We do find, however, that music is said to intensify the emotions (Ex. 19.16ff, II Kgs. 3.15). In addition, Rabbis used music to help in memorizing the law and the prophets.[4] Finally, the word praise when used in reference to Yahweh, in the psalms of David, is inconceivable without music underpinning the act of offering this token to Him.

Looking carefully at the human and divine witness of our thematic, we discover a number of interesting facts about music particularly about singing, but not much about its meaning. In general music is simply a part of the organic life of the Israelites. In Genesis 4.21, Jabal, the son of Lamech, is called the father of all who play the pipe. It is a reflection of the primitive culture which continues in the early Hebrews that vocal and instrumental music gets the attention of Yahweh and the heavenly hosts (Ex. 28.33­35; Num. 10.9-10; II Chron. 20.21-22). That music is part of merrymaking (Gen. 31.27,) also means that it can he used licentiously (Is. 23.16) and in idol worship (Ex. 32. 17-18). Here we have a moral judgments concerning music. When it came to war, music could terrorize an enemy, another moral function, (Jg. 7.18-20). Music was used to mock Job (Jb. 30.9), and as in most other cultures, it is found with work: from harvesting (Is. 16.10; Jer. 48.33) to digging for water (Num. 21.17) and other occupations (Jg. 9.27; Is. 16.10; Jer. 31, 4-5).[5] Moreover, music seems to have an apotropaic function, that is, it turns away evil in a manner of speaking (Ex. 28.35; Josh. 6.4ff; I Sam. 16.16.23; 18.10; 19.9; Jer. 9.17; 48.36; Amos 5.16; Sir. 22.6; Mt. 9.23 pars) and is also used in incantations (I Sam. 16.6ff; I Kgs. 3.15). However, other purposes emerge as well. By the time of the early monarchy, we find that music was used for prophesying (I Sam. 10. 5-6; II Kgs. 3.15), and to soothe the troubled mind (I Sam. 16.23).

From another perspective, women seem to be music makers: see the stories of Miriam (Ex. 15.20ff.), Deborah (Jg. 5), Jepthah's daughter (Jg. 11.34ff), the women meeting David after the slaying of the Philistine (Sam. 18. 6-7). They were especially present at dirges and lamentation times (II Sam. 1.12-18; II Chron. 35.25). However, there is no reference to women singing in the temple (except I Chron. 25.5-6). This exclusion may have been a reaction either to the Canaanite use of temple prostitutes or to the past pagan use of musicians.[6] By the time of 850 B.C., professional musicians have a more prominent role in the life of Israel at family parties (Gen. 31.27), the king's enthronement (Jg. 7.18-20; I Kgs. 1.39-40; II Kgs. 11.14), harem and court functions (II Sam. 19.35), and banqueting and feasts (Is. 5.12; 24.8-9). In the time of the prophet Amos (6.5), the rich are chastised for their "artistic extravagances." The flowering of music life comes at the beginning of the first millennium according to Sachs:

The musical scene was completely altered in the days of David and Solomon. Foreign instruments appeared all of a sudden, such as the harp, zither, oboe, cymbals, and sistrum, and Pharaoh's daughter whom King Solomon took for a wife is said, in the Talmudic tractate Sabbath, to have had a 'thousand kinds' of musical instruments in her dowry.[7]

Professional choirs were being trained among the Levites. The temple gave birth to a class of professional musicians who were schooled for five years.[8] Even David may have aided in developing vocal and instrumental music in Israel (II Chron. 7.6 ). Court life seems to have given music a secular nature (II Sam. 19.35; II Chron. 35.15-25). Moreover, music was also employed with the coronation of kings (I Kgs. 1.34.39; II Kgs. 9.13; I Chron 23.13), the dedication of the wall (Neh. 12.27. 35-36. 41); it was used by the harlot (Is. 23.15-16), written for love songs and marriage rites (Song, Is. 5.1ff., Jer. 7.34; 25.10; 33.11), found in mirth and revelry (Gen. 31.27; II Sam. 19.35; Jb. 21.22-12; Is. 5.12; 24.8; Lam. 5.14; Amos 6.5). With the later prophets, vocal and instrumental music, associated with secular mirth, are to be silenced by the judgment of God. The trumpet (shofar) becomes a signal of doom (Ez. 33.1ff). This is all the more to be expected since Jewish musical practice did not escape the syncretistic influences of Oriental and Hellenic cultures either.[9]

After the restoration of the temple in 6th century B.C., music was reduced in scope, never to become a significant feature of the synagogue institution.[10] References to dancing are not so numerous thereafter, but it is to be inferred that it was often done by women on the occasion of a military victory (Ex. 15.20; I Sam. 18.6; 21.11; 29.5), which may explain, in part, why David's wife made fun of him for dancing before the Ark.

Concerning the quality of music, it tended to he on a single line rather than harmonized.[11] The psalms could have been composed using simple folk songs. Non-metrical (poetical) prose allowed for a large degree of freedom and improvisation.[12] Moreover, much of the Old Testament is meant to be sung and the psalms of David, even possessing chanting notations, added later (3-8 cc A.D.) by the Masoretes (which raises the interesting question of whether or not these notations are divinely inspired as well).

Greek music penetrated into Palestine even before the Babylonian captivity. Religious leaders complained that it was having a bad moral effect upon the people in that the Greek songs had lustful implications. They warned the people to return to sacred songs for festive occasions under threat of punishment from God.[13]

New Testament

Looking to the New Testament, there is a certain sparseness of texts in contrast to the Old Testament concerning music. Yet those sections still inform us a great deal about the early Church's ideas and attitudes and ideas towards music without arriving at a developed body of knowledge concerning its specificity. For example, we find the use of song indicated explicitly many times in the gospels and certainly implied by the dance which was the occasion of killing John the Baptist (Mk. 6.22). Jesus once describes music as being used to accompany a dance in criticizing some of the people who would not believe in him (Mt. 11.17; Lk. 7.32). What is interesting is that we can learn about the secular purposes of music during the time of the New Testament. There is dancing (Mt. 14.6; Mk. 6.22), particularly at the home-coming of the Prodigal (Lk. 15.25), where we find the only mention of symphonia used in the New Testament which in the Greek simply means "sounding together." Mention is made of the mourning rites for the daughter of Jairus (Mt. 9.23) and probably singing was going on at the marriage feast in Cana (Jn. 2.1ff.).

At the institution of the eucharist, we know that Jesus and his disciples at the last supper sang the gradual psalms and even a hymn (Mt. 26.30). And, parts of Revelation deal with angelic or heavenly singing accompanied by harps (Rev. 4.8; 5.8; 14.2; 5.8­13; 7.12; 19.1-19). We also find one text where music is associated with merrymaking (Lk. 15.25). The lack of charity is linked with the metaphor of a "noisy gong" (1 Cor. 13.1). Paul strongly urges the early Christian communities to sing songs (Eph 5.1 18-20; Col 3. 16-17). This appears to be advice based upon sound principles which are used by contemporary music psychology.

There are other musical instruments mentioned in the New Testament: the aulos, kithara, (sometimes translated as harp or lyre) and pipes. Paul seems to have a prejudice against instrumental music (see 1 Cor. 13-14). His idea of spiritual worship, found also in I Peter and Hebrews, may have been a source of this difficulty (Rom. 12.1; I Pet. 2.5; Heb. 13.15). But, other passages of the New Testament indicate nothing definitely one way or the other concerning the moral quality of musical instruments, nor anything about any intrinsic ethical quality of music. In all probability, however, instruments in the Apostolic period were at a minimum, used only for accompanying song, and they were not always necessary (Acts 16.25). The harp and lyre were probably the only instruments employed in the worship service, if instruments were used at all.

Early christian hymns are found in the New Testament (Jn. 1.1-18: Phil.2.6-4; canticles of Lk.1-2; I Tim. 1.15; 3.16; Acts 23.8; Rom. 16.25ff.; I Pet. 3.18ff.; H Tim. 1.9-10; Tit. 2.13-14; I Pet. 1.17-21; 2.4-6; 2.21-15). Hymns with pre-christian background would imply that creative composing was in existence among the earliest of christians (Jn. 1.1-18; I Cor. 2.9; I Tim. 6.15-16; Heb. 11).

In the Old Testament, we saw the "trumpet" used in many settings. In the New Testament, we find the seven trumpets (Rev. 8.2ff) and the last trumpet at the end of time (Mt. 24.31; I Cor 15.52; I Thess. 4.16). Once, the trumpet is used to accompany a theophany (Heb. 12.19). Generally, these texts indicate that the trumpet is used to indicate God's judgment, the end of the world and its destruction.

Most important in the New Testament is the concept of song as a dynamic of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5.18-19). One becomes filled with the Holy Spirit by singing. "Filled with the Spirit" is peculiar to Luke-Acts, used only once here by Paul. The musical praise of God by the people is the effect of the Holy Spirit. What seems to count for Paul is not aesthetic considerations but rather the spirit of thankfulness (Col. 3.16). The idea of giving emotions a release through song, however, is also mentioned in James (Jas. 5.13).

Nowhere in the New Testament do we explicitly find the idea that the song of the Church as such evangelizes others. But if the Church's song is proclamation of Jesus Christ, then as in Acts 16.25, people do listen just as the prisoners listened to Paul and Silas in jail, and were converted accordingly.


In biblical thought we find a witness to the fact that music is vital and integral to the life of the Jewish people without an attempt to question what it is and what are its effects on people, other than occasionally mentioning its sometime sinful context. It is not instrumental music that has importance but rather song and praise from human lips. The birth, ministry and death of the Messiah is marked by some kind of song. The world is described as singing a lament when Jesus comes in judgment (Mt. 24.30) and the church sings the song of her marriage to the Lamb (Rev. 19.6-8). In the book of the prophet Zephaniah, the joy of the final day, God himself sings (3.17; see the mood of Rev. 5.13).

The major text of 1 Cor. 14. 6-28 is most important for learning about Paul's judgment about praying in tongues which may or may not have been done in song. But the first part is also a witness to the use of music:

Think of a musical instrument, a flute or a harp: if one note on it cannot be distinguished from another, how can you tell what tune is being played? Or if no one can be sure which call the trumpet has sounded, who will be ready for the attack? (7-8)

When all is finally examined in the sacred scriptures, there is no developed theology of music presented, other than occasional warnings about its dangers, its importance emotionally and psychologically. There is certainly no attempt to understand or say much about its nature, other than its relationship to daily or seasonal festivities and other occasions. For that we must turn to the history of philosophy, medicine and psychology throughout the rest of the book, to discover some important psychological and ethical considerations, the former being the doors which open the latter.

Part II: Ancient Philosophical Theories Confucius and the Chinese Tradition

The ancient oriental attitude toward music might be expressed succinctly: as in music so in life. Music somehow magnetizes society. The Emperor Shun goes around his world testing pitches of the notes of music:

...wherever the greatest variety of musical styles has obtained, there the adherence to tradition and custom has been proportionately less marked; and where musical styles are limited, as for instance, in China, adherence to - nay, even worship of tradition obtains to a marked degree. We are fully aware that in stating this we would seem to be lending weight to the prevalent notion that styles of music are merely the outcome and expression of civilizations and national feelings - that is to say that civilization comes first, and its characteristic species of music afterwards. But an examination of history proves the truth to be exactly the reverse: an innovation in musical style has invariably been followed by an innovation in politics and morals. And, what is more... the decline of music in [Egypt and Greece] was followed by the complete decline of the Egyptian and Grecian civilizations themselves.[14]

If we read some remarks from Confucius, we will see the Chinese tradition of music in summary form, even though the founder is reputed to be the emperor, Fu Hsi (2852) by reason of his invention of the flute.[15] Sound and words constitute music.[16] The whole purpose of life for ancient China is to align earth with heaven, man and his culture with the celestial principles and harmony. It is firmly held that music intrinsically and objectively produces energy and force for good or bad. The notes of the Chinese scale (equivalently to Western F, G, A, C and D) correspond to the virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety and faith.[17] The musician leaves nothing to chance improvisation.

Our first and only consideration shall be Confucius. He represents Asia's first major philosopher to dogmatize viewpoints on music and its relationship to morals, and he is first in a long line of thinkers, East and West, to begin the same line of speculation about music up to Aquinas himself but without directly influencing the Western philosophers or theologians, some of whom would have espoused his views which are so much like Plato's.

Looking at four very important selections of Confucius's works, we find the origin of our problem:

In the periods of disorder, rites are altered and music is licentious. Then sad sounds are lacking in dignity, joyful sounds lack in calm... When the spirit of opposition manifests itself, indecent music comes into being... . When the spirit of conformity manifests itself, harmonious music appears... . So that, under the effect of music, the five social duties are without admixture, the eyes and ears are clear, the blood and vital spirits are reformed, customs are improved, the Empire is in complete peace.[18]

Tones arise from the human heart, and music is connected with the principles of human conduct. Therefore the animals know sounds but do not know tones, and the common people know tones but do not know music. Only the superior man is able to understand music. Thus from a study of the sounds, one comes to understand the tones: from a study of the tones, one comes to understand the music; and from the study of music, one comes to understand the principles of government and is thus fully prepared for being a ruler.[19]

The music of Cheng is lewd and corrupting, the music of Sung is soft and makes one effeminate, the music of Wei is repetitious and annoying, and the music of Ch'i is harsh and makes one haughty. These four kinds of music are all sensual music and undermine the people's character, and that is why they cannot be used at sacrifices. The book of Sons, says, 'Ohu' means 'pious' and 'Ohung' means 'peaceful.' If you have piety and peacefulness of character, you can do everything you want with a country.[20]

Music expresses the harmony of the universe, while rituals express the order of the universe. Through harmony all things are influenced, and through order all things have a proper place. Music rises from heaven, while rituals are patterned on the earth. To go beyond these patterns would result in violence and disorder. In order to have the proper rituals and music, we must understand the principles of Heaven and Earth.[21]

From these four paragraphs, we begin to see the origin of our question, whether or not music has any moral consequences. It can make or break a society by being lewd, effeminate, or haughty, which latter can and does undermine character. Certain harmonious sounds (not chords) lead to piety and peacefulness of character. Rituals reflect the order of the universe because in some way they represent the heavens above. But the difficulties of accepting his premises are the following: we have no record of what this music sounded like, since music notations did not exist, nor does he offer any proof for his assertions other than his own experience. As previously noted, music co­existed with words rather than being pure lines of consonant melody. Even listening to the more ancient music of China today can be very disagreeable to Western ears because of the lack of familiarity with its tones.

The Chinese character for music is Yuo, which also is the same symbol for serenity (lo). Those who followed the tradition of Confucius believed that music, being an energy source, would do something for good or ill to those listening. In The Spring and Autumn of Lu Pu-We, we find yet another excellent summary of what music is:

The origins of music lie far back in time. It arises out of proportion and is rooted in the Great One. The Great One gives rise to two poles...the power of darkness and light…Every ending is followed by a new beginning; every extreme is followed by a return. Everything is co­ordinated with everything else.. .The sound arises out of harmony. Harmony arises out of relatedness. Harmony and relatedness are the roots from which music, established by the ancient kings, arose.

When the world is at peace, when all things are at rest, when all obey their superiors through all life's changes, then music can be brought to perfection. Perfected music has its effects. When desires and emotions do not follow false paths, then music can be perfected. Perfected music has its cause. It arises out of balance. Balance arises from justice. Justice arises from the true purpose of the world. Therefore one can speak of music only with one who has recognized the true purpose of the world.[22]

In conclusion then, these are the points asserted by the Chinese tradition. First, ritual music must stay the same, otherwise indecent music takes over which in turn causes periods of political disorder. Second, music reflects both the human heart and conduct; rulers must know the study of music and tones to be able to govern their subjects. Third, some kinds of music undermine character causing effeminacy, haughtiness, lewdness and the like. Fourth, harmony is the inter-relatedness of all things and is at the heart of music as well. Finally, music follows life and molds life according to true purposes. As we shall see shortly, both Plato and Aristotle hold very similar viewpoints.


Turning now to the Greek philosophers, we must keep in mind that musicians and poets are almost the same persons. By the time of Plato, they begin to become distinct.[24] Poetry and music go together so closely that one includes the other, making it difficult for the philosopher to uncover exactly what is the meaning of music as such. Pure music, as such, was not thought to be an important subject matter for reflection by the philosophers until the eighteenth century.

The father of Greek music science is considered to be Pythagoras (6th Century B.C.) whose writings no longer exist but whose ideas are found and commented on by both Plato and Aristotle, among many other later philosophers including Iamblicus and Boethius. On the question of the harmony of the spheres, he succeeds in convincing Plato, Cicero, Macrobius and Boethius but not Aristotle who ridicules it (see De caelo II, 9, 290b 12). (St. Thomas follows Aristotle on this question.) For Pythagoras, music must be an imitation of the unheard harmony of the spheres; this is similar to the Chinese notion. Moreover, he strongly influences everyone until the late 18th century by teaching that certain modes of music influence behavior. Plato constructs his notion of the world-soul by using a metaphor of music as harmonizing ingredients of the consonances in tuning stringed instruments, which was taught by Pythagoras (Tim. 35b­36). In fact, in the creation account of the Timaeus, he makes extensive use of Pythagorean imagery of music.

Before beginning to speculate about Greek music, musicologists remind us that a theory of music is "dead" until it is illustrated by real melodies.[25] Unfortunately, we do not know exactly what the music of the Greeks sounded like. What few theories exist are rejected by an overwhelming number of musicologists.

Pythagoras was the first among the Greeks of whom we know to develop the idea of music as ethical and therapeutic, capable of strengthening or restoring harmony to the soul.[26] As we have nothing of his writings, his ideas come to us through Plato and Aristotle and others. He formulates his ideas to recommend a definite mode of life based on the premise that man's soul is a harmony called virtue. Order, proportion and measure are the essence of life. Music is then used to attain ethical perfection by inculcating these properties (Diog. Laert. , VIII, 32-33). In addition, it becomes the catharsis or purification of the soul, a vital psychical and physical force. In a general way, music for the Greeks was considered a physic for the soul. The following was alleged: by music, Thales cured plague; Pythagoras healed mental disorders; Empedocles, melancholy and madness; Democritus, the bites of serpents; Xenocrates, maniacs; Aichebiades overcomes deafness with a trumpet. Celsus says that music, cymbals and sounds can dispel melancholy thoughts symptomatic of certain types of mental derangement (De Med. , III, 18, 10); Galen uses music for the bite of vipers.[27] Although musicologists know more about the first twelve centuries since Christianity than the previous centuries of Greece or China, it must be kept in mind that no developed system of notation of melodies and rests existed until the tenth century when Guido of Arezzo introduced its beginnings.[28] Harmony as we know it came even later.[29]


Plato (427-347) is the philosopher par excellence who must be examined on the question of music, since he influenced the Fathers of the Church and other philosophers and musicians beyond the fifteenth century.[30] As one reads his writings, it becomes evident that he is as inconsistent in his views about the arts and specifically music as others after him. None of his ideas about the ideal state including his musical prescriptions were ever put into practice! In his Republic 603-10, he recognizes that the emotions are bound up with all the arts in general, hut has a particularly low opinion of the visual arts. All imitation is in a sense both true and untrue, both being and non-being (Sophist 240c). In the last book of the Republic, the painter is called a pseudo-craftsman who has a knack (tribe). Much of the time, "music" means "persuasive words" but not always. Mousay (melody alone) which is used only once in the Laws 790e, is not the same as musiké.

Since we do not know how their music sounded from reading any alleged Greek musical texts, it is impossible to analyze the "modes" which Plato (and Aristotle) speak of. For Plato, poetry and music are under the gods Apollo and Muses. Moreover, the word musiké is primarily speech, and only secondarily is it rhythm and melody (Rep. 398). A further complication exists: the Greek language already has a great deal of musical tone in the voice which the composer of musical melody must take into consideration. This problem is further intensified by the Pythagorean tuning of instruments which renders music rather dissonant from our later Western perspective.[31]

Plato's thesis is that music has moral or immoral effects (Rep. 819d and Protag. 325c-326c), that is, it (the good music of antiquity)[32] has a power to further a kind of education called kalokagathia. (This will be explained below). The opposite is also true. It can enervate and corrupt the soul (Laws 700-01). It is also quite clear that he held that rhythms imitate the good or the bad in human beings (Laws 798) and so can influence the listener.[33] Although music is described as entertainment in the Symposium 176e, in the Republic he says that it is not meant for pleasure or entertainment but is to lead on to a well-balanced order of the individual and the state (Rep. 522a). In his more mature work, he says that pleasure and entertainment are not substitutes for truth and symmetry (Laws 667e). In the Republic (410d), music is described as something which sinks in the depths of the soul and remains there. It is the medicine of the soul (Laws 664b-c; 903d). Music should restore the soul's order, bringing concord by its harmony and rhythms (Tim. 47c-d). It provides motion to the soul (Tim. 86b). However, music without words is censured (Laws, 669e) because then no one can understand the meaning of the harmony. While rhythm and modality have the inherent power to charm (Rep. 601a), melody and rhythm must remain subordinate to the text (398d). "Colored music" or what we would call chromatics (Laws 655) is to be shunned, perhaps because musicians were creating new melodies contrary to the ancient melodies associated with virtue, which idea seemed absurd to the people (Rep. 530d).

Whether he came to these conclusions by reading other authors from earlier civilizations is simply not possible to know. It is most likely that he accepted the ideas of Damon (whose writings no longer exist), a contemporary philosopher and teacher of Socrates of whom Plato speaks with the greatest respect. (Rep. 242c):"...No change can be made in styles of music without affecting the most important conventions of society. So Damon declares and I agree."[34]

For Plato, melody and poetry went together because music, as we understand it, was to accompany the intelligible word of poetry. In other words, melody was to follow the text (Rep. 398). He went against the new idea of his time that one should create music without ideas simply to hear pleasant sounds:

Music is more celebrated than any other kind of imitation, and therefore requires the greatest care of them all. For if a man makes a mistake here, he may do himself the greatest injury by welcoming evil dispositions, and the mistake may be very difficult to discern because the poets are artists very inferior in character to the Muses themselves, who would never fall into the monstrous error of assigning to the words of men the gestures and songs of women; nor after combining the melodies with the gestures of freemen, would they assign to them a melody or words which are of an opposite character.. .For when there are not words, it is very difficult to recognize the meaning of the harmony and rhythm from the words, or to see that any worthy object is imitated by them. And we must acknowledge that all this sort of thing, which aims only at swiftness and smoothness and a brutish noise, and uses the flute and the lyre not as mere accompaniments of the dance and song, is exceedingly coarse and tasteless. The use of either instrument, when unaccompanied, leads to every sort of irregularity and trickery... (Laws 669-670).

In general Plato denounced musical novelty and creativity (Rep. 424) on the ground that such a change in what he called "modes of music" will change the basic laws of the state and this is to be avoided at all costs. in the Laws 657, he seems to have a source which indicates that Egyptian priests had the ability to create melodies that could soothe the emotions. in the Republic 401d, music is described as something which sinks deep in the soul and remains there. Bad music however could seduce a person's soul away from the ideal order of things. On this basis, he intensely distrusted music pipes or the aulos that were coming into their own. He only accepted the traditional kithara and lyre, the instruments of Apollo as worthy of educating the young (Rep. 399c). Only for the shepherds were the syrinx and panpipes permissible (Crito, 399d).

The aulos is the instrument par excellence of trance among the Greeks. Plato bans it in his ideal state (Crito 54b) because of its wide range of twenty-six notes, and not for its sound (Rep. 399d). Whereas the aulos is associated with the Marsyas religion, the true Greek must follow the Muses in preferring the kithara and lyre, the instruments of Apollo (399c). Perhaps, Plato's fear of the aulos was based upon the fact that it w&s the instrument associated with the theater, debauchery, war and agrarian rites. In the Republic 399c-d, the aulos is condemned, but in the Laws, he inconsistently allows it, possibly because in the former case it is played by virtuosos and in the latter by ordinary people, as a folk instrument. In the Symposium 215c, he notes that the aulos grips the soul, thus showing the need of the gods and mysteries. It is interesting that Plato never once mentions drums or clappers, or cymbals.

The musical instrument dear to Plato is the lyre or zither because it is a stringed instrument which has a relationship to measured lengths and thus somewhat akin to mathematics. The aulos on the other hand is difficult to relate to numbers. Such a relation can be made, but only by empirical conjecture rather than by measurement (Philebus 56a). In the Philebu.s (55c-56a), he states that the principle of number is at work in good music, otherwise, as in any art, one is at the mercy of guess work and the senses.

Plato is wary that soft shams of music might leave hearers in a state of lethargy and so enervate the citizens, rendering them indisposed to defend the state (Book III of Republic.). These songs must be banned. He wanted his future leaders to study music in their youth, but eventually they must learn to prefer the higher music of philosophy (Symposium 126e)."

The essence of his theory of education and music is that beauty leads to the philosophy of universal love (Rep. 402d). So beautiful melodies should be played for children (Laws 662b). He also says that music must promote self-control, rather than excite vulgar sentiments and passions (Laws, 662h; 800e). The proper environment for educating youth should guide them to find beautiful reason (Rep. 401). Music and philosophy somehow imitate the divine harmony (Timaeus 488c.). In the Laws 802c it is said that sober and ordered music makes man better while the vulgar and trivial sort makes him worse.

Therefore, music was meant to be a source of discovering "beautiful reason" in solid morality, based upon the idea that life is composed of ordered relationships, and sound music helps the souls along:

…music as is adapted to the sound of the voice and to the sense of hearing is granted to us for the sake of harmony; and harmony, which has motions akin to the volutions of our souls, is not regarded by the intelligent votary of the Muses as given by them with a view to irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the purpose of it in our day, but was meant to correct any discord which may have arisen in the courses of the soul, and to be our ally in bringing her into harmony and agreement with herself; and rhythm too was given by them for the same reason, on account of the irregular and graceless ways which prevail among mankind generally, and to help us against them (Symposium, 167).

The basic task of music is the production of a likeness of virtue admired by the listener because of the words suggesting a moral course of behavior. This explains music's capacity to mold character by its power of suggestion. This is the role of mimesis, which means that any art imitates the divine and ideal order of things. In the Timaeus 80a-b, music is said lead to virtue and knowledge because the sung epics furnish moral inspirations to successive generations. To participate actively in solid choral poetry is a dedication to a tradition which has a strong ethical effect.

We do not know what the Greek harmonies or modes actually sounded like at the time of Plato. He says that the dorian mode is about man under stress, while the phrygian portrays moderate behavior in prosperity (Rep. 399a). These two modes are the only ones he will permit in his state, but in the Laws 670a, he allows for more modes while at the same time he decries the meaningless virtuosity of solo performances. The use of harmony as we have grown accustomed to it is based upon the octave and each whole tone is one-sixth of it, whereas it has been conjectured that the Greeks used quarter tones in their system.[37] Plato claimed that many of the musical poems were meant to stir up war-like virtues, or the reverse and thus to enervate the soul (Republic, bk. 3); we simply do not know for certain what he is talking about. However, an observer of human nature can conjecture that given habit and custom, the peoples of the time would probably respond emotionally and intellectually to music and the arts according to the way they were taught. Much as today, some would react to music because of custom and the fact that the virtue of courage, for example, was portrayed by the lyrics (the equivalent of poetry) or by rhythm and melody, with or without lyrics (cf., "The Stars and Stripes Forever").

In the Laws 791, Plato says that by going through certain rites (associated with music and dancing), some would obtain psychological relief from morbid and nervous afflictions. But he seems to be more concerned about possession and trance, which had a great deal to do with the cult of Dionysius-Bacchus. That cult may not have been as frenzied in his time as it may have been at the time of Aristotle, since they seem to disagree about its moral goodness.

In this context, Plato's idea of love as "mad," as something that comes from the inspiration of the gods, directly or through the beauty of creatures should be mentioned.[38] Mania which is used to describe this kind of love can be translated as frenzy, trance or madness (as in Timaeus and Phaedrus). In Timaeus 86b, he turns to diseases (dementia) of the soul, of which there are two kinds: madness or ignorance. Here he mentions that excesses of pleasure and pain are "the greatest diseases." In his earlier Phaedrus (265a), he makes a distinction between two kinds of mania: one arising from human disease and the other arising from a divine state "which releases us from the customary habits of living." The four different kinds of madness inspired by a god are: mantic (by Apollo), telestic (by Dionysus), "poetic" (by the Muses) and erotic (by Eros and Aphrodite). What interests us is the telestic madness, which entails a madness caused by ritual. These trances, he writes in Laws 791a-b, come about in sacrifices associated with dances and melody. Each of these madnesses, given by the gods, is a manifestation of enthusiasmos, i.e., the person is "engoddened" or entheos.[39]

Now, the whole purpose of the trance when induced by the gods is to throw a person into a state of unreason. Then music and dance restores him to his normal state of consciousness (Laws 790e-791b). In his earlier work the Phaedrus (244-249), Plato stated his idea differently, and claimed that mania is sometimes caused by offending the gods (244d-e). Then, the divine trance induced by the ritual delivers a person because the prayers, purifications and rites release him from this trouble. These rites are to be prescribed for the different afflictions caused by one or more gods. In other words, the trance for Plato is both a disease and also, in ritual, a cure![40]

Most philosophers are interested in Plato's notions of personal ethics, the ideal state and epistemology. Yet as we have seen, he has a great deal to say about music: melody, rhythm and poetry. Though we do not know his music, nor understand his own personal experience, it is clear that he, like Confucius, makes some very important statements which he considers almost facts about music. Because music goes deep into the soul and has great charm, he is convinced that it can affect character for good or ill, especially in the young. According to Plato, this seems to be its greatest and almost sole purpose, the molding of people. Somehow, music imitates human character. When people enjoy listening to it, then they are induced to act accordingly. Therefore, great music associated with the virtues should be taught to future leaders of the state. Bad music associated with vice eventually will change the laws of the state for the worse and aid in bringing it down. Music, then, has no role as pure entertainment. Musical instruments have good or bad associations, dependent on the tradition of the gods, which explains why Plato preferred two instruments, the lyre and the kithara, associated with Apollo and the Muses respectively. Melodies without words make no sense for Plato. Liturgical music, on the other hand, is supposed to relieve a divine madness of emotional anxiety which has been inflicted by the gods as either a punishment or a blessing. This mania is frequently associated with emotional stress and anxiety. The ritual music is supposed to release the tension and anxiety through a seeming trance-induced experience.

Aristotle and later followers

Aristotle's philosophy of the soul, based upon the ability of the senses and the intellect of man to grasp reality in front of him, carries on the Platonic tradition concerning "music"' in its essential lines, adds to it and occasionally breaks with it. We can best understand Aristotle's ideas from the Politics (though he died before finishing it) and the Poetics, the latter being in many ways a continuation of the last chapter of the Politics. Unfortunately, he does not always integrate his other works in these two writings. It is in the Politics (1341-42) that morals and education are identified.

While Aristotle (384-322) relied much for his ideas on "music" (the modes especially) on Plato, he tends more than his teacher to use experience as a criterion for understanding "music," in particular the relationship of "music" to the emotions. On this particular question, he asserts:

Rhythm and melody supply imitations of anger and gentleness, and also of courage and temperance, and of all the qualities contrary to these, and of the other qualities of character, which hardly fall short of the actual affections, as we know from our own experience, for in listening to such strains our souls undergo a change. The habit of feeling pleasure or pain at mere representations is not far removed from the same feeling about realities (The Politics, bk. 8, chap. 5).[42]

In an earlier section he departs from Plato because he does not say "music" but "melody" and even "rhythm" as such can imitate virtues. In Book VII he also maintains more lucidly than Plato that certain "music" causes an emotional catharsis or purification with or without ritual:

For feelings such as pity and fear, or again enthusiasm, exist very strongly in some souls, and have more or less influence over all. Some persons fall into a religious frenzy, whom we see as a result of the sacred melodies – when they have used the melodies that excite the souls to mystic frenzy - restored as they have found healing and purgation. Those who are influenced for pity or fear, and every emotional nature, must have a like experience, and others also are as each is susceptible to such emotions, and all are in a manner purged and their feelings lightened and delighted (Politics, 790-791).

While Aristotle was deeply interested in the education of youth through "music", he repeated in essence Plato's views. He disagreed with him, however, about melody as such:

...Even in mere melodies there is an imitation of character, for the "music modes differ essentially from one another, and those who hear them are differently affected by each. Some of them make men sad and grave, like the So-called Mixolydian, others enfeeble the mind, like the relaxed, modes, another, again, produces a moderate and settled temper which appears to be the peculiar effect of the Dorian; the Phrygian inspires enthusiasm.. .The same principles apply to rhythms; some have a character of rest, others of motion, and of these latter again, some have a more vulgar, others a nobler movement.. . "music" has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young. . .there seems to be in us a sort of affinity to "musical" modes and rhythms, which makes some philosophers say that the soul is a tuning, others that it possesses tuning (Pol. 1340).

In an earlier work (Rhetoric, 1408b 35), he also had said that rhythm is described as necessary to foster ecstasy (perhaps religious) and is distinct from meter (1400b 22). Perhaps, he may have been suggesting implicitly that there is a hypnotic effect coming from the association of long and short beats, which are commonly considered today as the undulant and fluctuating aspects of rhythm.

While he can see that to be a critic of "music" one must learn a sufficient amount of its mechanics, to become a professional may lead to over-indulgence in "music" simply for the sake of amusement, which he claims (without making important distinctions that will be discussed in another chapter) does not make for the improvement of a person. This process of playing solely for amusement tends to lower character (Pol.134la-b) and so musicians belong to a lower class of persons. A true gentleman only plays "music" for a joke or when drunk or for relaxation in general (1340).

In the Poetics 1340a 19, he states that rhythm and melody can reproduce anger, gentleness, courage, or restraint which is the stuff of virtue. "Music" imitates through rhythm, harmony[43] and melody (Poetics, 1447a 22). All the arts really imitate the actions, passions and character of men (Poetics, 28). The phrase is not "fine art" in Aristotle, but imitative art or mode of imitation. Likewise in the Politics 1339, 9-14, good "music" (beautiful is never used) is said to be not always easy to determine. That it can degrade is clear (1341a 5); that it can mold character or lift it up is likewise clear to him, but why this is so he does not say. Perhaps he believes it is obvious from experience and a proper understanding of the modes. In the Poetics 1340a, 19-1340b 10, 1447a 14-17, 20-25, he continues to assert that "music" imitates the movements of human emotions. In the Politics 1340a 27, speaking about a statue, he says that one can behold it and delight in it simply because of its form. Likewise we seem to have an affinity, he says, with harmonies and rhythms, so that the soul itself can be called a harmony or possessed of harmony 17-19).[44] But since the emotions are related to and flow with human actions, "music" imitates artistically human actions as well and therefore should first be examined in a general consideration of all the arts. We feel drawn to representations since we feel drawn to reality itself. Imitation as a reality, therefore, is analogical (though he does not use this term). For example, habituation in feeling pain and delight at representations of reality is close to feeling them as they are in themselves since they mirror actual reality (Pol. 1340a, 24-25).

In another work, which helps substantiate his reasoning, Aristotle claims that every affection of the soul (pathos) involves a concomitant movement of the body (On The Soul 403a, II. 16-19). If ethical attitudes are dispositions to good and evil, which can be expressed in actions (Meta. 1022b, II. 4-14), then the emotions are necessarily involved as well. Stir up the emotions, then you begin to influence moral character one way or the other.[45] Two ways of imitation are found in harmony and rhythm (Poetics 1448b 7, 20) which gives rise to poetic art. It is natural for all to delight in imitation (7-9). Part of enjoying painting is learning something (13-17). Since learning and wondering are pleasant, it follows that such things as acts of imitation must be pleasant - for instance, painting, sculpture and poetry. This is true as well of every product of skillful imitation (Rhetoric, 1371b-4).

Aristotle asserts in the fourth book of the Politics that pleasure at times comes from pity and fear being aroused by imitations. Somehow the pleasure of seeing an imitation overcomes a distaste of what may be portrayed, a statement about the visual arts that seems to contradict what he said earlier about the non-aural arts (see the works On the parts of Animals I, v.; Rhetoric I, xi).[46]

In the Posterior Analytics 76a 9-15, 22-25, "music" is •spoken of as a distinct science and art. This statement will have repercussions on Boethius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and the entire middle ages where "music" is to be studied principally as a science to the detriment of its artistic considerations. This study of proportions, in effect, is meant to be a preparation for the study of philosophy. However, in the Poetics (and as we have seen previously), Aristotle extrapolates and distinguishes it from its poetic element when he says that it has something in common with epic, tragedy, dithrymabic, poetry, dancing and painting (Poetics, 1447a 20-1447b 15, 1448a 1-18; 1449a 1-12). This idea, not at all influential with musicians for several millennia, eventually will lead to a separation of what is commonly called music from poetry.

"Music" can be an "outlet", like a rattle amusing children (Pol. 134.1340b 28). It gives orderly expression to their energy. However, it is more than that. "Music" works on the will by imitation (Pol. 1447a, 28). Its purposes are threefold: it is good for pure amusement (a disagreement with Plato, though too much pleasure is bad, as was seen earlier), intellectual enjoyment and education (Politics) . Furthermore, he disagrees with and seems to blame Plato (Rep. 399a) for saying that the phrygian mode is as educative as the dorian mode. To Aristotle's way of thinking, this mode is very exciting and so for religious purposes only (Pol. 1342a 3). In the Politics 1290 II. 19-22, he claims that the dorian and phrygian modes are the chief ones and subsume all other modes of "music." At 1340a 1.15, "music" is described as a training in experiencing pleasure and pain in the right way. Like virtue itself, a person can enjoy good melodies and is pained by bad ones (Pol. I 170a, 6-11) but he is referring more to technique rather than ethics. "Music" is useful for rational enjoyment (diagoge) in leisure (1338a 22-23), which is close to what can be called the essence of the aesthetic experience.

Whatever the order may be, all are evaluated and related to the single end of human delight both sensible and rational. Aristotle says that the amusement and relaxation is akin to sleep, drinking and dancing which is sought for pleasure's sake (Pot. 1339a 15-20).[47] He goes on to say that "music" administers to virtue by accustoming the player and hearer to rejoice rightly. There are nobler strains and meaner ones, sensual rhythms and rational rhythms, discord and harmony. The base soul delights in more primitive rhythms whereas great souls delight in harmonic order and gravity of theme (an opinion still held today by Bloom and others). Character or moral growth is abetted according to a diversity of "music's" delight, so that delight serves as a kind of practical middle term in the transition from "musical" values to moral formation. This is the second great finality of "music" for the Philosopher in that it accustoms us "to rejoice rightly" in various forms and noble imitations so that they may dispose us to act rightly as free and virtuous men. Intellectual enjoyment is universally acknowledged to contain an element not only of the noble but of the pleasant, for happiness is made up of both; but we all pronounce "music" to be one of life's more pleasant experiences, with or without lyrics or melody (Pol. 1339a 16-20).

Finally, in the Poetics 1448b 10-12, it is said that the delight in all the arts can well be in the craftsmanship of the thing made.[49] In a good drama, pity and fear are aroused over the story of someone who suffers undeserved misfortune, which is similar to the way a listener would feel if it happened to him or his loved ones. Hence, there may be simultaneous or concomitant delights, a fusion into one, ongoing at the same time (Poetics 1340a, 24, 25; 1448b 17-21; Pot. 1340a, 22, 25, 27).

Hence, the three purposes of music, moral betterment, cultivated leisure and practical wisdom, are liberal and noble (Pol. 1338a, 10-33). Later in the Politics 1340a, 12-14, the ends of "music" are identified as education, amusement and cultivated leisure; these differences may indicate something more than mere semantics. Instrumental "music" as such possesses an ethical force through rhythms and melodies as we have already seen. They contain likenesses (homoiomata) or imitations of all the emotions and ethical states of the soul (good and bad). There is a certain affinity of the soul with modes and rhythms because of the love of imitation. Unfortunately, Aristotle offers no fuller explanation and he died before completing the Politics.

We saw that Plato was afraid of the effects of the aulos. Aristotle recognizes flutes as useful for catharsis, but like his master, he excludes it from educational purposes (Pol. 1341a, 23). In the Politics (1340a) again, playing the aulos without words is said not to be "music", even though he said earlier (in the same work!) that melody on its own can reproduce character (Pol. 1341a). The aulos was considered to be the sign of emotional abandon, sensuality and subjectivity, the instrument of Dionysian rites.[50] In the pseudo-Aristotelian work called De Audibilibus, it is maintained that the aulos involves a beating read, probably like a saxophone or clarinet. This work states that its very sound tends to carry away a man from right reason and so it is not an ethical instrument which ennobles the mind and induces virtue.[51]

In the Politics and the Poetics, Aristotle emphasizes that art imitates nature; but, in the Physics (194a 21), he states that art emulates nature rather than imitates it, which is a distinction going beyond Plato yet not often found in current literature on aesthetics. Art, in general, avails itself of nature by producing a balance of opposing forces, as nature does. In another pseudo-Aristotelian work On the World (396b 7), the author accurately describes "music" as reconciling divergences of pitch and time. Further in another work, the Topics (116b 21), Aristotle himself says that proportion (a mathematical concept going back to Pythagoras) is the basis of melody. Likewise, in the Rhetoric (1371b 4), he notes that similarity in difference produces wonder and pleasure. This is an important insight because if elements of surprise inspire wonder, and love of wonder is allied with the love of wisdom, (Meta. ch. 2, 33), then it follows that "music" can make a contribution to this aspect of human life as well, though Aristotle never infers or develops this idea himself.

In sum, Aristotle speaks of catharsis or purification or a "lightening" of the emotional state of a person as integral to experiencing good music. Rhythm is necessary to help in this process because it keeps the attention riveted on the melody and the words of a particular song. Pleasure in the arts can sometimes be excessive, especially for "musicians". But these delights of music are meant ultimately to induce or entice people to the love of virtue. Human nature is inclined toward this experience since there is a natural love of imitation, which is why one of music's important purposes is ethical. "Music" is meant to be a mirror of virtue but it can become a focus of vice as well.

Two later Aristotelians reject completely the ethical analysis of music. Aristoxenus, a pupil of Aristotle, and the first authority to write extensively about music (though most of his works are lost), became somewhat skeptical of music[52] either as related to mathematics or as having a moral influence on a person, much in line with today's thinkers on the subject. He asserts that there was no affinity between them:

[Previous philosophers].. .introduced extraneous reasoning, and rejecting the sense as inaccurate fabricated rational principles, asserting that height and depth of pitch consist in certain numerical ratios and relative rates of vibration - a theory utterly extraneous to the subject and quite at variance with the phenomena; while others, dispensing with reason and demonstration, confined themselves to isolated dogmatic statements, not being successful either in their enumeration of the mere phenomena.. .our method rests in the last resort on an appeal to the two faculties of hearing and intellect. By the former we judge the magnitudes of the intervals. By the latter we contemplate the function of the notes. We must therefore accustom ourselves to an accurate discrimination of particulars.. .for the student of musical science accuracy of sense-perception is a fundamental requirement... musical cognition implies the simultaneous cognition of a permanent and a changeable element and.. .this applies without limitation or qualification to every branch of music.[53]

Philodemus (110-40 B.C. of Gadar, Syria) was a student under Zeno of Czium who worked near Rome with Vergil and Horace. His writings came to light when the library of Herculaneum was discovered in the eighteenth century. His importance lies in denying much of Platonic and Aristotelian thought as well, and so, he represents (without influencing) much modern aesthetical thinking, though he did not affect any major current of thought throughout the ages:

...Melody as such, being irrational, cannot arouse the calm soul from a state of tranquillity towards a disposition that belongs to the melody's character by its own nature; nor can it turn a restless, driven soul towards that which soothes and brings peace. Melody does not have the capacity to turn the soul from one impulse to another to intensify or reduce the existing disposition. For music is not mimetic as some imagine it to be, nor is Diogenes right in claiming that music does have resemblances, though not mimetic ones, to qualities of character, as for example, magnificence and humbleness, courage and cowardice, audacity and modesty. Music does not possess these qualities anymore than the art of cooking does. Therefore the different kinds of music neither themselves, nor in combination or opposition to each other, differ in dispositions, as far as sheer perception is concerned (Lib. iv, Col. Il-III...).

For it to incite to action means to act as well as to choose, but music, unlike reason, is not capable to encourage action or to implant choice...without music the workers accomplish less, whereas accompanied by it they set to work with zest and perform their tasks with greater ease because an element of pleasure that has been added (Col. vii-viii).

...a) music does not add a thing to solemnity, nor does it improve the mental faculties; its only contribution lies in pleasing the ear (Col. ix-xi).

And indeed music is neither intrinsically law-abiding nor its opposite (Col. xxiv-xxv).

If then, it is found that music does not contribute a thing to some of the virtues, neither will it help the sum-total of them, for they are inseparable. Nor is it mandatory, if all the virtues are jointly present, that what helps some of them necessarily helps all of them...Not all philosophers assume that music is advantageous; but even those who assert that it does bring benefit - either to part of the virtues or to all of them - have not proven their point. Those who did attempt to prove their point, tried to do so by means... ...But neither were all persuaded, nor did those who were persuaded deem music indispensable for the virtues (Col. xxv-xxvi).[54]

Concluding summary

We began this section of the chapter with Confucius and ended with Philodemus. Confucius, Plato and Aristotle held to a core agreement that "music" produced ethical effects or attitudes and sometimes even produced actions, either because of the modes (Plato and Aristotle), or because and more likely (as we shall see shortly) the words and poetry of the concepts suggested certain ethical values. Since the melody, harmony and rhythm produce pleasure, if well executed, these ethical values flowing from the poetry (desire for virtue really) are more easily fostered in the young, while at the same time are recalled by stirring up the emotions associated with ethical values in adults as well as the young. All three philosophers (especially Confucius and Plato) believe that music affects the governance of the state, and so they fear changes in "music": pitches for Confucius, modes for Plato. Aristotle concurs for the most part about the good and bad effects of the modes of music but disagrees about one or more of them. While he accepts the "liturgical" effects of music along with Plato, he is not as concerned with it.

Notably Aristotle advances beyond Plato by pointing out that "music" has a legitimate recreational aspect as one of its good purposes. If there were an abuse here, it might be that one could play too much. Another interesting advance in Aristotle is the assertion that music can cause some kind of cultural delight, something akin to what contemporaries today would call the aesthetic experience. He does not analyze what exactly this cultural delight is but insofar as he maintains that there is an intellectual delight, he is certainly suggesting, at least, that music is more than moral propaganda, though at the same time, since poetry is involved, some ideas charged with emotion must be going on. This explains why he calls it an experience of practical wisdom, but without much analysis either. Clearly, there is an idea of Aristotle that mere melody and rhythm also produce "analogies of character" and so have some kind of influence on human character building, but he fails to analyze exemplary causality to justify his claim. How can one make sense of these notions, since clearly much modern music is without words and seemingly without any noticeable moral effects?

Most contemporary philosophers of music would call the idea that the modes of music have ethical effects a myth, pure and simple. Since Plato and Aristotle (and to some extent Confucius) believed that music does this, however their very believing or projecting their opinions concerning music onto their disciples, accomplished what they wanted them to believe, namely, that music has ethical effects. But there is an even clearer solution to the question, which is an analysis of Greek linguistics. (The foregoing analysis may fit to the Chinese situation, but here scholars travel on very uncertain ground at the present time) .

First of all it is clear that in Greek the word describing the poet as singer (aoidos) is older than the one describing him as a maker (poietes) .[55]Second, the word mousike describes dance, melody, poetry, and elementary education for the Greeks. Aristides Quintilianus in his De Musica[56] says that the pitch of the voice in poetry reading falls between singing and speech. Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century says "the distinction between oratory and music is simply one of degree."[57] He also says:

The writers of lyric verse cannot vary the melodies (melos) of strophe and antistrophe, but whether they adopt enharmonic melodies, or chromatic, or diatonic, in all the strophes and antistrophes the same sequences must be observed. Nor, again, must the rhythms be changed in which the entire strophes and antistrophes are written, but these too must remain unaltered (ch. XIX).[58]

Now after the fall of Athens, we find the ability of poets to write music and the ability of musicians to write poetry declined, which shows how deeply music and poetry were entwined.[59] Likewise, Winnington-Ingram demonstrates clearly that harmoniae and tonoie means something quite different than mere "harmony and tone." The Greeks did not use scales, and tonoi were tunings of the kithara to be played. Therefore, concerning the doctrine of ethos and the modes having definite moral and psychological effects, the following from Hollander explains very profoundly how to understand what they are talking about: "...The whole notion of musical effect [was] intimately involved with the sense of the text, and ultimately, the meaning of the words."[61] And Winn's comment explains the meaning of the modes when he says:

...Thus Plato's famous exclusion of all harrnoniai except the Dorian and Phrygian from his Republic is less a claim that these melodic idioms were noble or manly in themselves than an acknowledgement that the Dorian and Phrygian harmoniae had traditionally been used in association with serious and patriotic texts, the harmoniai he excludes, such as the Mixolydian, had been associated with shrill dirges...[62]

But how is one to take into account the observations of both Aristoxenus and Philodemus? It may very well be the case that pure music in their times had become so abstracted without any intellectual content (much like Bach's fugues and preludes or Vivaldi's concerti) that it could be enjoyed for its own sake. We are frankly in the dark.Yet, one needs to be cautious in adopting their very plausible opinions because it may be the case that the contemplation of music is a moral act from certain points of view, as we shall see.[63] Even pure music as such, in their own times, may not have always completely abstracted itself from specific moral contents suggesting virtues or vices. Indeed, Philodemus seems to contradict himself when he asserts that music is incapable of encouraging action and at the same time notes how workers do their work with greater ease when listening to pleasing music. Adding pleasure to work would seem to enhance the morality of work, rather than have nothing to do with virtue. Second, he contradicts the experience of the Church by claiming that music does not add to solemnity, unless he was merely referring by the word "solemnity" to creating a more serious approach to life (col. ix-xi). Finally, he is correct in stating that the philosophers have not proved that music aids in acquiring virtue. They have asserted this claim, based upon their analysis of experience. But it is at least probable that ethical ideas suggested in poetry could be enhanced by song and dance. This remains to be seen further in later chapters.

Chapter 2 Endnotes

1 St. Thomas's commentary De Anima I, 1, 15, "The essential principles of things are unknown to us." See also his De Spiritualibus Creaturis, 11 ad 3.

2 Of special note, however, is the Pythagorean notion that song is found in the spheres. This idea is reflected in Job 38.7: "...the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shout for joy." While this is not a proof that the philosophy of Pythagoras got into the Old Testament, it may indicate that ordinary people commonly held to the music of the spheres.

3 See John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible, The Bruce Publishing Co., Milwaukee, 1965, the entry on "Music."

4 See Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 99a,b.

5 It is interesting to note that in Ovid's Tristitia, (bk. iv, 1.5.) miners work to music in order to lighten labor. There are special songs for other workers. Rowers sing songs that remind them of home so they go faster. Song helps economize energy, spur people on with rewards, wishes and aspirations; music for battle follows the same principle. Likewise, it seems to reduce fatigue and lend force to muscular movements, a concept known to most primitive peoples.

6 William S. Smith, Musical Aspects of the New Testament, Uitgeverij W. Ten Have N. V., Amsterdam 1962, p. 1.7. See also Idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy and its Development, Sacred Music Press, New York 1932, p. 16.; see E. Dickenson, Music in the History of the Western Church, Scribner's, New York 1902, p. 31.

7 See the entry "Music in the Bible," The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. VII, ed. by Isaac Landman, Ktav PUblishing Co. 1969; see also A. M. Rothmtller, The Music of the Jews, Beechhurst Press, New York 1954, pp. 1-66.

8 Babylonian Talmud, Hullin 24, and Arakim 13b.

9 J.M. Nielen, The Earliest Christian Liturgy, trans. by P. Cummins, B. Herder, St. Louis & London 1941, P. 119. See also P. Gradenwitz, The Music of Israel, W. W. Norton, New York 1949, p. 83ff.

10 H. Haspter, Calvins Beginsel voor den Zang in den Eredienst, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1955, p. 51, n. 1.

11 C. C. Keet, A Liturgical Study of the Psalter, Macmillan, New York 1928, p. 52.

12 Gradehwitz, The Music of Israel, W. W. Norton, New York 1949 p. 69; Eric Werner, Sacred Bridge, The Interdependence of Liturgy and Music During the First Millennium, Dennis Dobson and Columbia University, London & New York 1959, p. 352.

13 A. Z. Idelsohn, Jewish Music, In Its Historical Development, Henry Holt and Co., New York 1929, pp. 22, 92.

14 Cyril Scott, Music Its Secret Influence, p. 47.

15 Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. by James Hastings, Charles Scribner and Sons, New York 1908-27; see entry "Music (Chinese)."

16 Chinese Classics, ed. by J. Legge, Hongkong 1861-73, I, 3, 28, p. 185.

17 See entry "Chinese Music" Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. by Eric Blom, St. Martin's Press, New York 1956.

18 Yocki, Liki as cited in Alain Daniélou, Introduction to the Study of Musical Scales, The Indian Society, London 1943, pp. 16-17.

19 Yoki Liki, XIX, as cited in Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of Confucius, Modern Library, New York 1938, p. 254.

20 Lin Yutang, Wisdom of Confucius, p. 264.

21 Lin Yutang, Wisdom of Confucius, p. 259.

22 See entry "Chinese Music" Grove's Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians.

23 See Edward A. Lippman, Musical Thought in Ancient Greece, Da Capo Press, New York 1959, which carefully analyzes the Greek concept of music. He tends to make Aristotle into a Platonist, however.

24 In the Laws 812-813, he says that Greek poets should not have a "...complexity and variation of notes. When the strings give one sound and the poet or composer of the melody gives another or less and greater intervals, slow and quick or high and lows notes are combined. Opposite principles are confusing. Variety and complexity are apt to induce mental depression and confusion which might lead men away from the natural order of things into the realm of the irrational."

25 See the entry "Ethos" in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

26 See #112 of Iambilichus, The Life of Pythagoras, trans. by Gullian Clark, Liverpool University Press, Great Britain 1989. Here he asserts the legend of Pythagoras's ability to use music to stop murder and fornication by telling the musician to change the mode. Written by a Roman philosopher of mathematics in the third century, this little piece of information becomes part of the tradition through Boethius and onward.

27 Today's doctors would simply describe these phenomena as the "placebo" effect. Someone sincerely and emotionally believes that certain pieces of music will cure him and generally does some good because of his desire to get well through a piece of music.

28 See entries, "History of Music", and "Art of Music" in NEB; also, "Consonance" and a quotation from Guido of Arezzo under the entry," Aesthetics of Music" in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

29 Until the late 13th century, 3rds and 4ths were considered to be dissonant because of the Pythagorean tuning system. Only parallel fifths were considered to be consonant. Likewise, lutes, viols were tuned differently from key board instruments making a unified orchestra very difficult to exist. See NEB, "Art of Music." See also Oxford History of Music, ed. by H.E. Woolrede, and revised ed. by Percy C. Bok, Vol, I, The Polyphonic Period, Oxford University, London 1929­38, where in chapter 4 we find that by the ninth century, only parallel fifths were considered consonant harmony (cited in a work by Regino: De Harmonica Institutione). With regard to rhythm, in 1260, Franco of Cologne is the first to put time values to single notes and rests (see NEB, "Music, Art of"). R. P. Winnington-Ingram, Mode in Ancient Greek Music, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1936, clearly shows that harmonise and tonoie mean something quite different from harmony and tone in modern usage. The Greeks did not use scales in our sense of the word and tonoi were tunings of the kithara to be played.

30 The Platonic doctrine about modes and their ethical effects gets into Ptolemy's Harmonics II, 7 and will influence many musicians and poets of the Renaissance.

31 See entry "History of Western Music," in NEB 1986. In Greece the word describing the poet as singer aidos is older than the one describing him as a maker, poietes (W. B. Stanford, The Sound of Greek, University of California Press, Berkeley 1967, p. 27).
The word mousiké describes dance, melody, poetry, and elementary education for the Greeks. Aristides Quintilianus in his De Musica ed. by R. P. Winnington-Ingram, Tubner, Leipzig 1963, I, 4; pp. 5-6) says that the pitch of the voice in poetry reading falls between singing and speech. A certain Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century says: "the distinction between oratory and music is simply one of degree" (On Literary Composition, trans. by W. Rhys Roberts,, MacMillan, London 1910, ch. XI, pp. 124-129.

After the fall of Athens, we find the ability of poets to write music and the ability of musicians to write poetry declining (Isobel Henderson, "Ancient Greek Music," The New Oxford History of Music, vol I, p. 400).

32 The best way to understand what he means by the music of old is to quote from the Laws 656d: "....The love of novelty which arises out of pleasure in the new and weariness of the old, has not strength enough to corrupt the consecrated song and dance, under the plea that they have become antiquated."

33 See also Timaeus, 37b, Cratylus 405c & d and Republic 546b on the influence of numbers in Plato's works.

34 All citations from Plato are taken from The Dialogues of Plato, trans. by B. Jowett, vols. 1-5, Oxford University Press, London 1933.

35 In the Protagoras 347, he makes what today one would regard as a sexist remark, namely that the auloi are for girls to play!

36 From a metaphysical point of view, he puts it another way: "Like likes like" (Gong. 510c).

37 See entry "Greece" #6, Intonation in New Grove.

38 The rest of this chapter is based upon an important work by Gilbert Rouget, Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relations between Music and Possession, trans. by Brunhilde Biebuych, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1985, pp. 189 ff.

39 See Phaedrus 244b for mantic madness, the Symposium 17a for erotic madness, the Ion 534b for the poetic madness. In the Ion 536b, the word for enthusiasm, possessed (katokoche) and enmaddened or mainomenos are used as synonyms to describe this possession. In the same section, the phrase "mighty chain" is used to describe what happens when the gods possess the poet. Again in the Phaedrus 265b, each of these states is called an "inspiration" (epinoia) .

40 For those who read newspaper accounts of "rock" concerts, sometimes the word "mesmerize" is used to describe its success. Hypnosis was first called this by Franz Mesmer (see NEB, "Hypnosis"). The exciting and hysterical-like behavior of rock fans (certain gestures especially) is something that has been accepted as a valued stereotyped form of behavior to concentrate one's attention on the music and its associated meanings. Arabic and Armenian peoples, for example, also learn this cultural phenomenon. Their music, together with training by the customs associated with certain pieces of music, seems to be able to arouse people to act in other than ordinary patterns as a form of release from tensions and similar difficulties, particularly through the dance.

41 I will put the word "music" within quotation marks because it seems to be the case that poetry, rhythm, melody and harmony are all one for Aristotle even though he occasionally seems to distinguish these elements. Other times, he seems to blur these distinctions.

42 All citations of Aristotle are from The Works of Aristotle, ed. and trans. by J. A. Smith and W. D. Ross, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1912.

43 Even though the author(s) of the Aristotelian work Problems (31a) speak(s) of harmony, magadizing is singing in octaves by men and boys. Number 17 speaks of fourths and fifths as not sung in parallel with the octave. From this, it is reasonably concluded that harmony in the above context means very little from the modern perspective.

44 Real things are not numbers (On the Heavens, 290b II. 21-3; Meta. 985b I. 32, -986d, 1.2; 1090a II. 20-13). He is opposed to numerology or a musical symbolism like the twenty-four notes of the aulos as the sign of the whole choir of heaven. Yet in Topics 139b, II, 37-38 and On the Soul 408a, II, 5-10, he says that some kind of harmonic arrangement or a ratio can be used to describe the soul.

45 In the Politics, 1340a 29, he maintains gratuitously that the non-aural arts cannot represent character. This may explain why his school will claim that music is the most imitative of the arts. In the work previously cited (which is attributed to the school of Aristotle and may have continued until the fifth century A.D.), called Problems, (XIX, 23, 919b; 35, 920b; 38, 920b; 27, 919b), the school comes to the conclusion that music is superior to painting. The idea, based upon Aristotle's earlier and authentic works, is that music idealizes by musical tones the inner emotional life of mood and activity of man. Today, some philosophers of aesthetics would say that some kinds of music (purely instrumental from the 18th century onwards) abstract more or less from specific concepts of human life.

46 In another work, Aristotle tries to show that in the visual arts one can enjoy a picture either in itself or in relationship to something else (which by analogy holds true for music, as we shall see in a later chapter):

...In reply we suggest that this very thing is quite conceivable, no, actually occurs in experience. A picture painted on a panel is at once a picture and a likeness: that is, while one and the same, it is both of these, although the being of both is not the same, and one may contemplate it either as a picture, or as a likeness. Just in the same way we have to conceive that the mnemonic presentation within us is something which by itself is merely an object of contemplation, while in relation to something else, it is also a representation of that other thing. In so far as it is regarded in itself, it is also an object of contemplation, or a presentation; when considered as relative to something else, e.g., as its likeness, it is also a mnemonic token (On the Memory, 450b 16-28).

47 In another context, he will call them the arts of play or the pleasurable arts (Nic. Eth. ll6b, 35-37).

48 This is an inference of Dominic Rover, O.P. which Aristotle suggests but never quite conies to himself. See Rover's The Poetics of Maritain: A Thomistic Critique, The Thomist Press, Washington D. C. 1965, p. 83.

49 Thomas Aquinas will continue this opinion in S.T., I, 32, 8.

50 See entry, "Music, History of Western" in NEB.

51 Clement of Alexandria, an early Father of the Church, in the Paedagogous II, iv speaks from a similar point of view point of view:

After reverently attending to the discourse about God, they left what they had heard within, while outside they amuse themselves with godless things, with the plucking of strings and the erotic wailing of aulos, defiling themselves with dancing, drunkenness and every sort of trash. Those who sing thus and sing in response are those who hymned immorality before, but sing finally, wicked and wickedly; that vicious recantation: ' let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.' Taken from Music in Early Christian Literature, ed. by James McKinnon, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987, p. 33.

52 Here and for the rest of the chapter, the word music takes on a different meaning than of poetry, etc. Hence I will no longer put the word in quotation marks.

53 The Harmonics of Aristoxenus, ed. and trans. by Henry Macran, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, London 1902.

54 De Musica of Philodemus as found in Contemplating Music: Source Readings in Aesthetics of Music, Vo1.1; Substance, ed. by Ruth Katz and Carl Dahlhaus, Pendragon Press, New York 1987, pp. 286-291.

55 W. B. Stanford, The Sound of Greek, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1967, p. 27.

56 Aristides Quintilianus, De Musica, ed. by R. P. Winnington-Ingram, Tubner, Leipzig, 1963, I, 4; pp. 5-6.

57 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Literary Composition, trans. by W. Rhys Roberts, MacMillan, London 1910, ch . XI, pp. 124-129.

58 Roberts, pp. 194-195.

59 Isobel Henderson, "Ancient Greek Music," in The New Oxford History of Music, vol I, p. 400.

60 R.P. Winnington-Ingram, Mode in Ancient Greek Music, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1936.

61 John Hollander, The Untuning of the Sky, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1961, pp. 35-36.

62 James Anderson Winn, Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1981, p. 22. As a footnote to the history of music, it is to be noted that the myth surrounding the modes and their ethical effects gets into Ptolemy's Harmonics II, 7 and will influence many musicians and poets of the renaissance.

63 However, Julius Portnoy says in The Philosopher and Music A Historical Outline, The Humanities Press, New York 1954, that Aristonexus was the first of the philosophers to formulate an aesthetics of music based on humanistic values. He tried to shy away from the moral issues and purely mathematical interpretations of music to which both Plato and Aristotle held. He believed that sense and reason, the power to hear and ability to discriminate should enable one to judge for himself whether a given piece of music is good or not. He refused to accept the view that any preconceived systematic metaphysics, or traditional doctrine of morality, or Pythagorean reduction of musical tonalities to mathematics, are in themselves valid criteria for an evaluation of music (pp. 225-226).


Part I: Development through Albert the Great

General perspectives on the Church Fathers

Among the theoreticians of music aesthetics, there is a strong opinion or prejudice that the Fathers of the Church hindered greatly the development of music.[1] But it will be my purpose to show that G. K. Chesterton's analysis is the more correct position. He says:

...The Church fathers ethically distinguished between sacred and secular strains, between Christian and pagan tunes. Through music the illiterate Christian could be taught the Holy Text, even if it required an aesthetic marriage between an infectious pagan tune and a Scriptural passage. The Church fathers thwarted new musical tendencies lest some Roman or Hebraic influence disturb the spiritual simplicity of Christian life and worship, and the leaders of the Reformation reiterated these musical tendencies to protect their own faith, rather than profiting from aesthetic fallacies of the Mother Church.[2]

James McKinnon maintains that since musicians had such a low status in Roman times, music-making was not an important part of education. Musicians were looked upon as actors; their very instruments suggested sexual immorality by their shape. The very same ideas, that are found in Sallust, Lucian, and Livy, were echoed by the early Fathers in reducing the status of music as such.[3]

Likewise, it seems clear that the music of antiquity did not really know the distinction between religious and secular music since the theater was but the extension of the altar.[4] Quasten makes the point that the reason for trying to stop early Christians from singing songs in their homes was due to the fact that popular music tended to be a form of idol worship.[5] Moreover, there was a fear of devil worship as well:

Even your rejoicing must be conducted with fear and trembling. For the Christian who is faithful ought to sing neither a heathen hymn nor an obscene song, since he will be obliged by the hymn to mention the demonic names of idols, and in place of the Holy Spirit the evil one will enter into him (Apostolic Constitutions V, X, 2).[6]

Nevertheless, the eminent English historian Henry Chadwick makes some very interesting observations regarding music of the early Church.[7] It seems quite clear that since it was already a custom to sing in the synagogue, the early Christians would do the same, especially taking over the untranslatable "alleluia" from the Hebrew. Celsus, a strong critic of Christianity (against whom Irenaeus writes), resents the beauty of Christian singing. As we shall see below, dancing and melodies without inhibition and restraint were banished de rigueur by the early Fathers.[8] By the fourth century, a difficulty emerged whereby certain kinds of music were said to obscure the meaning of the words, which probably led Athanasius to encourage speech rhythm for singing, and may help explain some of Augustine's qualms about melody and prayer. In addition, the doctrine of Katanyxis is found in the monks of the fourth century. What it means is that the monk should be praying with tears, sighing, deep sense of contrition, holy fear and trembling. So the use of sweet melodies, while good for ordinary Christians, is to be avoided by the monks.[9] Otherwise, as Chadwick points out, what music was sung can "hardly be told." By the sixth century, however, the singing of Rome becomes the model for the rest of the Western Churches and by the ninth, Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) seems to get the credit as the chants are now called "Gregorian."[11] It is interesting to note in a letter by Pope Leo IV to Abbot Honoratus that it is said that if the abbot does not use the Gregorian chant for the singing at Mass and office, he will consider excommunication![12]

Taking a cue from Acts 4.24, 1 Cor. 10.17, Eph. 4.3-4, 5.18-19, Rom. 15.6, Rev. 5.13 and even II Chron. 5.13, some early Fathers will speak a great deal about music and oneness, unity and accord (see Ignatius Ad. Ephes. 4; Ad Rom. 2; Irenaeus Adv. haer. 2.25,2). Likewise, women are to sing in the early church. Ambrose (En. in Ps. I) will argue that participation of women in song is based upon koinonia. Also, the phenomena of "tongues", enthusiasm and ecstasy are sometimes found in some church services, as we shall see with Augustine's notion on Alleluia.

Because the playing of music was so common among the various cultures around Palestine, there was a tendency on the part of some Fathers to refer to musical instruments as metaphors for spiritual consideration. For example, Clement of Alexandria calls Christ the harp, sometimes the pipe as well as the temple, the minstrel of the believer. He is in favor of training the young in certain instruments (Strom. 6. 11; 9. 2), since David used the harp and lyre for accompaniment (Paed. 1. 4 [PG VIII, 439-46]). Yet in other places he attacks them and the flute, the dance and "amatory quavering" (3. 11).

By the middle of the second century, references to instrumental accompaniment appear, and continue to do so through the fifth century, as we shall see. The post-Apostolic references. to instrumental usage run the gamut of attitudes: from cordial approval, to mere mention, to a grudging toleration, from a spiritualization, to the severest condemnation. Sometimes the same Father manifests more than one attitude - mixed feelings - toward the practice. As Quasten remarks, speaking about the times of the early church: "The archeological monuments also bear witness to an extravagant love of music (...)."[13]

Various reasons manifest themselves or can be conjectured as the basis of the critical attitude of the Fathers toward the practice of using musical instruments:

a. most important of all, at least ostensibly, is the association of instruments with the worship of false gods;

b. the employment of instruments at secular excesses such as the theater and the circus;

c. the sensuality of instrumental music and its aesthetic effects meeting the rigorous asceticism of some of the Fathers;

d. closely related to this was the contempt in some of the Father's contemporaries of the "spirituality" of worship, the logisay pateria. To apply this concept meant for some of the Fathers that any reference to instruments must be "spiritualized," and that unaccompanied song - in extreme cases, silent, inaudible song - is the ideal to be exalted;

e. the concept of una voce dicentes;[14]

f. the association of instruments with the Jewish Temple cult may have caused a reaction on the part of the Fathers. It is true that some of the Fathers mention this usage and argue that it was only tolerated by God on account of the weakness of the Jews. These Fathers were motivated by apologetic reasons, and not the fear of being Judaized.[15]

One author sums up the musical situation of the early Church succinctly:

Five phenomena of the New Testament times which have a special bearing upon the musical praise of the early church have been surveyed: (I) the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life and worship of the Church, (2) the need for a "new song" to celebrate the work of God in Christ, (3) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and pneumatic gifts, including some that were specifically musical, (4) the important place in the worship service of the liturgical actions in connection with the Lord's Supper and baptism, (5) the connection of suffering and martyrdom with song. Taken all together, these data create an exceedingly strong probability that from the outset, fresh, more or less original compositions were included in the musical praise of the Christian Church. This probability is confirmed by: (1) the explicit testimony of the Fathers, (2) the existence of hymns and fragments, including those to be found within the New Testament itself, and certainly those extant from a slightly later period.[16]

The Fathers of the Church, sometimes influenced by writings of Plato and the Pythagorean tradition, sometimes by Hebrew attitudes, sometimes simply in reaction to the corrupt pagan liturgical or theatrical music of their times, reveal much that indicates both the importance and the problems of music for their times. Their judgments about music, in general and in particular, revolve around many factors or circumstances. For example, certain musical instruments of their times were used by the temple worship and also at licentious meals.[17] Second, these and other instruments were also used at the pagan liturgies to their various gods.[18] Third, much, if not most of the dramas and dances were of a lascivious nature.[19]

A word of caution is in order. It has to be kept in mind that those Fathers who were negative about the music of their period were not making aesthetic judgments about pure music, a recent art by historical standards. Rather, most of these Fathers were condemnatory about drunkenness and lust which in many instances linked music and instruments with lewd words and dances. We read Clement of Alexandria saying, for example:

Let carousing be absent from our rational enjoyment, and also foolish vigils which revel in drunkenness.. .Let lust, intoxication and irrational passions be far removed from our native choir.. .The regular movements of auloi, psalteries, choruses, dances, Egyptian clappers and other such playthings become altogether indecent and uncouth, especially when joined by beating cymbals and tympana and accompanied by the noisy instruments of deception. Such a symposium it seems to me, becomes nothing but a theater of drunkenness....[20]

Here we must keep in mind the obvious immoral context of both the instruments and the music. Moreover, in another context, Clement makes mention that the syrinx and aulos are used to trap animals or help them mate. So likewise the very same instruments can lead men to become obsessed with "bestial" experiences.[21] Further, he says that temperate harmonies as distinct from "chromatic" harmonies (what today we call the use of "flats and sharps" in scales) are to be admitted, but pliant harmonies are to be "driven as far as possible from a robust mind. These through their sinuous strains instruct one in weakness and lead to ribaldry, but the grace and temperate melodies bid farewell to the arrogance of drunkenness."[22] Somewhat later, Gregory of Nazianzus will say that the musicians who play the aulos represent the devil in their gestures of rocking back and forth as if "to flaunt blasphemously at the inhabitants of heaven. "" It is not surprising then, reading the Canons of Basil or the Apostolic Constitutions, that even learning to play musical instruments such as the aulos or cithara is condemned.[24]

Another Father, Arnobius, might sound as though he is speaking against modern dancing when he rails against "bizarre movements of the body," forming rings of dancers who raise "their buttocks and hips to the sway of the rippling motion of their loins...[25] but in the context, he is describing something contrary to moral standards, not stylistic dancing for its own sake. As Isidore of Pelusium[26] describes a drinking party, he speaks of the bewitching qualities of cymbals and "other instruments of deception." He says in another Epistle (I, 90) that sweet melodies are used to arouse lustful passion.

Marriage rites always included a wedding reception where fertility songs were sung. So, the Fathers speak against music and dancing in that context also.[27] Marriage is a mystery of faith (Eph. 5.32), but the pagan customs of drunkenness and lewd singing go contrary to this meaning.[28] Likewise, it is not surprising that John Chrysostom speaks of these parties where people become like brutes rather than men: "they neigh like horses and kick like asses."[29] A local synod tried to forbid Christians from "leaping and dancing" at these parties![30]

Now, we must turn to the other side of the picture where we find the Fathers engaged in a theology of sacred music for the liturgy, including their occasional psychological observations on the value of sacred music for its restful benefit to the emotions. When emotions are at rest, then the presumption is that one can practice certain virtues more easily especially towards one's neighbor. Once again, with one very important exception made by Augustine, the music they are citing is intimately linked with words, namely the psalms of David and some particular Christian hymns. Unfortunately, none of their melodies are extant.

The Great Greek Fathers

Athanasius makes it clear that singing the psalms is not done for "a desire for pleasing sound, but is a manifestation of harmony among the thoughts of the soul....[31] Isidore of Pelusium in another interesting analysis of the psychological effects of singing the psalms, perhaps anticipating contemporary psychology about the idea of false suppression/repression, makes the following observations:

If the Holy One tolerated blood and sacrifice because of the childishness of men at the time, why do you wonder that the music of cithara and psaltery was used, which, some say, heals the passions of the souls and alleviates pain, soothes anger and assuages grief through tears. For many, as they say, by suppressing tears have succumbed to different afflictions.[32]

Regarding sung music and the practice of virtue, Basil the Great has developed a theology about singing psalms that still has relevance today:

What did the Holy Spirit do when he saw that the human race was not led easily to virtue, and that due to our penchant for pleasure we gave little heed to an upright life? He mixed sweetness of melody with doctrine so that inadvertently we would absorb the benefit of the words through gentleness and ease of hearing, just as clever physicians frequently smear the cup with honey when giving the fastidious some rather bitter medicine to drink. Thus he contrived for us these harmonious psalm tunes, so that those who are children in actual age as well as those who are young in behavior, while appearing only to sing would in reality be training their souls. For not one of these many indifferent people ever leaves church easily retaining in memory some maxim of either the Apostles or the Prophets, but they do sing the texts of the Psalms at home and circulate them in the marketplace.[33]

Basil goes on to show how singing these psalms increases what Aquinas, among others, will call the greatest of all virtues:

A psalm is tranquillity of soul and arbitration of peace; it settles one's tumultuous and seething thoughts. It mollifies the soul's wrath and chastens its recalcitrance. A psalm creates friendships, unites the separated and reconciles those at enmity. Who can still consider one to be a foe with whom one utters the same prayer to God! Thus psalmody provides the greatest of all goods, charity, by devising in its common song a certain bond of unity, and by joining together the people into the concord of a single chorus.[34]

Continuing the same theme, Basil speaks of the importance of variety in prayer and psalmody which restores "concentration"[35] and "favors the soul with a state of happiness and freedom from care."[36]

Knowing the famous story of Pythagoras, Basil uses it in a letter to youth to develop a sound pastoral principle that morally had music must be countered with morally good music:

The passions born of illiberality and baseness of spirit are naturally occasioned by this sort of music. But we must pursue that other kind, which is better and leads to the better, and which, as they say, was used by David that author of sacred songs, to soothe the king in his madness. And it is said that Pythagoras, upon encountering some drunken revellers, commanded the aulete who was leading their song to change the mode and to play the Dorian for them. They were so sobered by this music that tearing off their garlands they returned home ashamed. Others dance to the aulos in the manner of the Corybantes and Baccantes. Such is the difference in filling one's ears with wholesome or wicked tunes! And since the latter type now prevails, you must have less to do with it than any utterly depraved thing.[37]

St. John Chrysostom saw both the intrinsic goodness and sound psychology of using holy music that comes from God, and gives a practical reason why it is so necessary for the human spirit:

When God saw that the majority of men were slothful and that they approached spiritual reading with reluctance and submitted to the effort involved without pleasure - wishing to make the task more agreeable and to relieve the sense of laboriousness - he mixed melody with prophecy, so that enticed by the rhythm and melody, all might raise sacred hymns to him with great eagerness. For nothing so arouses the soul, gives it wing, sets it free from earth, releases it from the prison of the body, teaches it to love wisdom, and to condemn all the things of this life, as concordant melody and sacred song composed in rhythm.[38]

In the same commentary, he recognizes that musical pleasure from musical instruments is "natural to the soul" but it can bring either "profit" or "destruction," the destruction being that "the Holy Spirit flies swiftly from the soul who sings such songs." "Knowing their [man's] thoughtlessness, laziness and carelessness," such "enticement" by the "sweetness of melody" enables the human person to pay attention to what God is trying to teach him.[39]

Ambrose and Augustine

It was the great geniuses of Ambrose and Augustine who gave more glimpses into the notion of "sacred music" that eventually proved valuable for understanding the rationale of "pure music." In speaking about singing the psalms, Ambrose who himself composed many original hymns still used today, says: "it softens anger, it gives release from anxiety, it alleviates sorrow. is a shield in time of fear. ..a pledge of peace and harmony... "[40] Singing a psalm seems to do many things for many different emotions from consoling the sad to restraining the joyful and tempering the angry. It "offers an appropriate medicine" and brings "the wholesome remedy of penitential tears. "[41] Recognizing that human persons "avoid what is difficult, even if beneficial," and will "accept virtually nothing unless it seems to offer pleasure," he goes on to say that the Lord through David prepared a sweet potion through the melody of the psalms when they are sung so that the harshness of the commandments are remembered and countered through the "suavity of song."[42] In other words, the sweetness allied to the words themselves is a remedy.

Waxing eloquent and squeamish as well, Augustine speaks of the Beata vita of heaven consisting in music of both voices and strings. He also notes in passing (de Libero Arbitrio ii, 13, 35) that there are many who consider themselves miserable if they have no music. In yet another place (De Doctrina Christiana ii, 18, 28) he has nothing but contempt for the muses as offering no more than empty entertainment. This contempt is based on their incitement to sin, as we have seen from other Fathers. Yet, on the other hand, he says in Sermo 336, n. 1, "song befits the lover." In the following passage, we find him linking goodness, emotion and church music together:

How much I wept at your hymns and canticles, deeply moved by the voices of your sweetly singing church. Those voices flowed into my ears, and the truth was poured out in my heart, whence a feeling of piety surged up and my tears ran down. And these things were good for me (Augustine, Confessions IX, vi).[43]

In another chapter of the Confessions, Augustine raises a question that has haunted the theology of liturgical music until the present, the tension between sacred texts and sweet melodies. Can the sweetness of melody become an obstacle to the words and, if so, what to do about it? It has been a long-standing problem within liturgics and monastic spirituality. Here Augustine shows what the tensions consists in:

The delight of the ear drew me and held me more firmly, but you unbound and liberated me. Now I confess that to repose just a little in those sounds to which your words give life, when they are sung by a sweet and skilled voice; not such that I cling to them, but that I can arise out of them when I wish. But it is with the words by which they have life that they gain entry into me, and seek in my heart a place of some honor, even if I scarcely provide them a fitting one. Sometimes I seem to myself to grant them more respect than is fitting, when I sense that our souls more piously and earnestly are moved to the ardor of devotion by these sacred words when they are thus sung than when not thus sung, and that all the affections of our soul, by their own diversity, have their proper measure (...) in voice and song, which are stimulated by I know not what secret correspondence.. .(Confessions X, xxxiii, 49-50).[44]

Augustine continues to say that he may be too severe in wishing to cut these delightful melodies out of his life, remembering the words of Athanasius who wanted readers of the psalms to use very little musical inflection. But he goes on and remembers his own experience to the contrary, when singing brought tears of repentance to his eyes. He distinguishes between what is important for a beginner and what may be important for someone advanced in the ways of God. Perhaps, he knew of the Canons of Basil where it is said (can. 97) that those singing at the altar should not do so with pleasure but understanding.[45]

In a commentary on the psalms,[46] Augustine considers a kind of sacred music without words. This wordless song comes from an excess of joy and may have something to do with the composition of later Gregorian chant's lingering vowel at the end of an "alleluia." He calls this exultant spirit a "jubilation." It is similar, he says, to workers in the fields who are gladdened by a successful harvest and "insert certain sounds without words." So, in a similar manner, one who jubilates does so because he cannot explain in words that "in which he delights."[47]

St. Augustine has an influence on the study of music as a propaedutic for philosophy during the Middle Ages. However, his book De Musica does not influence the art of music but rather the study of proportions. Here in essence is his argument:

M. But don't you think art is a sort of reason?

D. It seems so.

M. Therefore whoever cannot use reason, does not use art.

D. I grant that too.

M. Then either you would be forced to say magpies, parrots and crows are rational, or you have been pretty rash in calling imitation by the name of art. For we find that those birds sing and make many sounds because of their intercourse with human beings, and they utter them only by imitation...It seems to you if imitation were done away with, nearly all the arts would be destroyed. And for this it can be concluded that anyone who does something by imitating, uses an art, although perhaps not everyone who uses an art, acquires it by imitation. But if all imitation is art, and all art reason, all imitation is reason. But an irrational animal does not use reason; therefore it does not possess an art. But it is capable of imitation; therefore art is not imitation (I. 7-11).[48]

Here reason means proportion. True musicians then contemplate the truth of numbers but mere flute players, for example, simply perform by ear and so are not very reasonable. The true purpose of music, therefore, is to express the eternal proportions of God's universe which transcend mere sense-impressions.[49]

Philosophical influences

Plotinus (205-270), the pagan neo-platonist, claimed to bring out of Plato what was implicit in him. His disciple, Porphyry, a pagan philosopher as well,[50] arranged his writings in the Enneads, a series of nine treatises.[51] Plotinus teaches that good conduct and character is beautiful. Seeing something beautiful causes joy because it recognizes an affinity to itself (Enneads I, 6, 2). Also he says somewhere that beauty may sometimes remind us of a higher beauty and sometimes may distract from the infinite or the beyond of beauty. As the soul becomes beautified, it becomes like God (Enneads I, 6, 6). Recognizing that music can bring a sense of beauty, he says concerning it:

(I, 6, 4) Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight; but there is a beauty for the hearing too as in certain combinations of words and in all kinds of music, for melodies and cadences are beautiful; and minds that lift themselves above the realm of sense to a higher order are aware of beauty in the conduct of life, in actions, in character, in the pursuits of the intellect; and there is the beauty of the virtues. What loftier beauty there may be, yet, our argument will bring to light.[52]

Music also has the poetic purpose of making man attentive to some truth that should be examined because it somehow (he does not explain this) binds the irrational appetite (IV. 4. 40.).

Harmonies unheard create the harmonies we hear and wake the soul to the consciousness of beauty, showing it the one essence in another state; for the measures of our music are not arbitrary, but are determined by the Principle whose labor is to dominate matter and bring pattern into being (IV, 10, 5: see also I, 6, 3).[53] All artists, however, find their source in the nature of the self:

No doubt the wisdom of the artist may be the guide of the work; it is sufficient explanation of the wisdom exhibited in the arts; but the artist himself goes back, after all, to that wisdom in Nature which is embodied in himself; and this is not wisdom built up of theorems but one totality, not a wisdom consisting of manifold detail coordinated into unity but rather a unity working out into detail (5, 8, 5).[54]

A great student of Plato and translator of Aristotle, wielding enormous influence in the Middle Ages and afterwards, was the Roman philosopher Boethius (480-524). He deduced from Plato that the soul in some way is bound by musical relationships.[55] Music must keep the soul either in harmony or the reverse; in the latter case, it corrupts human nature. What music we listen to is determined in large part by our character. For Boethius, since music is essentially mathematical in structure, good music must be as exacting as possible so as not to mar its ethical nature.[56] Virtuous people will listen to different modes other than lascivious ones.[57] Music can appeal to the passions or it can appeal to the intellect (by poetry or lyrics) as a means of inspiring study and sound morals.[58] As for musical instruments, he says,". . .Music was chaste and modest so long as it was played on simpler instruments, hut since it has come to be played in a variety of manner and confusedly, it has lost the mode of gravity and virtue, and fallen almost to baseness, preserving only a remnant of its ancient beauty."[59]

What is interesting is that Boethius probably did not listen much to music himself or play a musical instrument as the latter was considered a function appropriate only to women and those of the lower classes.[60] Nevertheless, his theory of music deeply influenced the aesthetics of the Middle Ages.[61] Also, the idea that music, if well done, is imitative of the order of the universe is itself an idea which Boethius passes on to the Middle Ages from Pythagoras, Plato and Plotinus and Boethius.

Another important contribution of Boethius which is likewise very influential for the Middle Ages, and which is derived in part from Plato, is the distinguishing of: musica mundana (cosmic harmony of the universe), musica humana (the order of the virtuous and healthy soul and body) and musica instrumentalis (audible music men make). The latter is not considered to be important, as the man who understands mathematical relationships is better than the man who practices.[62] What all these ideas basically do is keep musicians from creatively developing their own music for the liturgy while at the same time by forcing church authorities to concentrate upon and conserve Gregorian Chant but without giving a concise theology of liturgical music.

Julius Portnoy helps us see the influence of Boethius concerning music and morality when he says about him:

...What he actually tried to accomplish was the reconciliation of the moralistic strain in Plato with his own interpretation of the scientific one in was carried about by the medieval musicians who created the Boethian legend which reverted to the Pythagorean theme that if music is to imitate the harmony of the spheres, then musical composition must be as precise as the laws which govern the celestial bodies. Morality in music thus became dependent on science, and the science of music eventually resulted in stereotyped forms.[63]

Declared a Doctor of the Church in the 1700's, St. Isidore of Seville (560-636), whose brother was also a saint (Leander), wrote a famous book on etymology, among other works. In regard to the theme of this dissertation, he has an extraordinarily concise outline of the relevance of music and emotions which will pass into the Middle Ages:

Thus without music no discipline can be perfect, there is nothing without it. For the very universe, it is said, is held together by a certain harmony of sounds, and the heavens themselves are made to revolve by the modulation of harmony. Music moves the feelings and changes the emotions. In battles, moreover, the sound of the trumpet rouses the combatants, and the more furious the trumpeting, the more valorous their spirit. Song likewise encourages the rowers; music soothes the mind to endure toil, and the modulation of the voice consoles the weariness of each labor. Music also composes distraught minds, as may be read of David, who freed Saul from the unclean spirit by the art of melody. The very beasts also, even serpents, birds and dolphins, music incites to listen to her melody. But every word we speak, every pulsation of our veins, is related by musical rhythms to the powers of harmony.[64]

Cassiodorous (490-585) seems to he the first philosopher who held that music can bring the human person into harmonious relations with God and that man can engender different modes (other than Plato's or Aristotle's) as a catharsis which expels anxiety and other disturbing emotions. Again there is no hard evidence for what he is talking about. To commit sin, he continues, implies that music does not exist in us (Inst. Div. Litt. II, 5, 2; Var. II, 38 C). He adds to the myth that the musician as theorist is defined by adherence to rules, and that somehow (without explanation), embodied in proportioned sound are universal truths.[65]

Twelfth-century transitional figures

John of Salisbury (1120-1180), secretary of St. Thomas Becket, curial official, bishop of Chartres and author of Policatius (which explicates how the Church is the soul of society), has something to say about the state of the liturgical music of his time. In some ways, he is describing the early beginnings of a particular art form called the motet in his De nugis curialiam. In this rather sarcastic paragraph, we find the problem of how church officials among others often deal with musical innovations:

Bad taste has, however, degraded even religious worship, bringing into the presence of God, into the recesses of the sanctuary a kind of luxurious and lascivious singing, full of ostentation, which with female modulation astonishes and enervates the souls of the hearers. When you hear the soft harmonies of the various singers, some taking high and others low parts, some singing in advance, some following in the rear, others with pauses and interludes, you would think yourself listening to a concert of sirens rather than of men, and wonder at the power of voices, which the nightingale or the mockingbird, or whatever is most tuneful among birds, could not equal. Such is the facility of running up and down the scale; so wonderful the shortening or multiplying of the notes, the repetition of the phrases, or their emphatic utterance; the treble and shrill notes are so mingled with tenor and bass, that the ears lost their power of judgement. When this goes to excess, it is more fitted to excite lust than devotion; but if it is kept in the limits of moderation, it drives away care from the soul and the solicitudes of life, confers joy and peace and exultation in God, and transports the soul to the society of the angels...[66]

In another context, he praises chant accompanied by musical instruments. This is the first witness that we have of this innovation which will occasionally be commented upon both positively and negatively through the subsequent history of the church:

The Holy Fathers, in order to continue custom and to draw souls towards the joyful worship of Our Lord, thought it well to have recourse not only to chant but also to the harmony of instruments, on condition that such was done in a manner that would help souls to become more united to the Lord and increase their respect for the Church (cap. 6).[67]

St. Aelred (1109-1166) – called the Bernard of the north, abbot of Rievaulx, adviser to kings and ecciesiastics alike – is well known for his theology of friendship. In a passing section of his hook Speculum charitatis, book 2, chapter 23, he makes some caustic remarks about what he considers an abuse of music and musicians. It is placed here to show what happens when musicians try to create something new, and authorities feel repelled by the attempts. Such comments as those in the following paragraph are indicative of the problem when anyone's sense of musical taste seems to be violated:

We are not considering those who are openly bad, we will speak to those who cloak their sensual delights with the pretext of religion; who turn to the service of their own vanity what the ancient Fathers religiously exercised as a figure of future things. But now the types and figures are come to an end, how comes it that the Church has so many organs and cymbals? To what purpose is that terrible blowing of bellows, imitating rather the crash of thunder than the sweetness of the human voice? One sings low, another higher, a third higher still, while a fourth puts in every now and then some supplemental notes. At one time the voice is trained, at another broken off. Now it is jerked out emphatically, and then again it is lengthened out in a dying fall. Sometimes, emphatically, and I write it with the same, it is forced into the whinnying of a horse, and sometimes it lays aside its manly power, and puts on the shrillness of a woman's voice, or it is made to twist and turn first one way, and then back again in artificial circumvolutions. You may see a man with his mouth wide open, not singing but rather breathing forth his pent-up breath, and with ridiculous interceptions of his voice, now threatening silence, and then imitating the agonies of the dying or of men in ecstasies. The whole body is agitated by theatrical gestures, the lips are twisted, the eyes roll, the shoulders are shrugged, and the fingers bent responsive to every note; and this ridiculous trifling is called religion, and where it is carried out most frequently, there it is maintained that God is served most honorably...[68]

Albert the Great

By the time of the thirteenth century. popular music was provided by different groups. Goliards was the name for theological students who travelled from university to university and degenerated into vagantes. They took to composing innumerable parodies based on sacred texts.[69] Jongleurs, on the other hand, were itinerant musical poets of the Middle Ages who kept the art of music alive. They were news bearers, spontaneous theatrical performers and singers.[70] In general they were considered a threat to Christian morality, yet paradoxically they were kept in monasteries and bishops' residences from time to time as the entertainers for parties and festivals. They also helped the knightly troubadours.[71] The minnesinger is the German equivalent and the troubadours is the French equivalent of the trouvère whose songs dealt with love, religion, politics and intrigue. They questioned the divine role and social powers of the popes. The church (monasteries and other centers of learning) tended to consider their folk-music too vulgar and unworthy of being recorded. Hence we have almost nothing of their musical output. It is with these circumstances in mind that we now consider some of the notions of Albert the Great on music.[72]

Albert, with a scientific and theoretical bent of mind in the mold of Aristotle, rejects the notion of the "music in the spheres" as ridiculous and adds to Aristotle's reasons for the same rejection that if it existed, the sounds would be destructive and more unbearable than thunder storms (see his commentary on De Caelo et Mundo, cap. 2; ed. by Borguet, iv, 193). Speaking of the causes of good music, he states as an observation that what causes delight in music is the balance of proportions as perceived by the human person and the absence of it is distasteful, while rests in music make choral singing sweeter than continuous sound (Sumna theologiae, ii; xxxii, 601).

Concerning questions of liturgical music, which is probably the only kind of music he knew very intimately, he has several passing references. To describe the singing of the liturgy, he says that worshipful singing expresses sublime spiritual joy (Super Isaiam, cap. 51:). Chant seems to purify (the emotions) with readings and also leads to contemplation on the part of beginners or the "perfect" (see his commentary on Pseudo-Dionysius, De ecclesiasticus hierarchia: xiv, 962ff). In a gloss on the word raptus found in a work De tripudio by Pseudo-Pythagoras, he writes concerning sacred music that it "shows men a realm of innocence" and like medicine, it "... soothes the passions through the pleasure it gives."

Speaking about music, he says that it is akin to a game which purifies the emotions either for good or depravity. (See his commentary on Politics VIII of Aristotle, cap. 2-4). Moreover, song is a means of communicating heartfelt feelings for special occasions (see Super IV Sententiarum, xxix, 633). Finally he offers a good word (apparently the first of its kind by a major author of renown) concerning musicians as such, saying that the professional musician can be a servant of real taste, whose music can be "liberalis et honesta" (Super Lucam, cap. 7, 32). Such comments, albeit made only in passing, lead one to believe that Albert possessed an unusual ability to fathom the mystery of what music can do for the person.


With the coming of Christ, the early Church attempted to shape and develop the over-all collective life of its flock. Believing that Jesus's way was freedom, anything giving in to devil worship, drunkenness and the like was to be rooted out of their lives. Musical pieces then were preached against because of the bad connotations of the words, from the worshipping of local gods to anything that contradicted the "good news." At the same time, however, the Fathers needed to find a new music which would rouse emotions toward the Kingdom, alleviate anxieties, foster charity, harmony and peace. They did this by encouraging music which always linked itself with the sacred texts in keeping with the ideas of Plato. Based upon the sound psychology that people love pleasure, suggesting that "hard sayings" should be presented in delightful melodies, the Fathers launched out by trying to smear the bitter medicines of doctrine and duty with the "honey" of music. Knowing full well how easily the message of Christ is forgotten and how difficult it is to concentrate, they attempted to encourage melodies and words precisely to alleviate anxieties and fears. Augustine, the great thinker of that period, recognized that love needs song to express itself in terms of tenderness and tears. He saw that the tears of repentance feel good. He poses the great troublesome question, however, whether or not the sweetness of melody can get in the way of devotion. He sees the answer in terms of whether the person is a beginner or more advanced. Likewise, he recognizes that some music can be without words and writes a defense of wordless music which he recognizes is rich in associations - the key to the debate over wordless music's effects upon morality, already alluded to in the introduction of this work.

Also, the philosophers of his period brought up the notion of beauty (first spoken of by Plato),13 teaching that the sound of music can suggest the infinite beauty of God. The development of this concept helped the Church save her liturgical music from becoming something less than it is.

When musicians try to advance their art creatively, there is usually a firm negative reaction from people who are used to more familiar melodies (recall the Problemata). In retrospect the harsh criticisms of two examples cited above seem humorous, but they were meant in dead earnest.

Albert the Great's breadth of vision in speaking about music and musicians may or may not have influenced either Aquinas or the church, as his remarks were only made in passing as is largely true of Aquinas as well. He carries on the Augustinian tradition about the emotions, contemplation and the liturgy but with a certain realism and originality gained possibly from following the Aristotelian dynamic of observation. He seems to show some great flashes of insight by relating music to play (we did not find the Greeks or others speaking about "playing music") and having a high regard for the vocation of the musician, even though as late as the 14th century, the musician was commonly regarded in the same category as any artisan.[74]

Part II: Aquinas Develops the Tradition

The difficulty that the common doctor of the Church presents us with is quite simple. He does not know the complexities of the problem of music and morals, clearly and distinctly; however, his writings contain the seeds or principles of a resolution. He repeats much of the traditional teaching on music. Yet here and there, as we shall see, he lays down some thoughts that, with further reflection, allow one to begin to go beyond the tradition.

Music as ars

Before actually taking up Aquinas's treatment of music, understood as a specific fine art today, it is necessary that some words be said about his treatment of ars in a general way.[75] Using the English word art tends to confuse the discussion because his virtue of ars includes painting but is a much richer notion, encompassing any kind of making or producing. Part of the difficulty in analyzing St. Thomas is that we live in a philosophical world which believes in art for art's sake or the autonomy of the fine arts from any moral reference.[76] In our romantic era, the artist, poet or musician is assumed to live in a world above the ordinary created world, going from one ecstasy of inspiration to another. Within certain boundaries, Aquinas says it is true that the artist has a certain disposition to find and grasp reality in all its varying moods (see S.T., II-II, 4 ad 2). There is a certain sense that the fine arts are a special and delightful world and have a relative autonomy all their own. Still, being products of man, they can be submitted to the judgments of the prudent person as well because he is interested in the consequences of the art-work on virtue.[77] From another point of view, in exalting the fine arts, there has been the tendency to devalue both the ordinary craftsman and the necessity of those engaged in the tine arts to labor accordingly.[78] Whatever one's outlook may be, looking at what many consider Thomas's antiquated notions on ars, we will be in a better position to understand and appreciate some of the sketches he will implicitly and explicitly offer to help us understand music's contextual relationship to morality.

Intellectual virtues and morality

Looking carefully at the texts where he speaks of the intellectual virtues, we can see that Thomas claims they do not make a person good per se (S.T., I-II, 57, 3 ad 2). They ally the mind, speculative or practical, either to understand reality or to make a reality. They involve "...right judgement about things produced." This latter aspect will preoccupy us. Perfecting the mind speculatively and practically certainly is a great good but of the intellect alone. Yet, the intellectual virtues in conjunction with the will can bring to the human race either tremendous services, or the reverse, destruction and evil, depending upon their uses; of themselves alone, they do not perfect man's relationships with others, with his emotions or himself overall. Science, wisdom and understanding and ars, then, do not incline us of themselves to doing the morally good, but to knowing reality, discovered or to be made (S.T., I-II, 57, 1). In that sense, they do not immediately and formally make a person morally good, rectifying his appetites. This is not to deny the inherent goodness of perfecting the mind. But, insofar as the philosopher, scientist or artifex offers others the services of his science or art-works in this very wide sense, all the arts and sciences seek a common goal, the perfection of humankind (Proemium in Metaph.).[79]

To the extent that the craftsman (arrifex) makes himself or herself personally good by way of other virtues inclining him or her to service, fidelity and the like, the more he will do the work faithfully, which is a kind of justice (II-II, 57, 3).[80] Since the craftsman is meant to be of service to humankind, then what he or she does may have a beneficent or deleterious effect morally speaking. In the Summa Theologiae (II-II, 94, 1), Thomas says and implies that the virtue of ars can be used for an evil or nefarious purpose since it may produce objects which human persons use for false worship in the practice of idolatry. From this consideration, one can draw the conclusion that a craftsman sins (in the objective order), even though the work may be either beautiful or helpful from other aspects. So, there is a relationship between ars and morality from the point of view of what the "thing" produced does to others. We humans are, in a certain sense, the end of all artificial things (Comm. In Phys., lib. II, cap. 4). From the vantage point of the "something" produced, it is not required that the maker be morally good but that the "something" produced be done well (S. T., I-II, 57, 5, ad 1). Certainly, the personal goodness of the maker will aid the dentist or the chef, but it will not substitute in an essential way for the art of making something well (from pulling a tooth or creating a magnificent "domenico" cake). Yet, it would be utterly naive to think that personal virtue has no bearing on making something, since a work of art is a "procession" of the whole man. As St. Thomas puts it: "There is a double procession of art, namely, the procession of art from the artist's heart, and of the art work from the art done itself" (Comm. de Sent., I, 32, 1).[82]

Now, it is also clear that there are two kinds of arts for St. Thomas: art for utility and art for beauty (In Div. Nom., 4, lect. 5, n. 354). Our next task is to examine what Aquinas means by beauty and what are its effects on the human person.[83]

The notion of beauty[84]

To see the relationship of music and morality, it is now necessary to explain something of St. Thomas's notions of the beautiful. While Aquinas has no formal work precisely on the question of beauty, yet he not only uses the word from time to time, but defines and incorporates the notion into many parts of his writings on a variety of subjects. As one looks at the many ways he defines and uses the word, it becomes evident that there is a relationship between it and the art of music and painting. While I shall abstract from the controversy over whether or not beauty is a transcendental of being, it must be clearly kept in mind that the word is analogous, since it is applied in many different contexts, as we shall see shortly. In Thomas's notion of beauty we find dynamic shifts of thought as the term "beauty" is applied to various subject matters. For example, in the Summa (S.T., I-II, 27, 1 ad 3), he says that there are beautiful sounds and beautiful sights but not beautiful odors (sopores vel odores). Earlier in his commentary on the Ethics, (In Eth., lib. 3, lect. 19, nn. 604-612), he classified odors with sights and sounds.[85]

While there is nothing to prevent the same object from being beautiful in both sensible and intelligible ways at the same time, (see In Ps., 25e, S.T., II-II, 145, 2), Aquinas's definition of beauty encapsulates much. From the perspective of one's own experience, he says the beautiful is that which when seen gives pleasure (S.T., I, 5, 4, ad 1). It adds to goodness a pleasure in apprehension (I-II, 27 1 ad 3). His definition by derivation includes that which is heard as well, and the pleasure encompasses both sensual and spiritual delight. However, it is interesting that when speaking about music's delight, he uses the word, "gratifying" (In Ps. 44; Div. Nom. 4. 5).

Scattered throughout his works, we discover what he further means by beauty. It is a disposition of the singular substance which is so proportioned in itself that it is suitable to human cognition (S.T., I-II, 55, 2, ad 1; In Th. Jer., cap. 4, g-h; In Div. Nom., cap. 4, lect. 5; S.T., I-II, 49, 2, ad 1). This proportion is called a kind of harmony (S.T., I, 4, 4, ad 1; I, 39, 8; II-II 145, 2; In I Sent., d. 31, 2, 1). This comes from the ordering of a thing to an end (In Div. Nom., c. 4, lect. 5, n. 339). Likewise it will differ in each case; that is, it will never simply be of one kind. Or, put another way: the beauty of one thing is not the beauty of another (In Ps, 44, 2). All of this different beauty comes from the form of the beautiful persons or things (S.T., I, 5, 4, ad 1). So the second property of beauty is splendor of form or brilliance (S.T., I, 39, 8c). Taking his cue from the visual arts, he says in the same place that "things which have a bright color are said to be beautiful."

Finally, beauty needs wholeness or integrity (S.T., I, 39, 8). It is perfect when it has its first perfection in being what it should be; and secondly, when it has its proper operation in act (IV Sent., 26, 2, 4,). That which is ugly, then, is less than it should be on any level (In Div. Nom., c. 4, lect. 21, n. 554; S.T., I, 39, 8c; II-II, 145, 4c). As there is both sensible and immaterial beauty, so there are both types of ugliness or turpitudo (Contra lmpugnantes Dei Cultum et Religionem, c. 7, ad 9).

In all of these sections, Aquinas is examining the beautiful as a substance. When it comes to art works, he will say:

Artificial forms are accidents. They are known better by us than are substantial forms, because they are nearer to our senses (The Commentary On The Soul, II, 2, 235).

When it comes to man-made works that are called beautiful, "art imitating nature" should mean that it possesses something of proportion, clarity and wholeness.[87] But he never develops this aspect for the arts, least of all music. He perhaps saw that practical laws that govern the creating of beautiful paintings and music are not evident or even absolute but conditional.[88]

One of the more clear effects of beauty is love. Everyone loves the beautiful (In Ps., 25, 5; S.T., II-II 5, 2, ad 1). Accordingly St. Thomas says that a thing is not beautiful because we love it, but it is loved by us because it is beautiful and good (In Div. Nom., lect 10, n. 439).[89] Likewise, the beauty of a woman can arouse love in a man (In IX Eth., lect. 14, n. 1944; also lect. 5, n. 1824).

So also, he makes the point that man alone, of all the animals, delights in the knowledge of sensible bodies for the sake of knowledge alone, that is, for the sake of their beauty (S.T., I, 91, 3).

He observes that people who love organ music may not be able to listen to sermons at the same time because of the pleasure they take listening to the pipes. While the example seems out of touch (when would an organ be played during a sermon, even in his day?), he is asserting that pleasures differ greatly among themselves and one pleasure can overwhelm another.[90] (It is, however, a problem today since so many young people study and do their homework to rock music on the radio.)

He says elsewhere:

In fact, we see that in any field of rational activity, those who enjoy their work are better able to judge detailed matters, and to make a precise investigation into those things that are accomplished with pleasure ...for instance, for those who like musical performances and take pleasure in them and for those who enjoy the art of building, and for all others, because by the fact that they take pleasure in such work, they make a great contribution to their kind of work. So it is clear that pleasures that cause the increase are different in species" (S.T., I-II 35, 2).

The deepest reason why pleasure increases activities is not pleasure as such but because "an activity.. .is congenial to the agent's natural capacities and inclinations. .Leisure, play and other things that go with rest, give pleasure; they relieve us of the distress that comes from overwork" (S.T., I-II 32, 2 ad 3; 60, 5). The formal cause of pleasure is stated thus:

Similitude is properly speaking the cause of love. Love however is the cause of delectation. Therefore similitude is the cause of delectation (S.T., I-II 33, 7, sed contra).

In the order of the senses, pleasure is caused because "... the senses delight in rightly proportioned things as similar to themselves, the sense faculties being a sort of proportion like all other knowing faculties" (S.T., I, 5 ad 4).

Beauty and music

Likewise, speaking about music, Aquinas says "Human beings get pleasure from their senses.. .because of a suitability that things have for sensation.. .Thus, they take pleasure in nicely harmonized sound" (S.T., II-II, 145, 2c). But as we saw previously, sounds and pleasures can sometimes get in the way of each other.

Humankind, then, takes delight in the beauty of sensible things for its own sake and not for any other utility (S.T., I, 91, 3 ad 3; II-II, 141, 4, ad 3; VI Eth. 1., 10, n. 1259; V Met. 120m, n. 1080; I-II, 4, Sc). Some sensations are simply pleasurable in themselves. This is the case when we listen to music (S.T., II-II, 141, 4, ad 3).[91] Does Aquinas affirm that there may be spiritual delights as well? In the Summa (III, 83, 4, ad 6), he speaks of music "inspiring" the hearers with sacred words. In his Commentarium in Psalmis (32, 2), he also says that music in relationship to God is very strong.

Aquinas uses the notion of beauty to help understand that the creation of the world is shot through with beauty (De Potentia, IV, 2c; S.T., I, 65, 4; 66, 4, ad 2; 70, 1; 73, 1; 93, 1). Looking at his commentary on Pseudo-Dionysius (In Div. Nom., c. 4, lect. 5, nn. 352 & 353), we discover that the reason for God's creative act is reduced to his beauty. He wanted to make things like to himself who is Beauty per se. Hence the beauty of creation is spoken of in the following manner: "The beauty of the creature is nothing else than the likeness of the divine beauty participated in things" (In Div. Nom., c. 4, lect. 5, n. 337); "...whence it is evident that from the divine beauty is derived the existence of all things" (ibid. n. 349). So, it follows that each thing is beautiful in its own way (In Ps., 44, 2; In Div. Nom. IV, 5). Aquinas also says that this divine beauty gives unity, mutual adaptations, agreements in ideas and friendship (In Div. Nom, c. 4, lect. 5, n. 337.).

On the other hand, ugliness exists in things lacking in something (S.T., I, 39, 8c). However, there is no such thing as something so deprived of beauty that it is completely ugly nor so deprived of goodness as to be totally evil either (In Div. Nom, c. 4, lect. 21, n. 554). As there is both sensible and immaterial beauty, so there are both types of ugliness or turpitudo (Contra Impugnantes Del Cultum et Religionem, c. 7, ad 9m). There can be deformity in the human body as a defect in some limb, so that mutilated people are perceived as ugly. What is missing in them is a due proportion of their parts to the whole (Comm. in sent., 44, 33, la, c). While sin is a blemish or an ugliness of the soul, it does not follow that all the more grievous sins are also uglier (S. T., II-II, 116, 2, ad 2). A serious injustice might not be so ugly as a slight act of gluttony, the former being more in the spirit and the latter being more in the sensible. Here, Thomas seems to be looking at ugliness from the outlook of the senses, since it is clear that he holds that sins against justice of themselves are greater than sins against temperance (S.T., I-II, 73, 5 & ad 1).

So also beauty of spirit consists in conversations and actions which are well formed and suffused with intelligence (S.T., II-II, 145, 2c). Therefore, from the point of view of morals, the beauty of an entire life is founded upon the virtuous life which consists in the co-ordination of many human acts according to reason (II-II, 145, 2 & 4). Because the instincts and emotions are brought under the order of reason, this in turn harmonizes, and sets in proportion the human life of the person (S. T., II-II, 180, esp. 2, ad 3 where Thomas says that the moral life is beautiful in so far as it participates in reason; see also Contra Gentes, III, 37). On the other hand, immoderate pleasure "...dulls the light of reason, from which comes all clarity and beauty of virtue" (S.T., II-II, 145, 2c).

Furthermore, in his commentary on the Sentences (IV Sent., 49, 5, 1, ad 1), Aquinas says that material things tend to increase the reasonable ordination of the whole of life which makes for a greater beauty or a certain ornateness of the necessary beauty. In the Summa he makes mention of the common good as a kind of social beauty (I-II, 105, 1).

Now, if the essence of man's beauty, spiritually speaking, is found in reason (S.T., II-II,, 116, 2 ad 2), it is because the qualities of beauty flow from what is reasonable: clarity, proportion and splendor. The beautiful life par excellence is the contemplative life because reason is used at its highest pitch (S.T., II-II, 180, passim). It is here that we shall see how music and morals are allied in principle. In the Summa, he writes well of the pleasures or delectationes of contemplation (I-II, 35, 5), of the mind (I-II, 31, 5) and of the will (I-II 35, 4). While he may not have had many aesthetic experiences of music because of his inclination to the visual arts and the lack of artistic development in music itself, he possessed the principles for explaining it and its effect on the life of the human person.

What is contemplation? For Aquinas, it means many things from the point of view of thinking about and loving God. But looked at entirely from a natural perspective, it is ..."a simple gaze upon a truth" (S.T., II-II, 180, 3 ad 1). In the same citation, he relies on Richard of St. Victor's notion that "contemplation is the soul's penetrating and easy gaze on things perceived." This definition is easily transferable to all the arts of the beautiful including music. To listen to music is to contemplate something beautiful which is a structured truth of a made thing itself and may also (if allied with poetry) contain extra-musical truth either from faith or philosophy.

Happiness consists in contemplation most of all infused by the Holy Spirit (S.T., I-II, 147, 3 & 4) and acquired (Com. in Eth. X, Lect. XI, n. 2110), but never to the detriment of moral virtue (n. 2092). To the extent that music brings one to the taste and joys of contemplative activity and life, it leads one to the purpose of the virtuous life. For moral virtue anticipates and disposes one and looks toward the contemplative life, naturally and supernaturally.

Listening to beautiful music thus may dispose one to this contemplation, since it mirrors the infinite beauty of God himself.[92] Could it not be the case that the strife and struggle to fasten onto ideas "by reason of the weakness of the intellect" (S.T., II-II, 180, 7) is eased somewhat by a love and appreciation of all the fine arts, which in turn strengthens the natural power of concentration on spiritual things? Might listening to the inner relationships of a work by a Mahler or a Stravinsky, to use some modern examples, exercise and strengthen the intellect to more easily contemplate divine things? Likewise, might not the beautiful as contemplated dispose one to realize that there is more to life than simply or exclusively the goods of the senses? Could not a sonata or concerto suggest through the intricacies of a well skilled melody joined in a deep relationship to harmony and rhythm dispose one to desire a life of more virtuous perfection?[93] These questions flow from the whole idea of contemplation as seen by Aquinas.[94] Answers to these questions will become more clear when we examine a possible virtue in this area.

From the Trinitarian and purely supernatural perspective, Jesus Christ merits the title of beauty since he is the perfect image or art-work of the Father, a metaphor and real analogy borrowed from epistemology and originally used in the fine art of painting (S.T., I, 39, 8; In I Sent. , d. 31, q.2, a.1). Also, in passing, St. Thomas says grace is something beautiful (S.T., I-II, 109, 7c; III 87, 2 ad 3; In IV Sent., 1, 1, 2, obj.1).

Like the good, the beautiful in this life does not fully satisfy. There are intrinsic defects to some degree in all music or all of art, let alone human beings themselves. These deficiencies are changeableness and limitedness or finiteness (In Div. Nom. c.4, lect. 5, n. 345).[95]

Harmony and modes

Aquinas is clear that mathematical proportion is the cause of harmony. It is not merely a convention of man but something natural to him (On The Soul, lib. 1, lect. VII, n. 95; see also n. 97 as well). However, the sense of "just intonation" (Comm. de Boeth., lib. I, c. 1) or pitch was very different than the "mean temperament" which is used today to tune all the instruments.

We saw the notion of the modes in Plato and Aristotle. Aquinas continues the tradition but changes the names somewhat. Though during the 13th century music was written down, it is not possible to know what Thomas means when he says in his commentary on the Psalms (32, 2) that the names and effects of the three modes are: the doristicus mode, which produces uprightness and strength of soul, the phrygian mode which produces exaltation, and the hippolydicus mode, which produces sweetness and gaiety. He seems to be restating similar ideas found in a translation of Aristotle's Politics, book eight, that may have been mistranslated from the Greek.

Aquinas on the effects of music

While the making of music is a skill, since it is a species of the virtue of ars (Comm. Met. IX, lect. 7, n. 1851), Aquinas is convinced that the visual arts are more effective than the tonal arts both emotionally and morally:

There are three reasons to introduce images into the Church. The first one was to instruct the ignorant, for they are instructed by means of images as well as by means of books. The second one was to commemorate the mystery of the Incarnation and the examples of the saints in a better way, by placing them every day under the eyes; the third one was to nourish the feelings of devotion, for the objects of hearing excite less than those of sight (II-II Sent., 9, 2, 3).

Having no organized theory of music nor extraordinary compositions to listen to, Thomas continues to repeat the Aristotelian and Boethian notion that as a study, mathematics prepares for music, since it is a study of the proportions which generate melody and harmony:

Hence, as music accepts on authority the principles taught by the mathematician, so sacred science accepts the principles revealed by God (S.T. I, 1,2).

Like his predecessors, he speaks of actually composing melodies as a path which introduces a young mind to the secrets of philosophy since it is one of the liberal arts (In Boeth. de Trin., 5,1, ad 3). Aristotle did not recommend composing but preferred training youth to play the music already given them by tradition.

Seminal ideas for theology can be found and developed from Aquinas' occasional remarks about the subject of music. At times, he seems to follow the traditional lines articulated by Aristotle, Boethius and in a minor ways by Pythagoras and even Plato. At other times, he surprises us by going beyond his predecessors.

In the Summa Theologiae, he mentions in passing: "Man is much affected by music; hence its value in exciting devotion at various melodies, men's minds are disposed in various ways, as Aristotle and Boethius recognized" 91, 2 ad 4). Devotion, for Thomas, has the specific meaning of a disposition of promptly giving oneself to the service of God ( II-II, 82, 3). In the body of the same article (91, 2) which is most important for an understanding of sacred music, he will say that musical instruments "usually move the soul to pleasure rather than creating a good disposition in it." Is he consistent? Earlier he maintained that the cithara symbolizes the righteous life (In Ps. 2) and that uprightness is induced by wind-instruments, the flute and trumpet; enthusiasm is engendered by the organ; sweetness is brought by the strings (Comm. in Ps. 32, 3). Comparing the main ideas in these contexts, one might say that he is contradicting himself. On the other hand, it is one thing to hear different timbres of the various instruments, it is quite another to listen to music actually being played by different sounding instruments, which is what he is assuming in the commentaries on the psalms. As Carl Halter says not about him but mysteriously explaining Aquinas without intending to: "Merely banging one's hand on the piano is not yet music but merely sound. Music uses harmony, counterpoint, dynamics of varying degrees of loudness to provide emphasis and contrast, tonal color of various instruments, rubato which hastens or delays appearance of a tone."[96] Perhaps, musical instruments of Aquinas's time were more rustic than the finer ones of our day, which lend themselves, as instruments, to the pure forms of music (save electronic instruments, which are separate categories).

While certain music aids in devotion or as a way to God, Thomas is convinced that a nobler way is through doctrine and preaching (S.T., II-II, 91, 2 ad 3). Music in any case is not an infallible way to aid devotion, that is to say, independent of those who sing. For Aquinas makes his own the criticisms of Jerome in ad 2 of the same article:

Jerome does not condemn singing absolutely [in the body of the objection], but he corrects those who sing theatrically, or who sing not in order to arouse devotion but to show off or to provoke pleasure. Hence Augustine says, "when it happens that I am more moved by the voice than the words sung, I confess to have sinned and then I would rather not hear the singer."

From another perspective, however, Thomas rejoins himself with Augustine's famous problem of whether or not it is good to enjoy the pleasure of sacred music. Aquinas understands the perplexity better:

The soul is distracted from the mewling of a song when it is sung merely to arouse pleasure. But when one sings out of devotion, he pays more attention to the content and the meaning, both because he lingers more on the words, and because, as Augustine says, each affection of our spirit, according to its variety, has its own appropriate measure in the voice and singing, by some hidden correspondence wherewith it is stirred. The same is true of the hearers, for even if they do not understand what is sung, they understand why it is sung, namely for God's honor, and this is enough to arouse their devotion (ad 5).

Clearly Thomas has no problem with meaning and emotion, but merely taking pleasure in sacred music is not enough to justify listening to it in the context of the liturgy. This more clearly solves Augustine's dilemma. Also, these two very short paragraphs contain an entire spirituality for the sacred musician which will be explored in chapter four on the meaning of sacred music as distinct from "pure" music. Finally, it should be mentioned in passing that this pleasure is probably the "aesthetic experience", since it includes both the sense of hearing and the mind's delight.

Music and moral virtue

But does music have any moral effects? Here we are at the heart of the question. As we have discovered earlier, Aquinas is convinced that of themselves, wisdom, knowledge and understanding and ars do not incline us to doing good (S.T. I-II 57, 1). But what about beautiful objects which are produced by the ars of the human person?

Speaking about the physical or sensible delights of music he says:

"These sensations are pleasurable in themselves." This is the case, for example, when ‘,4,7e listen to music. It is not a pleasure, therefore, connected to the preservation of our nature. So it follows that delectations of this kind do not possess the fundamental character which would enable us to connect them with temperance, not even by antonomasia" (S.T., II-II, 141, 4, ad 3).

Antonomasia here means we cannot substitute the word "music" or music/pleasure for temperance in the same way that in the state of California, people substitute "The City" for San Francisco. (In Thomas's time and to those in Italy today, "The City" stands for Rome; see II-II, 141, 2). Since he is taking the word temperance strictly and formally as that which regulates the physical pleasures that deal with the preservation and communication of life, we must turn to another distinction he makes in an earlier work.

In his Commentary on the Ethics by Aristotle, after showing that Aristotle wishes to take pains to pinpoint the matter of the virtue of temperance strictly taken, he suggests an idea that he never takes up in any of his later writings:

606...he [Aristotle] says that temperance is related in a similar way to the pleasures concerned with hearing; neither it nor temperance is involved. If someone delights too much, or as he might, in melodies (i.e., harmonies of human voices) and symphony (that is, imitation of the human voice achieved through instruments), he will not be called temperate or intemperate on this account, because they are not very vehement pleasures either. But this matter can belong to another virtue or vice than temperance (III Eth. lect. 69, n. 606).[97]

Elsewhere, in order to illustrate how "the unjust man cannot enjoy the pleasures of the just man," he uses the analogy of someone lacking sensitivity to music who "cannot enjoy the musician's delight" ( Eth. X, c. iv, 2000). Perhaps this example is autobiographical, hinting that Aquinas's insight into the plight of the unjust man was facilitated by reflecting on his own deficient sensitivity to music.

This lack of sensitivity leads Thomas to define the beautiful in such a way that he emphasizes "seen" when he could have included the word "heard" as well in his definition. And we have already shown, he is of the opinion that the visual arts affect us more, emotionally and morally, than music does (see page 102 above). It is well known today that some people are in fact more sensitive to the beauty of sight and others to hearing. But given this sensitivity and openness to music's delight, how can one speak of a virtue? Later in his Summa, where he explains what a potential part of a virtue is, he seems to suggest that such an idea in principle is possible:

We refer to secondary virtues allied to a principal virtue as its potential parts; the measure it strikes in its own special field they also strikes elsewhere, though not with the same emphasis. Temperance as a special virtue has to make the most taxing effort, namely to govern the pleasures of the body-sense, while governing other pleasures is not so hard a task. Yet temperance extends to them. And so, however there is a desirous impulse towards attractions outside the field of touch, we can put a virtue in charge which in effect is a part of temperance (S.T., II-II, 143, 1).

In effect, he will list a large number of potential parts of temperance, two of them being very close to what I will call, for want of an agreed Thomistic terminology, the virtue of music appreciation, namely: play and studiousness. Each of these regulates a special and necessary pleasure. They also have their corresponding vices, too much or too little play, and the vice of curiositas or inquisitiveness as opposed to studiousness. Music appreciation would seem to fit somewhere here because listening to music is both a sensible pleasure and intellectual pleasure, thus needing some mode of control and regulation. Sometimes, one can listen too much and simply from the curiosity of the senses or intellect and not let the real aesthetic experience bring one to the threshold of meditation and contemplation of the truth of divine things (natural and supernatural) which is the prime goal and summit of human life.

How then does Thomas apply the potential part of temperance to knowledge or the speculative intellectual virtues?

In the Summa, II-II, 166, 1-2 and 167, 1-2, he analyzes the virtue of "studiositas" or devotion to learning, and its counterpart "curiositas" or the vice of excessive inquisitiveness (sometimes translated "curiosity"). In the case of the virtue, the love of learning and study is that by which the speculative intellectual virtues are acquired. This love of wanting to know, which is natural to all human persons, needs to be moderated between being lazy about knowledge or too eager to learn about things beyond due measure. Primarily it restrains immoderate desires for learning and secondarily, it eagerly strains after the conclusions of truth when the body wants to relax and not make the effort.

The vice of curiosity (II-II, 167, 1 & 2) comes about when persons desire knowledge for the sake of their egos (superbiant) or want to learn how to sin. Further, some may want to know things that have nothing to do with their vocation in life, or wish to learn from illicit sources (demons), or want to know for the sake of knowing without any reference to knowledge of God. Finally, there are people who simply desire to know things beyond their capacity.

In another setting ( II-II, 168, 2-4) Thomas poses other questions concerning whether there is a virtue in play, both in words and in deeds. Fatigue is part of life, and so the body needs rest, even if engaged in the direct contemplation of divine things. So. just as the body needs physical rest, the soul needs rest too which comes from pleasure or "delectatio." This can be done through humorous conversation suitable to persons, places and times which gives good cheer to others. Nevertheless it can become addictive (vehementiam affectus) . On the other hand, there are people who never say anything "ridiculous" to make one smile. As a result they then become hard and boorish (duri et agrestes). Playfulness needs control and direction, which comes from this potential part of the virtue of temperance. These are important aspects of life, not the whole of life, yet necessary for fulfilling one's destiny.

One very important principle that relates to our inquiry concerning music is this: man can exist without delight and when he cannot enjoy the delights of the spirit, he seeks those of the flesh" (S.T., I-II 35, 2 ad 2). This remarkable sentence contains the beginning kernel for seeing how the listening of music can be placed here to begin our reflections.

The listening of music can do many wondrous things for the soul and body, which we shall see more in chapter four. It brings delight to both because of the melody, harmony, symmetry, rhythm, sometimes humor, sometimes thoughts and sentiments of having done good things or aspiring to certain goals. The contemplation of the music itself, without reference to other concepts, can be supremely delightful, given a way of life that may make heavy demands by reason of work and profession.

This pleasure needs to be ordered by both rational control over the delight and by learning how to appreciate the art of the composer. Because of the frequency of being able to hear music through records, CD's, videos, it is necessary that one learn to sustain his interest moderately and not overly spend huge sums of money, simply to buy and hear new concerts and the like from the spirit of "curiosity." The love of novelty is essential to listening to great works of music, yet it must be kept in bounds.

Since music of all the arts abstracts the most from concrete situations in reality, the emotions and joys that flow from it can more readily lead one to pose the deep questions about life. A famous Beethoven scholar, speaking of listening to and appreciating that composer's works, once said:

They [compositions which express spiritual experiences] stir elements in us, they reverberate thought in a larger part of our being. Certain emotions and expectations are aroused besides those that accompany our reactions to pure music.[98]

This is not to negate the possibility that even music of lesser artistic value and quality might inspire deep moral sentiments by reason of circumstances. Mendl puts it well when he writes:

...There is all the difference in the world between the religious quality of music and its ethical effect. It is idle to deny that music can exercise a moral influence. The soldier encouraged to feats of valour and endurance by the strains of a military march: the love-sick maiden who waxes tender­hearted over some sentimental ballad: the honest soul who swears that he feels a better man after joining in a well-known hymn: all these testify to the ethical results which may be produced by music. Yet the moral influence seems to have no connection with artistic worth. The march may be commonplace, the ballad mawkish, and the hymn a banal melody.[99]

It is interesting, nevertheless, that some important early thinkers of music from this century have asserted something akin to the theory which I have expounded above. Hanslick,[100] Stravinsky[101] and Ortman[102], all agree that there are three main types of listeners: some respond merely on the level of the sense of hearing. Some perceptually react to tone clusters of unity, while others turn upon imagery and association activated by tones and harmony. Myers[103] put in a fourth: character response in line with a person's own character (Boethius had made a similar observation). More contemporary psychologists, such as Shuter,[104] show that a developed core of expectations is the basis for listening to music seriously, otherwise the listener cannot differentiate the usual from the unusual. Others, such as Radocy and Boyle,[105] distinguish listeners as either the culture consumer, emotional listener, resentment listener, entertainment seeker, indifferent passive receptor, the unmusical and finally the anti-musical person.

Contemporary Relevance of Aquinas

Taking many hints from St. Thomas, it has been shown that listening to music is more than simply sense pleasure and that it needs to be integrated as part of life.[106] Its potential connection for good or bad with so many parts of life becomes clearer when seen in light of the contemporary experience of too much music (a thought mentioned years ago by Susan Langer in her Philosophy in a New Key) linked with a major philosophy of life that is antithetical to the gospel (see the Introduction, p. 7-8). The problem with the contemporary scene may be characterized not so much by bad taste, as by too many consumers enjoying lovely melodies and rhythms while accepting the anti-gospel way of life concomitantly promoted attractively by the sounds of beauty flowing from the now wealthy high priests of the contemporary musical world, rock stars. The musically beautiful cannot be fixed in a mold for it is not static but changing. That is its nature.[107] Because of music's recognized ability through the ages to get down into the depths of one's consciousness very easily and quickly, it is necessary that theology takes this art more seriously, instead of viewing it simply as a means crafted within a long liturgical tradition of which, we saw, Aquinas is one of many commentators.

By exposing and developing St. Thomas's notions of art, beauty, virtue, music and contemplation, I have tried to show a hidden spirituality which suggests a solution to the problems of our times in the Church and culture. Unlike our predecessors in China, Greece and ancient India, contemporary theology has completely ignored the profound effects of music for harm or good on the human spirit. As St. Thomas once said himself, perhaps in a pastoral mood: "While the appetite terminates in the good, true and beautiful, this does not mean that it terminates in different goals" (De Vert., 22, 1 ad 12).[108]

We now continue our selected review of the last seven hundred years to see what else has been discovered and asserted that can aid our analysis of the effects of music.

Chapter 3 Endnotes

1 See for example, Hermann Abert in his Die Musikanschauung des Mittelalters, Hans Schneider, Tutzing 1964 [reprint from 1905], p. 83 where he derides the Fathers for hindering the development of music's reasonable autonomy. Julius Portnoy, The Philosopher and Music Outline, pp. 45-53, makes the point, however, that the Fathers saw hypocrisy and sensuality in the music of their culture. This posed a deep threat to the average Christian because vague assurances of future happiness are not always so motivating as the promise of present bliss. Many sentiments of the music are then alien to the theological concepts which surround Christian thought. He continues to say that they may have not used musical instruments at first because their worship was in secret and needed hushed prayer meetings. The Fathers checked musical development and free expression but with a special purpose. Music for them was subordinate to the propagation of the faith. Music for them can degrade as well as elevate, as we will see.

2 G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, The Bodley Head Ltd., London 1905, p. 225.

3 James McKinnon, "The Meaning of the Patristic Polemic against Musical Instruments," Current Musicology 1 (1965), 69­82.

4 Paul H. Lang, Music in Western Civilization, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1941, p. 32. See Tertullian, De spectaculis, 2 when he says: "The way to the theater leads from the temple and altar with their dreadful mess of incense and blood, amidst the sound of tibias and trumpets, under the leadership of those two iniquitous arbiters of funeral and sacrifice, the undertaker and the soothsayer" (Music In Early Christian Literature, ed. by James McKinnon, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987, p. 43).

5 Johannes Quasten, Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, trans. by Boniface Ramsey, O.P., National Association of Pastoral Musicians, Washington D.C. 1983, pp. 121-125. Also, Tertullian (Apologeticum 8-9 in McKinnon, p. 43) witnesses to this when he says: "Clearly Liber and Venus are the patrons of the theatrical arts. That immodesty of gesture and bodily movement so peculiar and proper to the stage is dedicated to them, the one god dissolute in her sex, the other in his dress. While whatever transpires in voice, medley, instruments and writing (...) is in the domain of Apollo, the Muses, Minerva and Mercury. O Christian, you will detest those things whose authors you cannot but detest!"

6 McKinnon, Music In Lit. p. 111.

7 Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, from The Pelican History of the Church I, Penguin Books, London 1967, p. 273­277.

8 However, to this day, liturgical dancing exists in the Ethiopian rite.

9 Christ-Paranikas, Anthologia graeca carminum Christianorum. Beitra zur kirchlichen Literatur der Byzantiner, Leipzig 1831, cited in Quasten, Music and Worship, p. XXIX.

10 Chadwick, The Early Church, p. 276.

11 See the entry "Music, History of Western," in NEB, where mention is made that Gregory tells the singers of chant to be concerned about inattention and excessive virtuoso singing.

12 Robert F. Hayburn, Mus. D., Papal Legislation on Sacred Music, 95 D.D. to 1977, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 1979, pp. 8-9.

13 Quasten, Music and Worship, p. 129.

14 Quasten, Music and Worship, pp. 66-69, writes that Clement of Alexandria and other Fathers mention that when Christian sing, they are joined to the inner harmony of God himself. They imitate the entire universe in its praise of God. This idea, in brief, tended to encourage monophonic music because of its simplicity.

15 See the entry "Music" in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by George Buttrick Abingdon Press, Nashville and New York, 1962; see also, Eric Werner, The Sacred Bridge: The Interdependence of Liturgy and Music of the Synagogue and Church during the First Millennium. Columbia University Press, New York 1959 as well as Quasten, Music and Worship.

16 Smith, Musical Aspects of N. T., p. 88.

17 As Quasten puts it:

The difficulties which Christianity encountered with its position to domestic music can be judged if one considers pagan table customs. It was the custom to play music not only at luxurious and licentious feasts and banquets, where Andalusian women danced their infamous dances to the beat of castanets and the music of flutes while bawdy numbers were sung and Greek singers of both sexes rendered the songs of Sappho and Anacreon, but at simpler meals as well. Usually hired musicians or musically educated slaves took care of this part of the entertainment.. .(Music and Worship, p. 128).

18 Ibid., pp. 130-132.

19 Quasten, Music and Worship, p. 125 makes the point that christianity did not stand alone in its rejection of music in the liturgy but shared this idea with a great number of pagan philosophers who regarded music and dancing to be vices as Cornelius Nepos reports (Vita 15, Epaminondas 1, 2, 60 Halm). See also Livy 39, 6, 7 (IX 12 Weissenborn) and Lucian De saltatione 2 (140 Sommerbrodt).

20 Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogous II as cited by McKinnon, Music in Early Chris. Lit., p. 33.

21 Paedagogous II, iv, ibid., p. 32.

22 Paedagogous, iv, ibid., p. 34.

23 Panarion XXV, 4, ibid., p. 78.

24 Canons of Basil, can. 74, ibid., p. 120; Apostolic Constitutions, VIII, xxxiii, 9, ibid., p. 111.

25 Aduersus Nationes, II, 456, ibid., p. 49-50.

26 Epistle I, 456, ibid., p. 61.

27 Quasten, Music and Worship, p. 132.

28 Ibid., pp. 133-134.

29 In caput XXIXX Genesim, Hon. LVI, I, McKinnon, Music in Early Christ. Lit., p. 85.

30 Canons of Laodices, can. 53, ibid., p. 118.

31 Epistula ad Marcelinum 29, ibid., p. 53.

32 Epistle, II, 176, Ibid., p. 61.

33 Homilia in psalmum, i, ibid., p. 65.

34 Homilia in psalmum, i, 2, ibid. p. 65-66.

35 Regulae fusius tractatae, Interrogatio, XXXVII, 3-5, ibid. p. 68.

36 Letter II, 2, ibid. p. 68.

37 Exhortation to Youths as to How They Shall Best Profit from the Writings of Pagan Authors VII, ibid., p. 69. Corybantes and Bacchantes are the priestly dances associated with the worship of the god Bacchus and other Dionysian rites.

38 In psalmum XLI, 1, ibid., p. 80.

39 In psalm, CL, ibid., p. 83.

40 O Explantio psalmi i, 7, ibid., pp. 126-127.

41 De utilitate hymnorum, 5, ibid., pp. 135-136.

42 Ibid. , p. 136.

43 Ibid., p. 154.

44 Ibid., p. 154-5.

45 In another work, De Doctrina, trans. by D. W. Robertson, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis 1958, P. 84, Augustine continues along the same lines when he says:

I realize that when they are sung these sacred words stir my mind to greater religious fervour and kindle in me a more ardent flame of piety than they would if they were not sung; and I also know that there are particular modes in song and in the voice, corresponding to my various emotions and able to stimulate them because of some mysterious relationship between the two. But I ought not to allow my mind to be paralysed by the gratification of my senses, which often leads it astray. For the senses are not content to take second place. Simply because I allow them their due, as adjuncts to reason, they attempt to take precedence and forge ahead of it, with the result that I sometimes sin in this way but am not aware of it until later.

46 In psalmum xcix, McKinnon, Music in Christ. Lit., p. 158.

47 If the singer can do this in Augustine's more advanced thinking, then it follows logically and did follow later in the history of music that a fugue or symphony could do the same.

48 De Musica, trans. by R. Catesby Taliaferro, St. John's Bookstore, Annapolis 1939, p. 9.

49 James Anderson Winn, Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music, Yale University Press New Haven, 1981, p. 45.

50 See his De abstinentia, I, 24 (13), ed. by Hercher where he says that music connected with spectacles and dances hinders thinking because of the fascination to the senses.

51 It is in I, 2, 3, of the Enneads that we find the introduction of the word "detachment" which is at the heart of ascetical theology. Here, speaking about the musician, lover and philosopher as true contemplatives, Plotinus insists that the former two need to become detached from particular images of beauty.

52 The Essence of Plotinus, Oxford University Press, New York 1934, compiled Grace H. Turnbull from the translation of Stephen MacKenna's, The Enneads, Faber & Faber, London, 1956 (1st Publ. 1917-1930).

53 As far as we know, Plotinus is the first philosopher to clearly and explicitly state that there is something objective about what is harmonious and what is not (though this is implicit in both Plato and Aristotle). Among aestheticians, many follow a more subjective notion. See, for example, the article by Lundin, "Towards a Cultural Theory of Consonance" Journal of Psychology, XXII (1947), 45 which is in marked contrast to Helmholtz's Sensations of tone as a physiological basis for the theory of music, trans. by A. J. Ellis, Dover, New York 1954, originally published in 1862; Helmholtz attempts to give a physics of sound and show in a mathematical way the difference between noise and ordered music. Noise has no orderly harmonics as the vibrations are not orderly which can produce anxiety, anger and even violence. Sometimes, certain rock concerts are the equivalent of noise insofar as dissonance is primary and consonance secondary. This can happen, in part, because of the use of electronics to amplify distortions caused by guitars, drums and other instruments.

54 Jacques Maritain in his Art and Scholasticism and Creative Intuition In Art and Poetry, Havill Press, London 1954 was the first thomist who attempted to explain in detail, how any work of art reveals the inner life of the artist. This we shall see, however is implicit in Aquinas.

55 "Music is related to morality; human nature of all ages naturally is attuned to musical modes spontaneously and delights in sweet song. Plato is right (Timaeus, 37a) 'the soul of the universe is united by musical concord: for when, by means of what in ourselves is well and fitly ordered, we apprehend what in sounds is well and fitly combined, and take pleasure in it, we recognize that we ourselves are united by this likeness. For likeness is agreeable, unlikeness hateful and contrary" (Boethius, De institutione musica, in Source Readings in Music History, selected and Anotated by Oliver Strunk, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1950, p. 80).

56 Leo Schrade, "Music in the Philosophy of Boethius," The Musical Quarterly, 33 (1947) 188-190.

57 Strunk, Source Readings, p. 80-81.

58 Consolation of Philosophy Texts I, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1946, p. 131-133. See also De Institutione Musica. Like Augustine from a slightly different perspective, he claims to love the sound of music (Cons. iv, 6, 6), yet in another place (Cons. 1, 2), he speaks disparagingly.

59 Strunk, Source Readings, p. 81.

60 Henry Chadwick, Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1981, p. 86.

61 One only has to look at the constitution of Pope John XXII in defense of sacred music which quotes from Boethius: "A person who is intrinsically sensuous will delight in hearing these indecent melodies, and one who listens to them frequently will be weakened thereby and loses his virility of soul," found in Hayburn, Papal Legislation, p. 21.

62 See the entries, "Aesthetics of Music" and "Consonance" in New Grove.

63 Julius Portnoy, The Philosopher and Music, p. 225.

64 Isidore of Seville: From the Etymogogiarum Libri, ed. by W.M. Lindsay, The Clarendon Press, Oxford 1911.

65 See entries "Cassiodorus" and "Musical Composition" in NEB.

66 Hayburn, Papal Legislation, p. 18.

67 Ibid., p. 107.

68 Ibid., p. 19.

69 Julius Portnoy, The Philosopher and Music, p. 24.

70 Pierre Aubry, Trouvères and Troubadours, trans. by Claude Aveling, G. Schiriner, New York 1914, p. 102.

71 Gustave Reese, Music in the Middle Ages, W. W. Norton and Co. Inc., New York 1940, p. 203.

72 I am indebted to the entry on "Albertus Magnus" in New Grove for my ideas on St. Albert.

73 The first time Plato treats of beauty is in the book Hippas Major In Philebus, 64e, 66a. Beauty, order and proportion are all related to divine order.

74 See the entry "Music in Medieval Society" among other entries on music in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. by Joseph IL Stranger, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1987.

75 All translations from the Summa Theologiae are taken from vols. 1-60, Blackfriars, Cambridge, Great Britain 1960­1973 which were edited by Thomas Gilby, O.P.

76 The phrase "art for art's sake" was coined by Arthur Graf, in Nuova Antologia, Genoa 1903.

77 J. Maritain in his work, Art and Scholasticism, p. 202, has something relevant to say on this question:

When he reproves a work of art, the Prudent Man, standing squarely upon his moral virtue, has the certitude that he is defending against the Artist a sacred good, the good of man, and he looks upon the Artist as a child or a madman. Perched on his intellectual virtue, the Artist has the certitude that he is defending a no less sacred good, the good of Beauty, and he looks as though he were bearing down on the Prudent Man with the weight of Aristotle's maxim: "Life proportioned to the intellect is better than the life proportioned to man" (S.T., II-II, 47, 15).

78 As Julius Portnoy puts it:

A composer must be imbued with a deep sense of spirituality, but many of our contemporary ones confuse it with sentimentality and associate it with an age of romantic chivalry which no longer has a place in a world explained purely in mechanistic terminology. Many contemporary composers will not toil and become proficient in their craft. They would rather be vague and subjective, and cloak themselves in aesthetic purism so there is no way to communicate with them musically. They simply follow their impulses, which is very good as therapy for them personally; but unfortunately, they do not go beyond that point and the end result is often chaos, not a well-ordered musical work. Many of our younger composers have lost the quality of humility, a most important element for serving the Muse. Without humility there is no love or charity, and dogmatism usually follows (Music in the Life of Man, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, New York 1963, p 234).

From a Thomistic perspective, Jacques Maritain offers the insight that an artist must possess as an artist something like humility, magnanimity, prudence, integrity, simplicity when actually making something. These artistic qualities or dispositions imitate but are not the virtues of man as man. (Situation of Poetry, trans. by Marshall Suther, Philosophical Library, New York 1955, pp. 17-22 and 31-36).

79 In II-II, 47, 4 ad 2, Aquinas includes makers from the doctor to the navigator, under the notion of artifex; moreover, he could have included the painter or musician as well as a chef or a shoe-maker.

80 Cardinal Mercier puts it accordingly from a similar point of view:

But some claim that morality is totally divorced from art which then leads to the idea that esthetic ends are superior or subordinate to moral. Art for art's sake is true from the proximate end of art, but the artist must order his work in some fashion to a social end so that at least he try not to corrupt morals. He is not a professor of morality but can become subject to criticism because it is an activity of man which must ultimately be directed to God and thus subject to eternal law. The beautiful appeals to mind and will and emotions. Some emotions can be bad. Also art can lead to what is honest, elevated, forgetfulness of self, disinterestedness, a sacrifice. Then it is good and ennobling. But it can also incite to egoism, self-worship, flatter voluptuousness which has repercussions upon the person and society. ("Le genie poetique de Dante," a paper read at the 7th centenary of Dante, Royal Academy,. Belgium, 1921. as cited by Leonard Callahan, Theory of Esthetic: According to the Principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America Press, Washington D.C. 1947, second printing, p. 114.)

81 In a rare comment by Cardinal Cajetan on music (see his commentary on S.T., II-II, 91, 2 of St. Thomas), he asks the question if someone can commit a sin playing the organ. He answers affirmatively, if he plays with the intention that the music incite people into licentiousness. In this context, we are dealing with music without words. Such a possibility would only exist, if the organist played some non sacred music from the operas of the time which had these suggestions already operative in the music by reason of association.

82 (All translations of St. Thomas Aquinas other than the Summa Theologiae, or unless otherwise indicated, are from Armand Maurer, C.S.B., About Beauty: A Thomistic Interpretation, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, Tex. 1983.) As Jacques Maritain expresses well in the context of the visual and all the fine arts:

The highest moral virtues can never make up for the lack or mediocrity of the virtue of art. But it is clear that laziness, cowardice or self-complacency, which are moral vices are a bad soil for the exercise of artistic activity. The moral constitution of the human subject has some kind of indirect impact on his art (The Responsibility of the Artist Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1960, p. 92).

83 It is interesting to note that a modern composer of great fame possessed a very craftsman-like idea of his art:

I shall not forget that I occupy a chair of poetics. And it is no secret to any of you that the exact meaning of poetics is the study of work to be done. The verb poiein from which the word is derived means nothing else but to do or make. The poetics of the classical philosophers did not consist of lyrical dissertations about natural talent and about the essence of beauty. For them the single word techne embraced both the fine arts and the useful arts and was applied to the knowledge and study of the certain and inevitable rules of the craft. That is why Aristotle's Poetics constantly suggest ideas regarding personal work, arrangement of materials, and structure. The poetics of music is exactly what I am going to talk to you about; that is to say, I shall talk about making in the field of music. Suffice to say that we shall not use music as a pretext for pleasant fancies (Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, trans. by Arthur Knodel and Ingolf Dahl, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1947, p. 4).

84 My ideas on the subject of beauty came from two professors in my earlier days at St. Albert's Priory, Oakland, California, both metaphysicians, Kevin Wall, O.P. and Vito Fontana, O.P., both of whom are deceased. But I owe a special debt to Armand A. Maurer, C.S.B. His book About Beauty: A Thomistic Interpretation, came into my possession some years ago and has been a great source of light, upon which this section depends though his ideas are not cited directly in this chapter.

85 There is a phenomenon of some youth called synesthesia which one normally outgrows; Aquinas never knew about it. It is the result of hearing music and at the same time, visualizing colors, lines, or shapes, feeling textures or temperatures, tasting flavors or smelling odors. L.E. Marks, "Synesthesia: The lucky people with mixed-up senses," Psychology Today, June 1975, 58-52.

86 Aquinas makes the point in another work: It is well known that harmony properly so-called, means consonance in sounds. But [Empedocles and Democritus] transferred that name to every musical proportion (The Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle, trans. by Kenelm Foster, Yale University Press, New Haven 1951, 1, 9, 135).

87 Callahan, Theory of Aesthetics, pp. 61-62, makes the following application of Aquinas's notions on beauty for the arts:

Variety denotes nothing more than a multiplicity of diverse things or actions, or successive changes through the work of arrangement or proportion. These various unities are set in harmonious relations, thus effecting the unity of the object or work. From this it will be evident that there is ample justification of stressing the importance of the role of proportion above the other factors involved in the process. To speak scholastically, variety or the multiplicity of diverse things and actions represents the material cause of order; unity the formal cause; and proportion, arrangement or harmony the efficient cause which accomplishes the coordination and unification of these elements in a manner best calculated to manifest the perfection of the whole.

88 Mary Louise Serafine has expressed quite well the mystery of how music becomes beautiful:

It is not clear what we are doing when we engage in music-making. It is not at all clear why music affects us. In creating and listening to music, we experience organization, coherence, and deviation, but it is not immediately obvious how such effects are caused, or where in the music they lie. Music is all the more difficult to pin down on this matter because it is a passing, temporal thing that will not hold still while we look at it. We cannot stop it at some point and say, "there, that is the pattern...the repetition...the form," for whatever we point to evaporates and is lost. Music unfolds in temporal experience; it is always continuous and in flux. Still, we have the definite impression that music involves a characteristic experience, principally one in which the flow of temporal events is organized in some way (Music As Cognition: The Development of Thought in Sound, Columbia University Press, New York 1988, pp. 35-36).

Similarly, a German philosopher of music analyzes the similar perplexity:

There is no art which, like music, uses up so quickly such a variety of forms. Modulations, cadences, intervals, and harmonious progressions become so hackneyed within fifty, nay, thirty years, that a truly original composer cannot well employ them any longer, and is thus compelled to think of new musical phraseology. Of a great number of compositions which rose far above the trivialities of their day, it would be quite correct to say that there was a time when they were beautiful. Among the occult and primitive affinities of the musical elements and the myriads of possible affinities and combinations, a great composer will discover the most subtle and unapparent ones. He will call into being forms of music which seemingly are conceived at the composer's pure caprice and yet, for some mysterious and unaccountable reason, stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect. Such compositions in their entirety, or fragments of them, may without hesitation be said to contain the "spark of genius. . ." (Eduard Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music, trans. by Gustav Cohen, The Liberal Arts Press, New York 1957, p. 58).

89 This is an echo from St. Augustine when he wrote:

... First I shall ask him whether things are beautiful, if they give pleasure or give pleasure because they are beautiful, and if he is perplexed, I shall add the question whether it is because its parts correspond and are so joined together as to form one harmonious whole (De Vera Religione, C 32, 59, trans. by J. H. S. Burleigh, Henry Regnery Co., Chicago 1953).


...However, it is quite apparent that pleasures are of different kinds, in view of the discovery that an appropriate pleasure increases activities while a foreign one impedes it. Indeed, we see that lovers of organ music cannot pay attention to the sermons addressed to them when they are listening to organ-playing, for the very reason that they take more pleasure in the working of the art of the pipes than in the present work, that is, in the hearing of the words spoken to them. So, it is evident that the pleasure that accompanies the working of the art of organ-playing is destructive of the speech activities. And we see that same thing occurring in other instances; it happens in any case where two activities are going on at once.

...Therefore, since the appropriate pleasure strengthens the activities with which it is associated, so that a man attends to them more forcefully, and works at them for longer periods, and does them better ( that is, they attain their end more perfectly), and since pleasures that are distracting, which accompany some other activities get in the way and are hindrances, it clearly follows that pleasures differ greatly from each other, because what one pleasure helps another hinders (Commentary on the Nichomacean Ethics, Lect. 7, nn. 2043-2047, trans. by C. I. Litzinger, O.P., vol. I, Henry Regnery Co. 1964).

91 Though it is evident that medieval music left much to be desired. Listen, for instance, to the Music of the Gothic Era played by David Munrow, CD 415-292-2/A 14.

92 Callahan, Theory of Aesthetics, p. 55, speaking of the subjective elements of beauty also suggests that behind emotion, there is something deeper:

...Finally, we grasp the true secret of beauty only by a comparison of the work with the ideal which has inspired it, and since this is largely a personal matter which each one interprets for himself, it follows that appreciation will vary according as one approaches or falls short of the ideal behind the work. The adage "de gustibus non est disputandum" is valid in the sense that countless factors such as character, temperament, education, age and sex enter into the form and mold our taste; but it is not absolute, for since all men are influenced in some ways by what is beautiful, there must be some universally accepted appreciation of beauty.

93 As Kevin Wall, O.P. articulated so well:

Thus morality, thought and art all converge upon the same terminal goal which must thus be the good, the true and the beautiful at once. Virtue, it (traditional Thomism) held, makes contemplation possible and vice makes it impossible in the full sense. Moreover, both virtue and contemplation are furthered and fostered by properly understood aesthetic activity.

What contemplation on the way to self-possession shares of its quality is insight but that insight contains the knowledge that the distance yet to be covered is infinite. This leaves it restless. Morality is similarly restless since it is not brought to rest in the possession of the ultimate good. Aesthetic experience alone has the sense of rest of that possession, the sense of satisfaction and being at an end (A Classical Philosophy of Art: The Nature of Art in the Light of Classical Principles, University Press of America, Washington D.C. 1982, pp. 4-5).

94 Jacques Maritain has written from another perspective:

Art teaches men the pleasures of the spirit, and because it is itself sensitive and adapted to their nature, it is the better able to lead them to what is nobler than itself. So in natural life it plays the same part, so to speak, as the " sensible graces" in the spiritual life: and from afar off, without thinking, it prepares the human race for contemplation (the contemplation of the saints) the spiritual joy of which surpasses very other joy (S.T., I-II, 147, 3, 4) and seems to be the end of all human activities. For what useful purpose do servile work and trade serve, except to provide the body with the necessaries of life so that it may be in a state fit for contemplation? What is the use of the moral virtues and prudence if not to procure that tranquillity of the passions and interior peace which contemplation needs? (Art and Scholasticism, p. 62-63).

95 Here Thomas complements Plato's reflection in the Symposium 211c where Plato develops the idea that absolute goodness and beauty must exist and must impart something of what it is to other things. This notion will find its way into the fourth "proof" or way of Question 2 in the Summa concerning the existence of God.

96 Carl Halter, God and Man in Music, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis 1963, p. 36.

97 Trans. by C. I. Litzinger, O.P.

98 J. W. N. Sullivan, Beethoven His Spiritual Development, Jonathan Cape, London 1927, p. 49.

99 R. W. S. Mendl, The Soul of Music, Rockliff, Salisbury Square, London 1950, p. 55.

100 E. Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music, Liberal Arts Press, New York 1891.

101 Stravinsky, Poetics of Music, Vintage Books, New York 1947.

102 O. Ortman, "Types of listeners: Genetic Considerations," ed. by M. Schoen, The Effects of Music, Harcourt Brace, New York 1928.

103 C. S. Myers, "Individual differences in listening to Music," British Journal of Psychology, 13 (1922), 52-71.

104 R. Shuter, The Psychology of Music Ability, Methuen and Co., Ltd., London 1968.

105 B. E. Radocy and J. J. Boyle, Psychological Foundations of Musical Behavior, C. C. Thomas, Illinois 1979.

106 E.T. Gaston brings out the holistic question involved in the listening of music in his article, "Factors contributing to responses to music"

To each musical experience is brought the sum of an individual's attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, conditionings in terms of time and place in which he has lived. To each musical response, also, he brings his own physiological needs, unique neurological and endocrinological systems with their distinctive attributes. He brings, in all of this, his total entity as a unique individual. . . (Music Therapy, ed. by E. T. Gaston, The Allen Press, Kansas 1958 p. 25).

Also, A. P. Merriam's ten functions of music help us realize what goes on in the art of appreciating music:

emotional expression, aesthetic enjoyment, entertainment, communication, symbolic representation, physical response, enforcing conformity to social norms, validation of social institutions and religious rituals, contribution to the continuity and stability of culture and contribution to the integration of society... (The Anthropology of Music, Northwestern University Press, Illinois 1964, p. 156).

107 "....novelty is fundamentally necessary to art, which, like nature goes in seasons" (J. Maritain, Art and Scholasticism, p. 37).

108 Truth, trans. by James V. McGlynn, S.J., Henry Regnery Co. 1953. Also, Leonard Callahan calls to mind the why of beauty which of course is involved in all the arts:

It is in the resemblances which exist between the mind and beauty that we find the true cause of feeling of beauty; the apprehension of the beauties of nature and of artistic works brings with it a keen delight, because in their perfections the mind discovers an image of its own perfection, and the complement of its aspirations. There is in the human mind an innate and unquenchable desire for knowledge, of effecting through an ideal assimilation the union of other beings with ourselves. This tendency is naturally directed with greater force towards those objects which are most easily known, in which the object of the intellect stands out in greatest prominence. Precisely such is the case with works of beauty: their form, that essential, constitutive element which makes them what they are, shines forth with a peculiar brilliancy, manifesting the perfection, order and unity which are closely analogous to our own, in that it possesses in fact or in symbol, a soul dominating and bursting through matter...(p. 53).


Introduction: The Beginning Of Music Forms, Sacred and Secular

Since this dissertation is neither an extensive history of music nor a critical analysis of the compositions of musicians, it is important to note that for the centuries following Aquinas, two evolutions of music occurred almost simultaneously. This should be briefly commented upon from the point of view of moral theology.

Those who reflect upon music philosophy have comparatively little to chew over during the late Medieval or early Renaissance periods because of the lack of comment by theologians and philosophers of those times. Examining the works of Johannes Tinctoris (1435-1511), we find a small section in which he describes the various effects of music:

...Please do not think that I am collating in this short work all the effects of this liberal and honorable art of music (as Aristotle calls it) but only twenty, viz:

To delight in God, to embellish God's praises, to increase the joy of the blessed, to make the Militant Church similar to the Church Triumphant, to prepare for the acceptance of divine benediction, to stimulate the mind to piety, to dispel sorrow, to soften the hardening of the heart, to chase away the devil, to cause ecstasy, to lift the earthbound mind, to revoke evil intent, to give cheer to mankind, to heal the sick, to temper toil, to instill courage to do battle, to entice love, to add to conviviality of a banquet, to glorify those skilled in it, to make the soul blessed.[1]

Thinkers reflected on music during the Renaissance, to be sure, but it is usually a repetition of Plato and Aristotle. Principally, most theoreticians were interested in painting, sculpture, poetry and the play within the ambit of the fine arts. Moreover and more important for the theologian, there was some development of the sacred side of music in the Latin Rite. The secular side of music slowly became relatively autonomous from religious services, and new forms emerged such as solo singing, the beginnings of opera, and pure instrumental music both in solo form and in the ensemble. In some ways, the same sacred or liturgical musicians helped pure music to advance, and likewise helped religious music progress. Eventually both religious and pure music would split off from pure liturgical music to become separate species or branches of music in their own right. That liturgical music and religious music can be so sharply distinguished is clear from the documents of the magisterium today and earlier in this century. The soil was readied during the many controversies in Rome which sprang up from the sixteenth on through the nineteenth centuries concerning musical performances in churches with musical instruments. Some of these instruments were considered "dishonesta" throughout the middle ages and beyond.

Beginning from the fifteen century, both the Church and the State would develop a mutual rivalry in musical patronage. This was the era of Guillaume Dufay (1400­1474), Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377), John Dunstable (1385-1453), and Josquin des Pres (1445-1521) who would in turn inspire the sixteenth century composers and their instruments from the English John Bull (1562-1628) and William Byrd (1523-1623) of harpsichord fame, through Andrea Gabrielli (1520-1586), and Giovanni Gabrielli and their organ playing at San Marco in Venice and on to the madrigals and beginnings of opera by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) in the sixteenth century.

Nor is it possible to see how the magnificent quartets of a Beethoven could have flowed from his mind and heart without the labors of a Handel or J. S. Bach. Nor can we fathom the use of different musical instruments today in the liturgy itself, from the guitar, oboe, violin, even the organ, without reference to the influence of the ordinary musicians of the times past perfecting these instruments in song, dance and the drama. Sacred (both religious and liturgical) and secular music, both distinct and autonomous, flowed into and from one another from time to time over the vast span of centuries to the point where in the late twentieth century, Dave Brubeck, a famous modern jazz pianist and composer, could write and play some "sacred jazz" in San Francisco's Giant Stadium as a preparation for the Mass which was celebrated by Pope John Paul II on that October day of 1987, when he made his pastoral visit to the West Coast of the United States. Truly, there has been an extraordinary evolution going on!

In the eighteenth century, philosophers such as Diderot and D'Alembert, Grimm and other encyclopedists espoused Christoph Gluck (1714-1787); in the nineteenth century, Nietzsche became a sometime friend of Wagner without influencing him. Instead, it will be the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer which influence Wagner's music. Others in the twentieth century relied on the revolution of Wagner and Debussy against the tonal qualities of their predecessors (Stravinsky, Bartok and Schoenberg whose work "Survivor from Warsaw" was performed for John Paul II on October 27, 1990). But even they in their musical genius departed from the structures and laws of melody and harmony from a nineteenth century culture by crafting new definitions of consonance and dissonance, thereby producing new classics. It is interesting that when the twelve tone system of composing was not followed too rigorously, the music sounded better to most critics of the movement (listen especially to "The Violin Concerto" or "Lulu" of Schoenberg's pupil Alban Berg).

Normally, with the exception of the liturgical musician, for reasons which will become evident further below, composers of music and musicians normally do not take their ideas or inspiration from philosophers[2] and, least of all, theologians to make their songs. Oftentimes, however, their religion will somehow get into their music. For example, J. S. Bach and George F. Handel felt they were trying to glorify God. With his music it is known that Handel was trying to change the heart of humankind; the same was somewhat true of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), commonly referred to by musicologists as the last of the old school.

From the point of view of sacred music, let us examine the thinking of the last medieval era to the present. As we look at certain texts, we will be in a position to evaluate the context of the Church's concern about her sacred musical patrimony and her reluctance to allow innovations from Trent to the nineteenth century. Afterwards, we shall turn to the development of pure and secular music as seen through the philosophers of the nineteenth century and what can be discovered about their insights. Finally, we shall conclude with some studies about secondary purposes of music in appraising the moral effects of music.

Part I: Sacred Music

Post-medieval Development through Trent

It is not until the beginning of the 14th century that we find problems from the point of view of theology of music. Polyphony, vernacular and secular tunes were introduced into the liturgy from time to time. Here is something written in the 14th century indicating that there was a problem, without any analysis:

There are some who although they contrive to sing a little in the modern manner, nevertheless, they have no regard for quality; they sing too lasciviously, they multiply voices superfluously; some of them employ the hocquetus too much, breaking, cutting and dividing their voices into too many consonants; in the most inopportune place they dance, whirl and jump about on notes, howling like dogs. They bay and like madmen nourished by disorderly and twisted aberrations, they use a harmony alien to nature herself.[3]

The dissatisfaction with contrapuntal writing of many composers reached a climax in the early 14th century. We find John XXII (1316-1334) writing a papal bull, Extravagantes communes, chapter 1 of book 3 entitled De vita et honestate clericorum. Speaking about cantors and choirs he says:

(They).. .must sing with modesty and gravity, melodies of a calm and peaceful character... (which) arouse devotion (in others).. .(This is the reason why) the singing psalms is prescribed in the Church of God...

But certain exponents of a new school, who think only of the laws of measured time, are composing new melodies of their own creation with a new system of notes, and these they refer to the ancient, traditional music; the melodies of the Church are sung in semibreves and minimas and with grace notes of repercussion...

...We prohibit absolutely, for the future that anyone should do such things, or others of like nature, during the Divine Office or during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass...

However, We do not intend to forbid the occasional use — principally oil solemn feasts at Mass and at Divine Office—certain consonant intervals superposed upon the simple ecclesial chant, provided these harmonies are in the spirit and character of the melodies themselves…[4]

What is interesting is that the document both forbids and tolerates the use of polyphony in the services of the Church. Though, there is not yet put in the language a prohibition yet an occasional use is permitted, and the document indicates that Gregorian chant still had priority, notwithstanding the permission to allow some of the new music to be played. From about the twelfth to the fifteenth century musicians were inventing the "motet," which is based upon a Latin word, tenere, meaning to hold. These musicians created fast moving parts over a portion of the plain chant. Many times, it should be kept in mind, goliards and wandering singers would sing anti-clerical songs which sometimes found their way into the liturgy in the motet style.[5] Hence the nervousness on the part of authorities in charge of the liturgy.

Also, the same pope tried to forbid singers from using thirds (e.g., the notes c & e sung simultaneously, a relatively new phenomenon in the history of music) when singing in harmony. Parallel fifths (e.g., the notes c and g above sung simultaneously) had steadily come into use but not so much thirds at this time in history. He says that it intoxicates and merely soothes the ear.[6] In today's understanding of the magisterium, one could say that he was making a decision about what was suitable for the liturgy, but at the same time he was making an aesthetic criticism which would not be within his parameters. It is reasonable to suppose that he complains about these innovations, since the taste of harmonies in fourths and sixths was also just beginning about his time. Creative novelty, which is good for music as such, is usually not helpful for the liturgy, since it calls attention to itself rather than to the presence of God. By the eighth century, the use of the organ had became part of liturgical usage in most Catholic churches of the West to help in the singing of its liturgical music.[7] Such an innovation, however, did not succeed for most Eastern Rites of the Church which to this day does not permit the use of the organ or other musical instruments for the divine liturgy.[8] Hence, there could be more of a problem with creative novelty in the Roman rite of the Church than in the Eastern rites.

When the Council of Trent convened, on and off for many years (1545-63), there was an attempt on the part of some bishops to ban all music from the liturgy. Due to the influence of the King of Spain, Ferdinand, such an excessive solution was curbed and an attempt was made to mute excesses through committees and the like.[9] At its conclusion, a work of Palestrina was sung at the Mass. Immediately, the pope, praising his work said that his music should be used in moderation.[10]

It must be kept in mind that when polyphony came on the scene from the 9th to the 15th century, Church authorities were not pleased since it tended to obscure the texts by its newness, thus disturbing devotion and the feeling of peace and calmness during worship. Since the authorities knew Plato's dictum that new melodies forbode a sign of impending changes in the laws of the state, they may have thought such innovations would undermine sacred doctrine and the very authority of the Church itself. Thus troping and the sequences, though not polyphony but a new development of musical form, were never fully recognized or accepted by the Church. This may explain why Pius V excluded from the liturgy all but four sequences (Victimae Paschalis Laudes, Lauda Sion, Stabat Mater and Dies Irae), two of which were written by his fellow Dominican, Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas had said (S.T., II-II, 91, 2 ad 4) that musical instruments are not employed by the Church because their use would seem to be a return to Judaism. Apparently in his experience of the Church in Europe, nothing, not even the organ, was used to accompany the chant. Since modern research seems to contradict him, it may be that his experience was limited to his religious communities and others who more closely followed Roman usages at the time.

It was Cardinal Cajetan (the papal emissary to Martin Luther, and possessed a reputation for creative developments within the teachings of St. Thomas) who in his commentary on the previous question in the Summa of St. Thomas said: "The use of the organ, although it is a novelty for the Church - and because it is so the Roman Church up to now did not use it in the Pope's presence - is however, lawful, because one must regard the faithful who are still carnal and imperfect.[11] Moreover, in the same general period, St. Antoninus in his Summa 7'heologiae, had said:

...Plain chant, in the Divine Office, has been established by the Holy Doctors, such as Gregory the Great, Ambrose, and others. I do not know who introduced the chant of several voices (biscantus) into the ecclesiastical Offices. This chant seems rather to tickle ears than to animate devotion; although a pious soul may profit even from this chant.. .(Tit 3, cap. iv, De Horis Canonicis, ix).[12]

He also wrote in the same section that the use of musical instruments in the Divine Office besides the organ is reasonable.

Impact of Luther and the Reformation

When one looks at the musical side of the Reformation, the guiding principles of Martin Luther (1483-1546) are quite traditional and ordinary in retrospect even to putting liturgical music in the vernacular (and in some sense, helping to develop religious concert music as a consequence). When it comes to sacred music as he conceived of it, he says the following:

Music is a beautiful gracious gift of God. It has often been the inspiration of my sermons. Music rouses all the emotions of the human heart; nothing on earth is so well suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music.[13]

Following in line with the Platonic and Boethian concepts, but being a little too literal concerning the prophets and the devil, he gives witness to a novel idea that music as such is the greatest of the arts:

There are, without doubt, seeds of precious virtues in the hearts of those moved by music; whereas those with whom this is not the case must be called blocks and stones. We know that the devil hates and fears music, but I do not hesitate to say that, after theology, there is no art to he placed beside music. Music and theology alone are capable of giving peace and happiness to troubled souls. This plainly proves that the devil, the source of all unhappiness and worries, flees music as much as he does theology. This is why the prophets practiced music as they did no other art. They did not link their theology to geometry, nor to arithmetic, nor to astronomy - but to music, and through music they preached the truth with songs and psalms.[14]

Luther's influence on pure music will not come until the late baroque period when people are used to hearing changes of keys, counterpoint and a whole host of the musical charms which involved using other new musical techniques for the times, including difficult solo singing and playing. A kind of glorious zenith will be reached in the works of the Lutheran composer Johann S. Bach (1685-1750) and in George F. Handel (1685­1759). While they never met each other, both came from Germany and out of the Reformation era. They in turn passed the torch of creative fire to the works of two other geniuses, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1796). The history of music and musicians is replete with the names of composers. Their works both in the operatic and concert fields have filled the world with sweetness and sadness.

Post-tridentine Development through Pius X

It was not long before two famous Jesuit theologians praised the use of musical instruments in the liturgy. Cardinal Bellarmine of the late sixteenth, and early seventeenth centuries argued that the use of other instruments is not to be lightly introduced into the church, even if the organ is used because of the weak (Controversiae, col. 4, bk. 1). And, speaking in favor of motets introduced into the Divine Office, the famous Jesuit theologian Suarez argued that since they prolong the devotion of the Divine Office, they are Morally united with the office and so are good (De Religione Tit. 2, lib. 4; De Horis Canonicis, c. 13, n. 16).

A bishop Cirillo Franco, writing a letter in 1549, had the following to say about the fugue, which became so powerful an art form under J. S. Bach:

...Today all musicians place their beatitude in forcing the singing into fugal form, so that one singer says Sanctus another says Sabbaoth, and the third Gloria tua with shouts and garglings, so that they seem more like cats in January than flowers in May.[15]

While the bishop's criticisms are humorous, they indicate the normal pattern of times past (and sometimes present) for criticizing pieces of new music which do not fit in with what is expected or accepted in liturgical singing. What is new will rarely be accepted at first (recall the Problemata attributed to Aristotle as referred to in chapter two). However, it is to be said in passing that here is a case where innovative liturgical music inspired secular music (and the reverse is true as well) but it took about two hundred years to do so effectively.

In a tract De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum et artium, written in 1632 in Cologne by an unknown author, we find the following criticisms of what was then the use in the liturgy of the office and Mass using the motet style:

Today music has such great license in churches that even along with the canon of the Mass certain obscene little ditties sometimes have equal share; and even the divine offices themselves and the sacred prayers and petitions are performed by lascivious musicians hired at great price, not to make the hearers understand or for the elevation of the spirit, but to incite wanton prurience, not with human voices but with the cries of beasts: boys whining the descant, some bellow the tenor, others bark the counterpoint, other gnash the alto, others moo the bass: the result is that a multitude of sounds is heard, but of the words and prayers not a syllable is understood; the authority of judgement is withdrawn from ears and mind alike.[16]

In his encyclical letter written in the eighteenth century, Annus Qui (February 19, 1749), Pope Benedict XIV issues the following caveat concerning musical instruments:

The third thing of which We desired to warn you is the musical chant. It has now been introduced into the churches and is commonly accompanied by the organ and other musical instruments. Let it be executed in such a way as not to appear profane, worldly or theatrical. The use of the organ and of the musical instruments is not yet admitted by all the Christian world. In fact (...), all know that Our Pontifical Chapel, although allowing musical chant on condition that it be serious, decent and devout, has never allowed the organ...[17]

Further on Benedict XIV laments:

But here We shall satisfy Ourselves by remembering - and taking into account the prescriptions of the Sacred Councils and the opinion of renowned writers. If it is true, as We are told, that the figurative music of theaters is executed in such a way as to offer to all those listening to it a sense of delight and have them enjoy the rhythm, melody, and music itself; and that those present get pleasure out of the sweetness of the various voices without perceiving, in most cases, the exact meaning of the words; this must not be so with ecclesiastical chant; in fact, for this the opposite must be sought.[18]

The pope continues to quote some interesting documents whereby the particular chant in question is criticized for making more of melody than of the words. He cites a certain Drexelius who claims that the new chant is "...eccentric, broken up with a swing and certainly far from religious.. .singers are changed into actors. They exhibit themselves: first one, then two, finally altogether and converse with each other through chant; then again one dominates above and a little later the others follow him." He continues to add himself:

In ecclesiastical chant care must be taken to ensure that the words are perfectly and easily understood. Music is allowed in Church only because it elevates man's mind to God, as St. Isidore teaches: "It is a custom of the Church to sing sweet melodies, the more easily to induce souls to compunction." It is certain that this would be difficult if the words could not be understood.[19]

The purpose of citing these passages is to show that at a later date, the same principle that impelled the Fathers' way of thinking was operative here, namely, liturgical music must be subordinate to the words and not the other way around, so one must be very cautious about new music. Pope Benedict does not deny the goodness of enjoying music as such, but enjoyment is not the essential purpose of liturgical music. It may be that the music being critiqued was really religious concert music as a substitute for real liturgical music. Some of these same ideas we have found in the early Fathers of the Church and will be treated again under the section on Pius XII. He followed the tradition as it was then articulated.

In the nineteenth century, Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851) was asked by Pope Gregory XVI (1830-1846) to examine the liturgical music of Rome. He complains about the melodies being performed by musicians:

What ideas can be awakened when they hear...performed on the organ the same air, in the same rhythm, and with the same expression, that afforded them amusement the previous evening, when they danced to it, and when it evoked some latent passion, or excited a new one?...[20]

Here in the middle of the nineteenth century we find a notion of music as a harbinger of bad associations. If one context of a melody is inimical to the virtuous life, then the same melody cannot normally be used in a sacred context no matter how technically good it may be musically. We already saw this with the early fathers of the Church because in their times, much of the popular music was associated with idol worship as well as sexual license. Even though some of the music mentioned in the nineteenth century may have been innocent as such, because of its connection with common culture, the Church tended to back away from it as not worthy of mirroring the divine.

A decree of Cardinal Constantius Patrizi, vicar-general of Rome, on November 18, 1856 (during the reign of Pius IX), forbids the organist to play theatrical pieces or too brilliant and distracting sonatas at Mass or at benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Music directors should not use a baton nor turn their back on the altar or turn to the people.

From the same Cardinal, another decree was issued on Nov. 20, 1856 whereby he excluded the use of music which is too lively or has exciting movements. He also forbade arias, duets, trios and music which is like theatrical or profane music including the recitative and parlante and cabaletta style of singing, thus continuing past traditions that instrumental music is merely tolerated by the Church, not positively espoused. No melody and harmony is to overpower the liturgy but must be subordinate to words.[21]

On Sept. 25, 1884, the Congregation of Sacred Rites issued more rules, forbidding "figured" music. Solos, duets and trios were accepted if they have the character of sacred music. Nothing of polkas, waltzes, mazurkas, minuets, rondos, schottisches, varsoviennes, quadrilles, contredanses, polonaises, national hymns, popular airs, love and comic songs, ballads is to be tolerated. Noisy instruments such as side and big drums, cymbals, improvisations and fantasias are forbidden to those who cannot do these things fittingly and do not observe the piety and recollections of the faithful.[22]

What needs to be kept in mind is that musicians could be very creative and find ways of bridging the gap between the sacred and everyday life. What all this implies is that it must have been done quite liberally throughout Italy, perhaps because the texts of the Mass and Divine Office had not been understood by the laity for centuries.

In the following section, we examine what the Church has taught in the last one hundred years concerning pure music and sacred music (the latter refers principally to liturgical and secondarily to religious music) so that one can more readily understand the musical difficulties of the past which faced the Church and her struggles to keep intact her own specific musical tradition of Gregorian chant from the influences of "worldly" and extraordinarily beautiful religious music (a strange paradox as we shall see), all of which contributed toward her present rich patrimony.[23]

In the year 1903, Pius X issued his decree Tra Le Sollecitudini, a motu proprio on the restoration of church music, for which he claimed the full force of his apostolic authority.[24] He is at once trying to uphold Gregorian chant and at the same time, in a cautious manner, the possibility of modem music, while speaking out against what he considers abuses:

(1) Sacred music - an integral part of solemn liturgy - participates in its general object, which is for the glory of God and sanctification and edification of the faithful. It tends to increase the decorum and the splendor of the ecclesiastical ceremonies and since its principal office is to clothe with befitting melody the liturgical text proposed for the understanding of the faithful, its proper end is to add great efficacy to the text, in order that by means of it the faithful may be more easily moved to devotion and better disposed to receive the fruits of grace associated with the celebration of the most holy mysteries. These qualities are possessed in the highest degree by the Gregorian chant...

(4) The qualities mentioned are also possessed in an excellent degree by the classic polyphony, especially the Roman school, which reached its greatest perfection in the fifteenth century owing to the works of Pierluigi da Plaestrina...

(6) . . .Besides the intrinsic structure, the rhythm and what is known as the "conventualism" of this style (a theatrical style of Italy) adapt themselves badly to the exigences of true liturgical music.

It was always easy for the Church to say what was not suitable, but not so easy to say clearly why certain forms or instruments were excluded from the liturgy, except the taste of authorities. In a certain way, one could say that since the liturgical legislation belongs to the hierarchy of the Church, she can determine what specifically and how, in a general way, it is to he performed. As Pius X said:

(16) Although the music proper to the Church is purely vocal music, music with the accompaniment of the organ is also permitted. In some special cases other instruments are allowed within due limits and proper regard. As chant is the key, organ and instruments should merely sustain and never overwhelm it.

Likewise, Pius X was opposed to long preludes and intermezzos between the psalms (17). Pianos, bells, drums, cymbals and the like are forbidden (19). Processions outside church parishes can have a band but it may only play sacred songs (21). He gives no reasons for his positions but seems to be following a personal artistic and aesthetic taste rather than any articulated principles. This of course makes it difficult for musicians to interpret when it comes to understanding what exactly makes certain pieces to be non-religious, anti-religious or suggestive of worldly dances and the like.

From Pius XII through Vatican II

Pius XII in his important encyclical Musicae Sacrae Disciplinae said that Gregorian chant not only is most intimately conformed to the words of the liturgy but actually "interprets" them, bringing delight to the mind through simple and plain musical modes (483). Composers should obey the laws "proper to genuine Gregorian chant" so as to keep out a false polyphonic style which could obscure the words of the liturgy or even "lower the skill and competence of the singers" (498). He does not explain how to do this, but leaves it to the craftsman of liturgical music.[25]

Concerning other musical instruments, Pius went on in a positive way to claim that they are a great help to the liturgy provided nothing is "at variance" with the dignity of the place and worship. He goes on to praise the violin and other musical instruments that use the bow, since "they express the joyous and sad sentiments of the soul with an indescribable power" (499).[26]

As for vernacular singing, Pius recognized that it can "deeply move the emotions and spirit and stir up pious sentiments and is powerful in raising the minds of the faithful to higher things" (503). But, early on in his encyclical, he makes the important distinction (#16) between musical composition inspired by religious themes (oratorios, cantatas, sacred dramas and the like) and popular religious singing which may accompany the liturgy and the music for the liturgy of worship. Such distinguishing characteristics are nothing new in the history of religion.[27]

Likewise in the same encyclical letter, Pius XII had some profound things to say about the composer which has a repercussion from a moralist's perspective in the. He taught that the Church is not competent to draw up laws of aesthetics or technical rules which apply to the subject of music as such; but rather, is competent to protect sacred music against anything that might lessen its dignity which flows from the fact that it is bound up with divine worship (428). He recognizes that there is always going to be a challenge to both the composer and player in making music for a congregation consisting of cultured and simple people. Progress in liturgical music must be done in a detached manner so that faith may also progress. Here are a key paragraph in which Pius explains the problem from and for the liturgical musician's perspective:

There is always a tension working with cultured people and simple people for the musician. Progress in art must be detached so that faith may also progress. The artist who has no religious faith and whose thoughts and way of life are far removed from God cannot lay claim to a religious art. His soul lacks the power of seeing what God's majesty demands, what his worship requires. Works of art which have no religious inspiration may perhaps proclaim an artist of experience and of some technical ability. But they cannot express religion and faith in a way that is becoming to God's house and its holiness and thus worthy of being admitted by the Church into her worship. For it is the Church, the guardian of the religious way of life, that must decide what is worthy or unworthy (467, trans. by Howell, S.J.).

While Pius XII speaks from principle, the way things should normally happen, it seems that he leaves no room for the possibility of a charism which a liturgical artist may possess. Charisms in the thought of Aquinas (S.T., I-II, 111, 4-5) do not necessitate the state of sanctifying grace for them to be operative. This means that a member of the Christian faithful could have a charism of music making /playing in the liturgy without necessarily being holy. The same principle certainly is seen and applied to some of the greatest painters and sculptors of history whose way of life may have been far removed from God yet whose works now grace many of the Churches in Rome and the world and lead many to the threshold and province of prayer.

Pius next turns to another important thought for liturgical musicians:

But the artist whose faith is firm and whose way of life is worthy of a Christian has the love of God as his motive power and puts to reverent use the artistic ability he received from his Creator. And so he will try by every means in his power to express and to put before men the truths he holds and the religion he practices. . . His artistic work is like an act of religious worship for the artist, while it moves and inspires others to profess their faith and practice their religion (468, trans. by Howell, S.J.).

What is noteworthy here is the concept that the liturgical musician must communicate something within the act of worship. In other words, he is saying that at least two moral virtues (religion and latria or worship) and one theological virtue (faith) must somehow get into the intellectual virtue of ars in the musician. This is quite original but in keeping with the whole notion of liturgical art. Moreover, it confirms very well Maritain's thinking that everything the composer does in his music symbolizes by sound and rhythm both the very movement of realities (in this case sacred truths) perceived and the self at the same time.[28]

It is also to the credit of Pius XII that, for the first time, at least for the magisterium, the clear distinction is made between liturgical music and religious concerts (476-477). He makes the point that there are musical compositions inspired by religious themes (oratorios, cantatas, sacred dramas and the like) which are, however, to be identified as liturgical. These very moving works may stimulate religious fervor, raise questions of conversion in the listener, fill one with a sense of God's presence, goodness, and loving providence. They are so powerful aesthetically and religiously that for these reasons they paradoxically are not suitable for the liturgy, not because they are irreligious, nor because they lack beauty. In a sense they are too beautiful and by enveloping their hearers with their power, charm and religiosity, they negate the ability to concentrate on the meaning of the Mass or Divine Office. They have a legitimate place in the Church. They have, however, such a wondrous beauty and life of their own however, that it gets in the way of the liturgy, as a transmitter of grace and truth. This is the distinction which was implicitly operative in the Church for many centuries but never articulated conceptually. Perhaps, many musicians felt frustrated and sometimes rejected from Trent onwards because it seemed as if the Church was being arbitrary by not being clear as to her reasons for rejection. Recently, the Congregation for Worship renewed the same idea in a decree called Concerts in Churches (OR, Dec. 14, 1987).

Among the documents of Vatican II, The Decree On The Liturgy, it is asserted that there are certain theological rules of liturgical music.[29] For example, speaking about the composers of liturgical music, Vatican II teaches anew that liturgical music is a "ministerial function exercised by sacred music in the service of the Lord" (SC #112b). Also, of special note is the idea that the earthly liturgy continues the praise of Jesus to his Father in heaven (#83). Thus, music becomes like a beautiful vestment or a sign of this mystery of communication of Jesus with the Father through the Church. Sensible tones speak of divine things, the ineffable realities. What may be more beautiful, however, may not be more holy, since grace which comes from singing the Mass or the office is not on the same plane as the aesthetic act per se.[30]

In the sixth chapter of the same decree the Fathers of the Council also declared:

112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary and integral part of the solemn liturgy...

Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy, the more closely connected it is with the liturgical actions, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. The Church, indeed, approves of all forms of true art which have the requisite qualities, and admits them into divine worship.

These concepts are in a long line of reflection and reform that goes back to the Fathers of the Church which has been examined in chapter three. When music becomes part of the liturgy, it transcends itself as it were. Just as an aria will not go well with a military parade, nor will a jazz composition do for dancing a waltz, so not all beautiful music will be apt for the liturgy. When it is apt, then it achieves its inestimable value and becomes greater than any of the other arts. For the first time, a general council of the Church acknowledged a certain primacy of one of the arts, music.

Sacrosanctum Concilium seeks to overcome the Church's age-old tension with new music and musical instruments by confirming the use of the organ during the liturgy and positively encouraging the use of other instruments as determined by the local ordinary (120). The old and the new are then balanced: Gregorian chant for the Roman Rite (116) and polyphony, besides other "kinds" of sacred music (116b), and the use of the vernacular language (113b which also references other places concerning the use of other languages). This was a far cry from the statements of previous popes and Roman congregations which begrudged many of these practices or merely tolerated them.

John Paul II

If the evolution of dogma takes a long time for understanding anew and seeing deeper into the truths of the faith and its moral lifestyle, the same may be said about that which seeks to enhance and beautify the liturgy: music.[31] It took a great deal of time and much reflection for a contemporary pope such as John Paul II to enunciate a clear understanding of the meaning of music, religious and secular, when he said the following:

The deep emotions that music stirs up in the soul of the listener and the performer make us realize that artistic and religious experiences resemble [emphasis mine] one another, both require a spirit of contemplation, in other words, that human attitude which makes us look at reality with respect, attention and love.

As with prayer, every artistic expression - especially music - lifts the soul beyond mere earthly existence, it allows us to face life and God who created it with humble devotion, open to the splendor of its truth.[32]

Likewise in a similar context, when speaking about the nature of music and the musician, he said:

However, there is another equally significant motivation which emphasizes the importance of music: to compose and interpret it, one needs a lot of diligence and constant discipline.

...My your profession and in your witness as messengers of peace, goodness, serenity, and generosity through music, that mysterious comforter of souls.[33]

These were situations when a pope explained that the arts and both kinds of music, sacred and profane, require a contemplative spirit; and it is clear that both kinds of music help humanity transcend itself. This idea complements what was said in the last chapter about the virtue of music appreciation; that is, the virtue helps overcome fatigue and so disposes one to aspire to higher goals.

Unlike the early philosophers and Fathers of the Church which we examined in chapters two and three, the Holy Father speaks respectfully about the vocation of the musician. This too is part of the slow process of understanding the role and place of music and musicians which has gone on in the life of the Church.

Even more eloquently, John Paul spoke of the spirituality of all the arts which has been, in a hidden way, the inspiration for this work when he said:

3. The Church has always favored the arts. In fact, the Gospel of Jesus Christ which she proclaims has inspired countless artists, men and women - a number of whom were handicapped - their works of art have enriched the world. Authentic works of art give expression to the greatness and wonder of the mystery of human life. They reflect our thirst for the infinite, and at the same time they evoke it. They stand as eloquent sentinels, protecting the human race from trends and fashions which would deny or water down the spiritual dimension of human existence. The arts elevate and console; they inspire and give hope. They help the human spirit rise towards God and towards the most important values in life.[34]

More decisively, the papal magisterium has stated, without necessarily showing how, that beautiful art (sacred and profane) works a leverage for the better on the moral life of humankind in terms of how its reflections of the infinite dispose human persons to orientate themselves to a Godstyle of life.[35] In a certain sense, the theology of the fine arts, music in particular, reminds us that the arts can influence the more important font of the moral act itself, the intention, because they can work on it directly or through the virtues of religion and devotion. No previous pope has ever related music and virtue in the following way:

Your participation is in itself an expression of your artistic talents. While congratulating you, I exhort you to persevere in your commitment to gladden and uplift the hearts of the faithful through sacred music to thoughts of, and a taste for, heavenly things, indeed, for eternal life; as you know, the idea that the heavens eternally resound with celestial music is a classic one![36]

As a manifestation of the human spirit, music performs a function which is noble, unique and irreplaceable. When it is truly beautiful and inspired, it speaks to us more than all the other arts [emphasis mine] of goodness, virtue, peace, of matters holy and divine. Not for nothing has it always been, and will it always be, an essential part of the liturgy; as we can learn from the liturgical traditions of the christian people from every continent.[37]


What the Church teaches today concerning music in general and particular allows us to view with a more sympathetic eye what and how the Church was trying to accomplish from the fourteenth century and the tridentine reforms on to the nineteenth century. During those times, her worries and sometime negativity over excellent secular music itself seem in retrospect somewhat narrow. However, as we have attempted to show, beautiful music in one order seems to interfere with the liturgy itself. Because the creative juices of musicians and composers, who work in fields both of concert style music and of liturgy, contribute so deeply, the beauty flowing from the former can easily overwhelm the latter. This is a perennial problem for the Church which has never been fully resolved in practice to this day.[38]

In an important book by A. Perris, a contemporary author, neither a Catholic nor a theologian, we find a list of six rules which govern religious music of most major religions: (a) the words must be understood,[39] (b) traditional melodies must be performed, (c) musical instruments must be morally and socially acceptable, (d) music must be inserted in the proper places of the ritual, (e) music must not detract from the ceremony, and (f) the artistic goals of the musicians must not override the theological dimensions of the ritual.[40] His list encompasses the overriding ideas presented in this chapter. From a similar perspective concerning liturgical music (but one can also see something regarding religious concert music as well), Joseph Gelineau, a liturgical composer of note, wrote during Vatican II:

...The spiritual artist has two choices to make: something first which will be admired by connoisseurs for its own sake, an achievement of consummate skill, or to help his fellows rise up to the highest spiritual disposition. If the former, then it is simply a chef-d'oeuvre becoming an hors d'oeuvre. Rather it should stimulate prayer within beauty not foster beauty within prayer. The sensible signs are the purpose of penetrating more profoundly into the mystery.[41]

Finally, other contemporary authors (non-Catholics) have explained how sacred melodies in liturgical services incline the congregations' moods and, in a sense, virtuous disposition:

Music in religious services appears to serve several functions: at times it serves as a signal to stimulate the congregation to respond in a certain way. At other times quiet organ interludes are used to help establish a mood of reverence or tranquillity. Congregational singing serves to draw people together, while choir anthems appear to lead the worshipers to reflect on the beliefs and values of the religion and its implications for them as individuals. Special religious ceremonies are accompanied by special music. Certainly weddings, funerals, and special religious days are made more meaningful by music designed to enhance the significance of the occasion. Some of these uses of music in religious ceremony are more "persuasive" than "ceremonial," attesting further to the importance of music in religion.[42]

These three sources merely indicate the importance of the many tensions which were operative during the past four hundred years concerning both religious and liturgical music.

Part II: Philosophers and Secular Music

We now turn our attention to the development of music without reference to the sacred as a fine art in its own right and see what, if any, speculation was emerging from the fifteen century onwards.

The Renaissance and Classical Periods

In the early and late Renaissance periods, nothing new was being developed about the philosophy of music. The tradition was merely restated from Plato to Boethius. Music itself was changing but thinkers had not noticed. For example, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) compares polyphony to the harmony of the spheres. "The sensuous impressions are beautiful only in so far as they mirror spiritual ideas or beauties." While accepting Plato's notion of the ethos of melodies, he rejected the platonic notion that the artist is a Muse inspired from God making known the will of God.[43] Another thinker, Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), on the other hand, a man who influenced the Renaissance period for at least two centuries by his translations of Plato and Plotinus, only repeated Platonic thinking about music. He says nothing really new about music:

Since song and sound come from the thought of the mind, from the impulse of the imagination, and from the passion of the heart and, together with the broken and formed air, move the air-like spirit of the listener, which is the bond of soul and body, it easily moves the imagination, affects the heart, and penetrates the innermost sanctuary of the mind.[44]

Serious music preserves and restores the consonance of the parts of the Soul, as Plato and Aristotle say and as we have experienced frequently.[45]

I frequently dedicated myself to the more serious strings and songs after the study of theology or medicine, in order to neglect the other pleasures of the senses, to expel the troubles of soul and body, and to elevate the mind as much as possible to sublime things and God.[46]

Possibly, the first person in the Renaissance to suggest that pure music as such can give inspiration to the soul rather than be merely background to conceptual themes is Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). He is the founder of our system of modem harmony. In his Traité de l 'harmonie, we find him teaching that "harmonies are to be characterized as sad, languishing, tender, agreeable, gay. and striking; there are also certain successions of harmonies for the expression of these passions."[47]

Since Germany had given the world some of the most extraordinary music ever known to the music world in the names of Bach (1685-1750) and Haydn (1732-1809), it was only a matter of time before a Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) became the embodiment of the unfettered composer with no ties to patrons. He did not have to write for the Church or a patron hut for himself and as he pleased when the spirit moved him. If Mozart wrote music and subordinated words to it rather than the other way around, Beethoven rarely wrote for voices.

Kant and Hegel

One can begin to appreciate why in this musically rich atmosphere the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) became the first witness to say something about pure music. Being aware of pure music's popularity, he made the following criticism, in the line of Plato, which begins a long argument among aestheticians to this day concerning the hierarchy of the fine arts. Speaking about music, he says: "[music]...speaks by means of mere sensations without concepts, and so does not, like poetry, leave anything over to reflection. It yet moves the mind in a greater variety of ways and more intensely, although only transitorily. And so, he will hold that it is the least of all the arts.[48] Likewise, he also teaches that the beautiful is a symbol of the morally good.[50]

Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831), on the contrary, taught that musical tones express feelings and emotions but colors do not.[51] Even though it expresses the divine music penetrates into the very core of the soul, in the long run it must yield to philosophy.[52] Words of poetry, feelings and spiritual affinities are imposed upon sound, so that what is abstract becomes articulate and concrete through the language of the poet. In fact language added to music is superior to pure music, since it then gives objective ideas rather than a subjective and indefinite play of forms. The essence of music is rhythm." He also recognizes the importance of music in relation to contemplation:

. . Man's mode of occupying himself with works of art is always purely contemplative (...), and educates thereby, in the first place, no doubt, merely by attention to its significance, the power of comparison with other contents, and receptivity for the general consideration of them, and for the points of view which it involves.[53]

Earlier in the same paragraph, Hegel makes note that art can help the emotions by soothing them, softening and weakening their intensity, like having wailing women at a funeral. Man is released from his immediate sunkenness in a feeling.

Hegel mentions that art in a general way purifies the passions, instructing them and making them moral. Art was always the "instructress" of peoples. But one cannot then relegate its pleasureful, entertaining and delightful functions to something inessential:

§ Art Has Its Own Purpose As Revelation Of Truth

Against this it is necessary to maintain that art has the vocation of revealing the truth in the form of sensuous artistic shape, of representing the reconciled antithesis just described, and, therefore, has its purpose in itself, in this representation and revelation. For other objects, such as instruction, purification, improvement, pecuniary gain, endeavour after fame and honour, having nothing to do with the work of art as such, and do not determine its conception.[55]

Johann Friedreich Herhart (1776-1841) is the first in a long line (especially Hanslick) who attempted to refute Hegel:

Works of art are expected to have a meaning (...) and the artists are glad to oblige... . But music is music and to be beautiful need mean nothing. . . . Even good musicians still repeat the maxim that music should express feelings; as though the feelings aroused by it, to express which it may accordingly be used, were the basis of those rules of double and single counterpoint in which its true essence lies. What did the old master mean to express who developed the possible forms of the fugue, or those still older whose industry differentiated the possible orders of column? Nothing. Their thoughts did not travel beyond their arts but penetrated deeply in their essence...[56]

Schopenhauer and Wagner

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), whose philosophy of pessimism motivated some of Richard Wagner's operas, considered music to be the blind practice of metaphysics or unconscious philosophy since it expresses the complete will of man and nature:

...[music does not] express this or that particular and definite joy, this or that sorrow, or pain, or horror, or delight, or merriment, or peace of mind; but joy, sorrow, pain, horror, delight, merriment, peace of mind themselves, to a certain extent in the abstract, their essential nature, without accessories, and therefore without their motives. Yet we completely understand them in this extracted quintessence.[57]

He holds that if there are to be words in music, it limits the music, and so must be subordinate to music. He seems to miss the point about beauty being open to something beyond this restriction:

As surely as music, far from being a mere accessory of poetry, is an independent art, nay, the most powerful of all the arts, and therefore attains its ends entirely with means of its own, so surely does it not stand in need of the words of the song or the action of an opera....The words are and remain for the music a foreign addition of subordinate value, for the effect of the tones is incomparably more powerful, more infallible, and quicker than that of the words. Therefore, if words become incorporated in music, they must yet assume an entirely subordinate position, and adapt themselves completely to it.[58]

The works of Schopenhauer influenced the thinking of his admirer, Richard Wagner (1813-1883) on the role of musical drama. This in turn inspired the famous operatic works, Tristan und Isode and the Ring cycle. Wagner changed the course of pure music by his repetitious use of melody, changes of keys and the seeming breakdown of tonality through his use of complex chords. Knowing this helps us understand some of the musical innovations behind Stravinsky and Bartok, among others of the twentieth century. But it also helps us understand why some will think that Tannhauser appeals to lower passions and exists by its sensual enchantment, or why Wagner's other works tend to express depression, languor, grief, distress, agony and despair, much to the chagrin of critics of a moral bent. Wagner in turn inspired Claude Debussy who was much concerned with creating "program music" that is, whole series of pieces simulating natural happenings (e.g., La Mer). Beethoven had occasionally tried to use musical techniques to imitate animals (Sixth Symphony or, as it is called, the Pastoral Symphony) . Such extra effects will lead many would-be listeners and enthusiasts of classical music in the twentieth century to look erroneously for imaginative motifs while listening to Bach's techniques, instead of the music for its own sake.

To put Schopenhauer in a Thomistic context, a contemporary Thomist, Josef Pieper has written an answer to the question what does the human race perceive in music?:

Music "does not speak of things but tells of weal and woe". This formulation by Schopenhauer somehow sums up the sentiments, variously stated, of many thinkers throughout the centuries. It would not be entirely correct to consider that this statement expresses the fullness of the conception found in classic Western philosophy; it at least opens an access to the main idea as it leads us in the right direction. " Weal and woe" - these are concepts related to the will; they point to the bonum, the good, seen as the intrinsic moving force of the will. The will is always directed toward the good.[59]

Other Late Nineteenth-Century Perspectives: Nietzche and Tolstoy

Another nineteenth century philosopher, with whom Wagner broke a friendship, Friedreich Nietzsche (1844-1900) says that melody is the key of all music upon which all poetry depends. Music does not need poetry to express itself, but merely endures as an accompaniment. Poetry in some way already lies in the vast universality of music:

Language can never adequately render the cosmic symbolism of music, because music stands in symbolic relation to the primordial contradiction and primordial pain in the heart of the Primal Unity, and therefore symbolizes a sphere which is beyond and before all phenomena. Rather all phenomena, compared with it are merely symbols: hence Language, as an organ and symbol of phenomena, can, never, by any means, disclose the innermost heart of music; language, in its attempt to imitate it, can only be in superficial contact with music; while the deepest significance of the latter cannot with all the eloquence of lyric poetry be brought one step nearer to us.[60]

It was also Nietzsche who taught that the musician could be a redeemer of society because he brings harmony and order into our chaotic lives and expresses our real desires and hopes with interludes of peace. The poets are liars.

From Russia came another influence on the question of music and morals, the novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). Hardly known for his aesthetic theories, still, because of the exceptional qualities of his novels, he made an impact on the communist regime behind the Iron Curtain for many decades. In the dogmatic spirit of Plato, he is strongly opposed to both the Romantic movement in music of the nineteenth century and even has some harsh words to say about Beethoven. He knew that music would change:

The cry of many contemporary critics and philosophers that modem music is cacophonous and degenerate is hardly new in the history of the arts. The transition from one musical era to another has always been marked with ridicule and scorn on the part of both the conservative and progressive. Voltaire said that it takes a whole generation for the human ear to grow familiar with a new musical style.[59]

But he wants music and all the arts to become "open to everyone.. .And not bulkiness, obscurity, and complexity of form as is now esteemed, but, on the contrary, brevity, clearness, and simplicity of expression. Only when art has attained to that, will art neither divert nor deprave men as it does now..."[60]

He then proceeds to generalize about modem music of his time, not only Russian hut the works of Europeans as well:

...the melodies of the modem composers are amazingly empty and insignificant. And to strengthen the impression produced by these empty melodies, the new musicians pile complex modulations on to each trivial melody, not only in their own national manner, hut also in the way characteristic of their own exclusive circle and particular musical school. Melody - every melody - is free, and may he understood of all men; but as soon as it is bound up with a particular harmony, it ceases to he accessible except to people trained to such harmony, and it becomes strange, not only to common men of another nationality, but to all who do not belong to the circle whose members have accustomed themselves to certain forms of harmonization. So that music, like poetry, travels in a vicious circle. Trivial and exclusive melodies, in order to make them attractive, are laden with harmonic, rhythmic, and orchestral complications, and thus become yet more exclusive; and far from being universal, are not even national, i.e., that are not comprehensible to the whole people but only to some people.[61]

Being a devotee of Bach, he was familiar with the Gebrauchsmusik of Germany[62] going on during his earlier years. Responding to the musician as a specially inspired person with a music-for-the-sake-of-music mentality, he replies:

The Gebrauchsmusik movement was both a social and aesthetic reaction against romanticism. . . Not only did they try to acquire Bach's manner of musical directness, but they spoke of him as one of the early exponents of Gebrauschmusik who labored to fulfill the musical needs of the people. The members of the Gebrauchsmusik movement pointed out that Bach did not write for an elite group, or selected few, but for the entire congregation, the general public. He did not create at his own pleasure, if and when the spirit moved him, but labored from day to day, as any other craftsman, to fulfill his obligation to his society and church. [63]

What is important about Tolstoy is that he responds to the evolution going on in pure music in the same fashion as did the cardinals and other churchmen regarding sacred music when it was changing.

What occurs in these aforesaid judgments of Tolstoy or the cardinals is that they seem to exceed their bounds when criticizing works, neither liked nor understood, and fail to refrain from over-generalization by appealing to the past as something exclusively normative both for musical aesthetics and moral influence.


In essence, we have seen that there is a scarcity of thought on the meaning of music per se. Philosophers tried to make some intelligent comments about its meaning. Music communicates deeply but it is not always clear exactly what, as they perceived it, other than stimulating certain emotions. The old arguments concerning the primacy of words or melody raged on. That listening to music is a contemplative act is affirmed by Hegel; Herbart's attempt to contradict him goes back to Aristoxenus Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, notwithstanding some peculiar ideas in other areas of philosophy, render an opening to the understanding that music gets underneath the soul and communicates something deep and profound. They, thus, touch the threshold of Aquinas's doctrine but are not able to come to grips with the meaning of beauty. Tolstoy represents the general public so wanting to understand new music but unable to do so because of poor musical habits of listening, and perhaps poor non-musical ones as well. What he fails to see, however, is that if music appreciation is a virtue and all of the virtues are somehow connected, a person's lifestyle may also get in the way of perceiving the beautiful enmeshed in tone and rhythm.

Bringing this section to an end, no one in recent memory has understood the moral significance and dimension of music better than Josef Pieper. His words recapitulate the moral meaning of music that these nineteenth century philosophers were alluding to but were unable to express:

To repeat: thus has the nature of music variously been understood in the Western philosophical tradition - as nonverbal articulation of weal and woe; as wordless expression of man's intrinsic dynamism of self-actualization, a process understood as man's journey toward ethical personhood, [emphasis mine], as the manifestation of man's will in all its aspects as love...This same tradition continues in remarks by Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzche when they say that music "invariably is the direct expression of an immediacy as no interfering medium is involved" or (Schopenhauer) that of all the arts it is music that represents the will itself; or (Nietzsche in his interpretation of Wagner) that music lets us hear "nature transformed into love."[64]

Part III: The 20th Century Interest - Other Functions of Music


Since the early twentieth century until the present, scientific researchers have made extensive studies concerning the emotional effects of music, inadvertently interpreting moral consequences as well. We can divide this period from approximately the 1920's until the founding of the National Music Therapists in 1950 at Washington D. C. Because the literature is superabundant, it is possible only to utilize the main insights, which apparently are the more popular sources among music therapists. We have to lightly gloss over the highlights of lesser known research materials to the extent that they seem valuable for this dissertation. There are many reasons why such energy was spent on the research of music, from the love of the scientific method to the interest in trying to vindicate or prove wrong the assertions of the ancients.

Music for Healing: Ancient and Renaissance Perspectives

From the time of the early Greeks continuing through the Renaissance period in the West, music was considered as either the whole or part of the process of healing body and soul. However, as L. Keegan puts it in his essay, holistic care which began in antiquity faded away over the centuries. Its re-emergence which now includes music has revolutionized the health care industry today.[65]

An article by Bruno Meinecke shows how important music was for the ancients in healing diseases.[66] Meinecke indicates that for the Greeks, Apollo as the god of poetry, dancing and music, gives the universe, measure and beauty of form. Apollo becomes the model of the Greek idea that the aim of life is the purest harmony of soul and body. Also he is the music/medicine inventor as early as 430 B.C., with Orpheus as his helper. Through the medium of poetry, music and medicine, he brings remedies to the soul and body. There is some suggestion that the arts of the muses were involved in the therapeutic technique of the temple rites. It is found in Pindar (CIG 2864; IGIns. 736) that Aesculapius delivers those who suffer from sores and wounds by enchanting melodies as well as potions and surgery. As Meinecke puts it:

Psychagogic therapy was an indispensable part of the ritual, for it was imperative to induce in the patient an ecstatic experience in order to awaken the curative power of the soul, and thereby restore the harmonious relation between it and the body. To dismiss Aesculapius and his cult as an extreme form of religious imposture is to lack the proper perspective for judging the progressive development of Greek medicine. One must remember that the ancient Greek - and for that matter the Roman as well - was incurably religious, and that therefore the assumed mantic powers of Apollo and Aesculapius resolved themselves into an elemental psychotherapy, which was efficacious mostly because the patient believed in it...[67]

If Thales taught that there were souls in everything, then it is a short step to the idea that Orpheus's golden lyre and Amphion moved stones by their melodies (Euripides. Med. 543 et al; Horace. A.P. 394 et seq.). As Meineke explains the data:

What were the theories of eminent Greek and Roman authorities regarding the effects of music on soul and body? At the outset we must remind ourselves that the ancients defined music as the arts of the Muses, which would include poetry, singing, playing and interpretative dancing, since harmony, in the Greek sense, melody and rhythm were their chief constituents...

Homer, who is the beginning of all good things Greek, accords music a prominent place in a variety of human relationships. So he recommends it to avoid negative passions, such as anger, sorrow, worry, fear, fatigue, and to promote healthful recreation for elevating soul and body.. .[68]

We have already seen how some of these ideas affected both Plato and Aristotle in their understanding of music and morals via the emotions.

By the time of the Renaissance's renewed interest in things Greek, we find that many thinkers tried to integrate all knowledge and arts with humankind. Medicine was often linked with religion, cult, magic and music because of the belief in the correspondence among things. One can read about music which allegedly mitigates pain, restores hearing to the deaf, heals vermin bites, and cures the insane.[69] The great surgeon Ambrose Parei mentions that music can cure spider bites, sciatica and gout.[70]

Renaissance doctors thought that music was an aid to preventive medicine such as resistance to the epidemics of the time. Since anger, excessive sorrow, and worry must be shunned as the grounds for certain diseases, one must live in joy and pleasure, which comforts the mind and heart. This is accomplished by music.[71]

According to Zarlino (following Plato), the passions are aroused or abated by the hearing of music and so music governs morals. The music of the Renaissance was primarily choral, and since words can determine the mode of the music, the emotional states of the hearer could be edified or corrupted.[72]

Another interesting phenomenon of the early renaissance and later is called St. Vitus's and St. John's dances (also known as tarantism in the south).[73] It was a complex sociological and pathological dancing mania which was looked upon as a cure (to avoid the full effects of the beginnings of an apparent plague) rather than a disease. Hordes of people in towns and villages would dance for hours until they fell into exhaustion and then begin again. But the question of music and medicine simply passes away after the Renaissance, only to he taken up again in the present century.

Early Twentieth-Century Experimenters

One of the first major experiments of this century (1927) in the United States with the effects of music per se seems to he the work of M. Schoen and E. L. Gatewood. In an experiment conducted on 20,000 people, it was found that emotional meaning came more from tempo than modality, second came the pitch level and in a very unusual finding, harmony, rhythm and melody were less significant.[74]' One major difficulty in his experiment, however, is that he neglects to take into account the influence of the lyrics and relies solely on other factors within the music examined (i.e. rhythm and tone).

In 1935 and 1936 another important researcher K. Hevner, conducted a series of experiments on the mood of music. She came up with the notion that music in the major mode is "happy, graceful and playful", music in the minor mode is "sad, dreamy and sentimental". Firm rhythms are "vigorous and dignified"; flowing rhythms are happy, graceful, dreamy and tender"; complex dissonant harmonies are "exciting, agitating, vigorous and inclined to sadness." The following schema of the emotions aroused by music emerged from her labors. It is called the Hevner's circle:[75]

Since her time, most researchers have preferred to use simply two generic terms under which all these moods (and even physiological changes as well) could he placed: simulative and sedative music.[76] It should be kept in mind from the point of view of morals that these moods or emotions are not intrinsically evil. Their goodness or evil will in part depend upon any specific intelligible content related to them flowing either intrinsically or extrinsically from the music itself. Also, the prudence of the listener is necessary because, as will be seen, the consequent stirring of these emotions may either facilitate or harm mental and even physical health.

It was E. T. Gaston, however, who did much pioneering work on the effects of stimulative music and bodily energy, muscle reactions to strong rhythms, loud volume, dissonance (stimulative music) and contemplative intellectual behaviors, with percussive elements notably absent.[77] He also thought that to be unable to appreciate beautiful music was a handicap for anyone. Music and religion go hand in hand for defending against fear and loneliness besides pointing toward God; for music derives from the tender emotions which give birth to love songs, folk songs, concern for others, country and God. Others have maintained that music provides a feeling of belonging, good will and an aid to reaching out to others as well as boosting self-esteem.[78] Looked at in a summary way, Gaston has put his analysis of music into eight considerations or categories:

  1. People need aesthetic expression and experience.
  2. The cultural 'matrix determines the mode of expression.
  3. Music and religion are integrally related.
  4. Music is communication.
  5. Music is structured reality.
  6. Music is derived from the tender emotions.
  7. Music is a source of gratification.
  8. The potency of music is greatest in the group.[79]

From a Thomistic perspective, Gaston has developed his ideas in such a manner as to show that virtues can be taught and developed in part through music. Since the problems of life such as loneliness, sorrows and anxieties, or the feeling of distance from God can lead to moral deficiency, music can provide a powerful outlet for molding both frustrated inclinations and feelings because great music is a communication on a non-verbal level which both alleviates and elevates emotion to higher levels than the self. By pointing out that music's basis is found in the tender emotions, he is implicitly agreeing with Aquinas that the irascible appetite is really for or meant to terminate in the concupiscible appetite (S.T., I-II, 45, 1).

For St. Thomas, love, desire and pleasure in objects (personal or non-personal) are not always greatly troubling. They have many levels of intensity from light to heavy. Now, music-playing and listening hearken to the causes of these emotions, sometimes by setting them up through recall, that is, reminding one of country, kith and kin in a positive light, either remotely or in an abstract manner with less familiar melodies or concretely with more familiar tunes. This in turn leads the listener, if he or she is open, to feel a greater sense of community and perhaps cope with life's many difficult problems. That humankind is a social animal deeply dependent on the community is a capstone of St. Thomas's anthropology. Great and ordinary music usually amplifies, solidifies and develops this aspect. It also helps the human person approach the deity, sometimes from fear but more often from a sense of intimacy and friendliness, though at times with somberness (when in a mood of repentance) or reverence when in a mood of conceiving God as totally other. Being structured and pleasing, music, then, epitomizes the delight of what being fully alive really means, that is, experiencing a feeling of order which is integral, generating joy, peace or even serenity.

Two more contemporary psychologists of music whose book contains summaries of previously cited experimenters may be considered. Radocy and Boyle, after studying for years certain traits of stimulative and sedative music, have noted the following phenomena:

While rhythm, and particularly tempo, appears to be the predominant energizing factor, dynamic level also appears to serve as a stimulator. Louder music seems to stimulate greater response activity than softer music, Other musical attributes such as pitch level, melody, harmony, texture, and timbre also may help energize music, but the extent to which these variables contribute toward the driving, energizing force of music is less clearly understood than for rhythm and dynamics.

Music which soothes, calms, or tranquilizes behavior appears to rely on sounds that are nonpercussive and legato. Its melodic passages are sustained, legato,and generally have a minimum of rhythm activity. The most important rhythmic attribute of sedative music is the underlying beat, which is usually monotonously regular but subdued. Lullabies are the primary example of functional sedative music. The dynamic level usually is quite soft, the tempo is generally much slower than for stimulative music, and the melody's frequency range appears to be quite limited.[80]

Now, one of the issues that perplex moderns in the field of aesthetics comes down to this: how real are these emotions which are generated by listening to music? The only real answer boils down to how allied these emotions are to real or imagined experience. If music suggests and evokes these feelings, there must be some basis. To argue, as did Hanslick toward the end of the nineteenth century, that imagination is intimately associated with feelings and sensations is reasonable. There is also no argument that the truly beautiful is not simply emotional feelings re-experienced.[81] But to say that emotion is out of place for the composer, and the listener as well, is wrong, especially in light of Hevner's findings above (page 160) since great musical pieces sometimes begin with folk songs, or national songs that are full of different feelings about real events or imaginary ones that are related to real experiences, objectively or subjectively. Or again, for Hanslick to say that great feelings can never be the source of inspiration for music is also wrong (page 73). That little more is demanded of the player of music than fidelity to the notes (page 76) is inconsistent especially since he says earlier that the player must "breathe passionate excitement, ardent longing, buoyant strength and joy" (page 73).

From Hevner and Gaston, the moralist can draw several conclusions. Music can aid or hinder mental and physical health. Likewise it may either help a person have a feeling for the common good or facilitate a turning to one's inner self in an escape. Hence, given the profound diffusion of music in these times, it is important that the virtue of music appreciation be cultivated.

More Recent Developments and Findings

The origins of mood music for sale

In the 1930's a group called Muzak Corporation which exists to this day was formed. They set out to prove that music can, if used in background situations, have certain effects. The background music which they used is called "mood music" or "easy listening music". The "listeners" are primarily engaged in tasks or activities other than listening to music yet it exists in the background. It is used today for reading, studying. working, and most of all shopping. It can also be used to escape feelings of loneliness, for purposes of reveries to relaxation, or to mask unwanted sounds, and stimulate conversations. Muzak Corporation bases its programming on the idea that a function of music is to give a "boost" to listeners, and reduce fatigue and boredom. It is now found in restaurants, hotel lobbies, doctors' and dentists' offices, subways, elevators, airplanes and industry.[82] Independently of the Muzak Corporation (which wants to sell its product), outside researchers have shown that pleasant music seems to make a store more attractive and clientele more receptive because the particular music chosen is so positive in outlook. One caution, however, is that the emotional engagement which it arouses is a deep factor in the actual purchasing of goods rather than a product's qualities. In a recent study, it was once again found that slow music (sedative) tended to increase gross sales more than fast music conditions.[83] This says a great deal in terms of consumerism and the problem of avarice (S.T., II-II, 118, 1-8). If the purpose of the background music is to encourage the selling of goods for its own sake and even hide the lack of good qualities as goods, then one begins to find a moral problem of deception if a substantial defect in the product is being hidden (the myth of the Siren singer coming tale on another level). If the use of music were to create only an interest in or remembrance of products, then there would be no moral problem. In any case, such dubious functional use of music will continue as long as there are goods to sell and music available.

Another problem with "background music" has been articulated by Josef Pieper when he says that this "light music' or "happy sound" ..."by its sheer banality...expresses quite accurately the cheap self-deception that on the inner existential level all is fine, there is 'nothing to worry about,' everything is in good order, really."[84] This often is not the case. Such easy listening, happy harmonies and superficial melodies tend to promote superficiality in the soul and an implicit turning away from the struggle and search for the absolute goodness itself.

Music and study

It has been shown that music affects the learning process for the better (and it might be added that it affects the workplace).[85] It is well known in the teaching profession in the United States that many grammar and high school teachers have discovered that the playing of music from the Baroque period tends to quiet down both youngsters and teenagers after recess and prepare them for learning.[86] To the extent that music can aid in the immediate development of the intellectual virtues (not always clear in either Plato and Aristotle who looked upon it as a remote preparation), then music has another role to play as a moral force for human goodness.

The return of music as an aid to medicine

Since the founding of the National Association for Musical Therapy in 1950, the use of music in the doctor's office, hospital rooms (pre-op to post-op), and psychiatric settings has become more and more extensive.[87] Nevertheless, it is difficult to know how effective such procedures really are since they are normally used in conjunction with other activities (hypnosis) and medicines and with other therapeutic teams in hospitals. A solid research base is still in its infancy. I personally know a researcher, Adam Knieste from Plano, Texas, whose musical theories were applied to a psychotic patient in a New York Veteran's hospital. The patient had not spoken a word in six months until Adam played some music (at the risk of harming his life through violent acts of the patient). Within a few minutes of playing some classical music, the patient began to speak and, over a period of time, also began to cope with and recover from his mental illness.[88] From these examples, the moralist sees more reasons why music appreciation is to be fostered during periods of health. When illness strikes, then music can more quickly aid in the return of the human person back to the community and the common good. Moreover, reasoning from music's aid (both playing and listening to it) in the curative process, one can say it may be a preventative aid for mental and physical health as well, restoring the equilibrium of soul and body during the many stresses and strain of acquiring moral habits.

Music at the movies

When it comes to movies, it is clear that music enhances words, gestures am images. It encourages empathy for characters on the screen as well as lending continuity to the plot. When danger is getting closer to the main character and he does not ye know it, we know it through the sounds of music.[89] Any moral consideration here will be in direct proportion to what is the theme and purpose of a film, whether art or propaganda for a lifestyle good or bad, or whether certain scenes are meant to deliberately stir up in the audience a desire for fornication, drugs, violence, avarice and the like rather than symbolize these problems.[90] Somehow then, I relive what is portrayed in the movie, and so music participates in giving me this experience of empathetic identification either for good or evil, depending upon one's longing for virtue or vice, excellence or mediocrity or evil.

Music and volume

St. Thomas in his commentary on Aristotle's treatise De Anima (Comm. A Anima, III, 2, 587) says that the senses are corrupted by an excess of sensation. Recently, it was shown in a scientific way that hearing will suffer if one is exposed to prolonged loudness. Loss of hearing can be gradual as it steals one's ability to hear high-frequency sounds. Also, 100 decibels of sound from any source - "Rock" concerts, farm equipment, or factory machinery - can cause irreparable damage.[91]

Little did Aquinas ever realize what large doses of noise would be experience in the twentieth century car, jet air plane or train travel and how much it could might produce severe fatigue. This fatigue, however, can be mixed with other factors from both the type and volume of music, either while traveling or in a room. In some rare cases, musicogenic epilepsy, "afinas" as it is called, can produce convulsive twitches in the face and arms, leading eventually to loss of consciousness. In the case text cited in footnote 91 of this chapter, it is associated with Rock music.

It is a paradox that the more expressive music is aesthetically, the more noxious because its immediate appeal to the senses and emotions, it can be. Bad artistic music can be harmless from certain immediate points of view. The harmful effects of music are manifold: the excessive amount of music heard; particular emotional states disturbing or upsetting to one person (but not to another). Some emotional types hear music and become affected by it too deeply (whereas cold rational types of listeners will not be affected adversely).[92] Finally, excessive concerts showered upon listeners can cause nervous fatigue and psychological indigestion.[93]

Several moral factors come into play. But first, in making a decision about loud music, one must be concerned about the consequences of harming the sense of hearing in a permanent way.

Music and physical responses

Another interesting phenomenon as regards listening to music is that the heart beat ends to synchronize with the rhythm of the music.[94] Fast songs produce a fast heart beat, which in turn will influence chemical changes in the blood stream and potentially rouse emotions. Here is an example cited by one researcher in Germany:

The hormone epinephrine is shot into the blood during stress or anxiety or the stimulate experience of submitting oneself to an abnormal volume of music. When this happens, the heart beats rapidly, the blood vessels constrict, the pupils dilate, the skin pales, and often the stomach, intestines and esophagus are seized by spasms. When the volume is prolonged there are heart flutters.

A three-year study of university students by investigators at Germany's Max Plank Institute showed that 70 decibels of noise consistently caused vascular constriction - particularly dangerous if the coronary arteries already are narrowed by arteriosclerosis.[95]

Therefore, if one is recovering from heart disease, the obligation to avoid needless anxiety caused by the noise or the volume level of concerts must be a consideration of prudence, lest its levels rise to harm the human person.

On the other side of the question, in the juvenile hall for Mann County of Northern California, the authorities have a simple way of getting the youngsters to sleep (taken from a musical method of helping insomniac patients). They play a tape called "Sleep Sound" created by the above-mentioned Adam Knieste. It has been sold-out in the United States. It has also been used to save the lives of babies at the Mann General Hospital in California who cannot sleep and also reject any sleeping medication.[96]

A major moral question that arises, by reflecting on other possible examples, is the following problem: listening to sedative music while driving can be dangerous to the lives of others, since one can more easily fall asleep at the wheel.

Music and inculturation

In some schools of psychology, the word codability refers to words that enhance one's perceptual and conceptual ability. It may be the case that certain types of music do the same with the emotions that flow from music, either lust, religious feelings, patriotic fervor or rebellion. They unify or intensify ideas and thoughts of a culture or nation.[97] For example, Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" has taken on a meaning of liberty for Lithuania as well as certain countries previously behind the Iron Curtain. It also has other meanings for the German nation as well. This is yet another reason why it is so difficult to be objective about music. Associations of music with events, stories and one's past life result in re-presenting the events when familiar music is played. The feeling response which goes along with and is wrapped around the aesthetic response is more than the music itself in a sense. Music in this sense provides an outlet for reproducing many deep events or learned aspirations of one's past which may have been morally good, bad or neutral.[98] As we have already seen, this was one experience behind Plato's ideas of music, and it is also why Aristotle recognized that music without words could indicate character.

Some effects of Rock music

In the introduction to this dissertation, the problem of rock music was in part introduced by a quotation from Bloom and another author on the problem of using rock music for sacred music. After examining many different facets of the whole question of music in its other features, we are now in a better position to make some more particular judgments about this form or style of music. Some experiments have been made concerning the effects of rock music on animals and plants which I will not go into because of its remoteness to the question of the morality of music.[99] The following studies however are of great interest in helping anyone make some evaluations.

1) One hundred and forty-four undergraduate men viewed rock videos. Exposure to nonerotic-violent ones resulted in significantly higher Adversarial Sexual Beliefs score and ratings of negative effects which implies that by association innocent rock videos can be affected by the remembrance of the opposite kind of videos.[100]

2) Using rock music lyrics to get to "hard-to-reach" adolescents, it was found that they began to discuss ideas without being aggressive and learn ways of coping with daily pressures rather than following their rock idols' solutions which (as reflected in the music) usually suggested withdrawal from society and aggression toward it.[101]

3) A large number of adolescents in a psychiatric population, all chemically dependent, were shown to prefer listening to heavy metal music. They tended to find simple and unconventional answers to their complex problems in the lyrics rather than in traditional values. Evidence shows that much of this music is a support system for them and tends to promote drug abuse, promiscuous sexual activity and violence.[102]

4) Studies of child murderers indicate that the majority of offenders do not differ significantly from non-offenders. Case studies support the view that pornography and popular music increase the propensity of individuals to commit these atrocities.[103]

5) It was surprising for adolescents to see the close relationships between drugs, rock lyrics and their own behavior. A chart illustrating the progression of drug addiction was shown to them with similar rock lyrics showing the same things, from increased dependence to loss of control and physical deterioration. Through directed discussion, they began to consider better ways of dealing with daily pressures other than withdrawal or aggression against society at large.[104]

6) Male undergraduates were shown a series of videotaped depictions of heterosexual rape with dialogue and background rock music, then, relaxing music and finally, mere silence. Males listening to the soundtrack found the sequence more pornographic than watching in silence. The results are compatible with assertion that rock-videos influence the impact of depicted sexual violence.[105]

Concluding summary

The director of the Eastman school of music has said: "Music can be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has power of evil as well as for good."[106]

To assert that melodies, harmonies and rhythms (the "beat") of themselves are a corrupting influence, isolated and abstracted from lyrics or conceptual themes learned as codable values or disvalues, goes beyond the reasonable evidence and analysis presented in this work. Admittedly, circumstances and the lapse of time will not always be so influential as to take away encouragement of the corrupting dispositions from certain pieces of music played without words. For the most part however, new generations may not know the lyric conditions of past musical compositions and may be in a better position to appreciate and judge their musical qualities.

Reflecting on the above sample of studies and my own American experience, however, much contemporary and past popular music is often allied with an anti-gospel way of life (note the works in the Introduction and the books by Tipper Gore on explicit sex and graphic violence on TV, films, rock videos and rock music), and so constant listening to it can more easily corrupt good moral habits of the heart.[107] If it is true that teenagers and young adults listen more to their radios and cassette players than they do to their parents, then the future of the Church, culture and civilization in America is in jeopardy. Notwithstanding these troubled waters, the abuse of any form of music (remember St. Thomas's aside about the abuse of chant) does not make the form intrinsically evil, even if it is crafted in an apparently ugly form to the ears or mind of the listener.

In the next and final chapter, 1 will try to pull together the major themes and findings of this work, in relation to what we have seen in the present chapter.

Chapter 4 Endnotes

1 Opera Theoretica, ed. by Albertus Sey (Corpus scriptorum de musica 22), American Institute of Musicology, 1975, as found in Selected Sources, vol. 2, ed. by Katz and Dahlhaus, pp. 38-39.

2 Richard Wagner was a notable exception since he was influenced by Schopenhauer.

3 Jacob of Liege author of Speculum musicae cited by Robert F. Hayburn, Papal Legislation, p. 17.

4 Ibid., p. 20-21.

5 Ibid., pp. 21-22. The same phenomenon still happens. Once the most famous rock groups of all times, The Beatles, made the song "Let it be" so popular and vague in its lyrics that it has been used quite often at Mass in the USA during liturgies for young people. It is not anti-clerical in its theme, however some thought it could be a pro-marijuana.

6 Oxford History of Music ed. by H. E. Woolrede and rev. ed. by Percy C. Bok, 1928-32, vol. II, Oxford University Press, London 1929-38 p. 91.

7 See the entry, "Organ" in NEB.

8 Canon 75 of the Quintesext or Tullan Council (691). It is clear, reading the Rudder, (trans. by D. Cummings et al., The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, Chicago 1957, pp.379-361, a standard handbook of Eastern Canon Law, that the use of instruments in the liturgy is considered unnatural from their point of view.

9 Hayburn, Papal Legislation, pp. 25-31.

10 Ibid., p. 30 citing a document found in Andre Pons, Droit ecclesiastique et musique sacree, 4 vols. (St. Maurice Switzerland: Editions de l'Oeuvre St. Augustin, 1959-1961, 3:114. Some centuries later, Pius X, when he was Cardinal Sarto of Venice in a pastoral letter, will lament that Palestrina is neglected except by the Protestants (ibid., p. 216)!

11 Ibid, P. 97.

12 Ibid., p. 97.

13 Paul Nettl, Luther and Music, Muhlenberg Press, Philadephia 1948, p. 12, citing Luther's work Encomium Musices, found in Die Singweisen, Weimare und Leipzig, 1883.

14 Ibid., p. 24.

15 Alec Robertson, Christian Music, Hawthorn Books, New York 1961, p. 96.

16 Ibid., p. 25.

17 Hayburn, Papal Legislation, p. 95.

18 Ibid., p. 101.

19 Ibid., p. 101.

20 Ibid., p. 124

21 Ibid, pp. 136-137.

22 Ibid. pp. 137-140.

23 "Worldly music" was placed in quotation marks purposely because such a phrase has two differing lines of meaning, one implying suggestions of immorality, the other simply extra-religious activities.

24 Translation of Pius X through John XXIII can be found in Worship and Liturgy ed. by James S. Megivern, A Consortium Book, McGrath Publishing Company, Wilmington, North Carolina, 1978. The numbers given for Tra Le Sollecitudini refer directly to the encyclical itself. All other numbers refer to the numbers given by Megivern. Where "trans. by Howell" is indicated concerning Musicae Sacrae Disciplinae, an encyclical letter of Pius XII On Sacred Music, this is taken from the citations quoted in the work by Joseph Gelineau, Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship, trans. by Clifford Howell, S.J., Burns and Oates, London 1964.

25 Perhaps, in regard to beauty no one ever put it more profoundly than Hanslick when he said: "No composer can create beauty as a necessary result of his own work. It is not something wholly of sounds artistically combined" (The Beautiful in Music, trans. by Gustave Cohen, Ewer and Co., Novello 1891, p. 66). If this is true for pure music, how much more so for liturgical.

26 To show how the Church will change her disciplinary attitudes from time to time, it is interesting to observe that in the 1700's, Pope Benedict IV had said concerning musical instrument that violin bows excite boyish gaiety rather than "a composed veneration of the sacred mysteries and souls are not touched." But organ, tuba, tetrachord, flute, lyres and lute are permitted, if they supported voices. Tambourines, cors de classe, trumpets, flutes, harps, guitars, in general all instruments that give a theatrical swing to the music, are to be excluded. Those that are permitted must be "used exclusively to uphold the chant of the words, so that their meaning be well impressed in the minds of the listeners, and the souls of the faithful moved to the contemplation of spiritual things and urged to love God and divine things all the more." Hayburn Papal Legislation, p. 103.

27 As Gevaert puts it:

The ancients used to view the act of musical composition from a standpoint very different from ours. Whereas in our day the composer seeks above all to be original, imagining for himself his motifs with their harmonies and their instrumentation, those Romans and Greeks who wrote melodies (and, after them, the writers of liturgical chants) normally worked on traditional themes from which they drew new chants by way of amplification. From very early times a theme of this nature was called a nomos - law, rule, or model. Just as in architecture, composition in music consisted in producing new works out of materials taken from the common domain. This mode of procedure is not limited to the ancient Greeks; it can be found wherever homophonic music reached up to the concept of modal unity, to the recognition of a fundamental harmony. Analogous to the nomos of the Greeks, the saman of the Vedic priests and the raga of modern Hindus form a simple melodic scheme serving as a groundwork of an indefinite number of chants; each one of them is the common element in a distinct group of melodies. See F. A. Gevaert, La melodee antique dans le chant de l'Eglise latine (Ghent, 1895, p. 123), cited by Gelineau, Voices and Instruments, p. 123.

28 J. Maritain, Art and Scholasticism, p. 45. As every musician (in the broad sense) knows when composing, he feels within not only beautiful sounds but his own very being itself much as a knower in knowing being, knows something of himself.

29 Citations of the Second Vatican Council are taken from The Documents of Vatican II, Flannery Edition, Costello Publishing, New York 1986; Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Decree on the Liturgy).

30 Sometimes, the aesthetic experience can be confused with the communication of grace because it may accompany it. In the science of spiritual theology, we discover that grace is not necessarily felt and in fact may accompany very painful feelings. Consolations may also accompany grace. The aesthetic experience is something natural which overpowers the intellect with a sense of splendor and order causing both spiritual and sensible delight. This latter is not the same as a mystical act. In some instances, it may try to replace the communication of grace by its sheer beauty. Then the words become absorbed by the tones and contemplation rests more in the music than in the sacred realities evoked by the poetry of the bible or ecclesiastical texts.

31 Even Pius XII recognized music's supreme importance in the liturgy when he said :

Sacred song is more closely associated with divine worship than most of the other fine arts, such as architecture, painting or sculpture. The function of these is to provide a worthy setting for the divine rites. BUt music, on the other hand, occupies the chief place in the actual performance of the ceremonies and sacred rites (Musicae Sacrae Disciplinae, n. 13).

32 John Paul II, to the International Youth Orchestra, OR 37 (1989), p. 7.

33 John Paul II, "Praise For A Play and A Passion," OR, 33-34 (1990), p. 3.

34 Full participation in social and cultural life," OR, 50 (1987), p. 3.

35 In another context but very close to what John Paul said, a French philosopher under the influence of the French Dominicans, Simone Weil, once said in an aside that " immediately suggests what is infinite". Lectures On Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Mass. 1978., p. 189.

36 This latter idea is a clever adaptation of a reference from Pythagoras and Plato!

37 John Paul II, "To the Harmonici Cantores," OR, 2 (1989), p. 11. In a similar vein, the present Holy Father spoke about the icon. What is said of the preparation of the artist in this field could easily be applied as well to the sacred musician:

.They are manifestations of the religious soul, nourished by the spirituality of the Eastern Fathers, through which a mysterious "presence" of the transcendent Prototype seems as it were to be transferred to the sacred image. It is a conception, therefore, of artistic beauty as an occasion and stimulus for moral uplifting and of ascent towards divine Beauty, the creative origin of all physical and human beauty. The devout contemplation of such an image thus appears as a real created path of purification of the soul of the believer and of his elevation to the Prototype, because the image itself, blessed by the priest and devoutly executed by the artist-monk, can in a certain sense, by analogy with the sacraments actually be considered a channel of divine grace... (OR, 51-52 (1989), p. 9).

38 Lest anyone think that everything is neat and tidy regarding the Gregorian chants, it needs to be noted there exists yet another controversy concerning the very method of singing these very chants of the Church:

There is not lack of difficulty in interpreting these texts. There are the accentualists, followers of Dom Pothier, for whom the accents in the text determine the rhythm of the melody. Then there are those who follow the new direction of Solesmes, for whom the Gregorian melody has is own rhythm, independent of the rhythm of the text. And finally, there are the measuralists, who do not accept free rhythm but try to establish precise values for the notes. There are also those who do not believe that the notations and letters were part of the primitive Gregorian chant, but were added at a later date (Antonio Braga, "Research on medieval texts of liturgical music continues", (OR, 29 (1991) 10).

39 He could have cited the motu proprio of Pope Pius X, Tra Le Sollecitudini, On the Restoration of Church Music, November 22, 1903 where he says in at #1: "...the specific purpose of sacred music is to impart a more powerful efficacy of the text itself."

40 A. Perris, Music as propaganda: Art to persuade, art to control, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT 1985, pp. 123-155.

41 Rev. Joseph Gelineau, S. J., Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship, trans by Rev. Clifford Howell, S.J., Burns and Oates, London 1964, p. 36.

42 Rudolf E. Radocy and J. David Boyle, Psychological Foundations of Musical Behavior, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield Ill. 1988, pp. 269-270. This book has done music therapists and others an extraordinary service of synthesizing much of the findings of experiments on the effects of music and audience done in this century. It will become the principal source material for the latter part of this chapter.

43 Kathi Meyer-Baer, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, June 1947, P. 307.

44 Paul Oskar Kristeller The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino trans. by Virginia Conant, Columbia University Press, New York 1943, p. 307.

45 Ibid., p. 307.

46 Ibid. p. 308.

47 Oliver Strunk, Source Readings, p. 566.

48 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans by J. H. Bernard, MacMillan and Co., Ltd., London 1914, p. 217.

49 Ibid., p. 217.

50 Ibid., p. 231. A Thomist would say that created beauty either by God or man is an analogue of infinite beauty.

51 Wilhelm Friedreich Hegel, Philosophy of Fine Art, Vol. III, trans. by F. P. B. Osmaston, G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., London 1920, p. 341.

52 Walter T. Stace, The Philosophy of Hegel, MacMillan Co., New York 1924, p. 475.

53 See Hegel's Philosophy of Fine Art Introduction, trans. by F. P. B. Osmaston, 1920. Other studies of Hegel on this question include Max Dessoir, Aesthetics and Sense Theory of Art, trans. by S. A. Emery, 1970 and Thomas Munro, The Arts and Their Interrelations, Press of Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 1967.

54 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of Fine Art, trans. by Bernard Bosanquet, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., London l905,found in Aesthetic Theories Studies in the Philosophy of Art, ed. by Karl Aschenbrenner and Arnold Isenberg, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1965, p. 316.

55 Ibid., PP. 321-322.

56 E. F. Carritt, Philosophies of Beauty, Oxford University Press, London 1931, p. 156.

57 Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Idea, The Modern Library, New York 1928, p. 206.

58 Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, Vol. III, trans. by Haldane and Kemp, Kegan Paul, Crench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., London 1883, pp. 232-233.

59 Josef Pieper, Only The Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1990, p. 42.

60 Friedreich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. by Clifton P. Fadiman, The Modern Library, New York 1937, p. 198.

59 Leo Tolstoy, What is Art, trans. by Ayliner Maude, Thomas Y. Cromwell and Co., New York 1899, p. 209.

60 Ibid., p. 173.

61 Ibid., p. 148.

62 Gebrauchsmusik literally means music for use, especially social purposes like "sing-along" music. It was also a word used by critics early in this century to describe amateurish music liked by ordinary people. See entry"Gebrauchsinusik" in New Grove.

63 Ibid., p. 216.

64 J. Pieper, Lover Sings, pp. 44-45.

65 L. Keegan, "Holistic Nursing," Journal of Rost Anesthetic Nursing, 4 (1989), 17-21.

66 Bruno Meinecke, "Music and Medicine in Classical Antiquity," in Music and Medicine, ed. by Dorothy M. Schullian and M. Schoen, Schuman, New York 1948.

67 Ibid., pp. 50-51.

68 Ibid., p. 55.

69 See Armen Carapetyan, "Music and Medicine in the Renaissance and in the 17th and 18th Centuries" in Therapeutic and Industrial Uses of Music by Doris Soibelman, Columbia University Press, New York 1948. Note also the long list of Goseffo Zarlino (1517-1590), Institutioni harmoniche (1558), I, c.2.) cited by Carapetyan. Interestingly Zarlino mentions that the beat in music is related to the systole and diastole of the heartbeat.

70 The works of that Famous Chirurgian Ambrose Parei, London 1879, ch. XXIII, p. 31.

71 Msd. 11,227, Fonds Latin, Bibliothéque nationale, Paris, cited by E.-Ernile Rébouis, Etude historique et critique sur la peste, 1888, P. 115, cited by Carapetyan in Music and Medicine.

72 La piazza universale di tutti le protessioni del mondo (1572) by a certain physician, Tommaso Garzoni, bears witness to the fact that music played by courtesans would be used to seduce young men to passion and sexual intercourse. This idea was important because medicine was interested in venereal disease, which was recognized as coming from prostitution.

73 See entry, "Tarantism in NEB.

74 M. Schoen and E. L. Gatewood, "The mood effects of music" and Problems related to mood effects in music, in The Effects of Music, ed. by M. Schoen, Harcourt Brace, New York 1927, p. 148.

75 Rudolf E. Radocy and J. David Boyle, Psychological Foundations, p. 213.

76 Both Sears, Postural Response to Recorded Music, unpublished master's thesis, University of Kansas, 1951 and D.E. Michel, Effects of stimulative and sedative music on respiration and psychogalvanic reflex as observed in seventh grade students, Unpublished research paper, University of Kansas, 1952, found that tempo increases galvanic skin response or decreases it. Slaughter's, The effect of stimulative and sedative types of music on normal and abnormal subjects as indicated by auxiliary reflexes, Unpublished master's thesis, University of Kansas, 1954 found that stimulative music tended to produce pupillary dilation while sedative tended to produce pupillary constriction. J. M, Johnson, in his Changes in heart rate and respiration of young and old subjects produced by sedative and stimulative musical selections, Unpublished research paper, University of Kansas, 1964, found faster heart beat for stimulative. D. B. Taylor, Subject responses to precategorized stimulative and sedative music, Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Kansas, 1970, brought in the idea that previous musical experience must also be taken into consideration. Peretti and K. Swenson, "Effects of music on anxiety as determined by physiological skin responses," Journal of Research in Music Education, 22 (1974) 278-283 showed that in the presence of music anxiety levels decreased among music majors, and, among females more than males.

77 E. T. Gaston, "Dynamic factors in mood change," Music Educators Journal, 37 (1951) 42-44.

78 Radocy and Boyle, Psychological Foundations, pp. 14­15.

79 Ibid., p. 14.

80 Rudolf E. Radocy and J. David Boyle, Psychological Foundations, p. 266-267.

80 Eduard Hanslick, The Beautiful In Music, p. 71.

82 Handbook of Music Psychology, ed. by Donald A. Hodges, Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa 1980, Chapter 8, "The Behavior of Music Listeners", Paul A. Haack, p. 144.

83 C. Milliam, "Using background music to affect the behaviour of supermarket shoppers", Journal of Marketing, 46 (1982) 876-891.

84 Pieper, The Lover, p. 49.

85 J. Hanshumaker, "The effects of arts education on intellectual and social development: A review of selected research," Council for Research In Music Education, 61 (1980) 1028, shows that music has a value in enhancing social behavior and improving the learning progress in academics. Roth (1975) found that contemporary pop music was superior as background music in study and learning in his Digest of selected muzak studies and attitude surveys, Muzak Corporation, New York, 1974a; Significant studies of the effects of Muzak on employee performance, Muzak Corporation, New York, 1974b, has 16 studies which shows the value of music in work and study in terms of productivity, accuracy, vigilance, safety, morale. Cited in Hodges, Handbook of M. Psych., p. 144.

86 Georgi Lozanov, Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy, Gordon and Breach, New York 1978. This doctor from Bulgaria has done much research on increasing mental abilities. Basing his theories on the function of brain waves and using baroque music especially, he has theorized that certain kinds of music increase the ability to learn other skills. Concerning brain waves, see W. Grey Walter, The Living Brain, W. W. Norton and Co., New York 1963. This book explains the electrical waves of the brain, alpha, delta, theta and beta. The science of electroencephalography explores the mysteries of the brain, from hypnotism to fatigue, crime to genius. It is still too early for the scientific community to agree about which kinds of music produce which waves and why from the perspective of sedative or stimulative music.

87 One of the first studies ever done in this area was worked on by Jacobson. H. L. Jacobson, A study of the effects of sedative music on the tension and anxiety, and pain experienced by mental patients during dental procedures, Unpublished master's thesis, University of Kansas, 1956. He found that sedative music was very helpful for mental patients in calming down anxiety level.

88 See D. L. Davis & K. Boster "Multifaced therapeutic interventions with the violent psychiatric inpatient," Hospital Community Psychiatry, 39 (1988), 867-869. In this study, people with violent behavior tended to use violence because of a fearful image of themselves. Using an approach of combined cognitive, expressive therapy concepts as well as art and music, altering their self-image helped them develop different response patterns. See also the study of Weiden, Feller and Zimny, "Effects of Music upon GSR of Depressives and Schizophrenics," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, LXIV (1962), 307 where it is shown that music affects manics far more than schizophrenics.

89 A book which goes into great detail about this aspect of music can be found in J. A. Musselman, The uses of music An introduction to music in contemporary American life, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1974.

90 Not directly about music but related to it apropos of the film is the fine essay by Theodor Lipps, Empathy and Aesthetic Pleasure, trans. by Karl Aschenbrenner, from Die Zukunft, Vol. LIV, 1905:

How then in this case can the feeling of joy of the aesthetic pleasure rest upon harmony or sympathy? To this the answer must be that cared anxiety, despair, and the like do not residE somewhere in the blue ether, but only in the mind of man. This is not just a fact in general, but for me. That is, in seeing care anxiety despair, I se a person who feels these things in himself, and where I see him or experience him, he introjects himself into my experience. Artistic depiction has evoked an experience of him. I am asked to feel myself a a person who experiences such care and despair....Then I do not experience just empty abstractions "care" and "despair" but I experience this person, this revealing instance of real humanity, without inner conflict. He awakens a genuine echo in me. Here there is an inner harmony between my being and the experience or product of my mind's activity which is evoked in me by the object. Thereby a ground is given for a feeling of harmony or of pleasure, in short, for aesthetic enjoyment.

If I see someone suffer and succumb, and if the suffering and defeat bring home to me the fact that it is a human being who suffers, then this means that what is evoked in me is not just this or that mode of self-activity, but rather that in it, I become aware of my being human. I experience myself as a human being in the most general and fundamental sense of the word "human". And this evocation can be realized just because I am human. I feel the harmony between another person and myself; it permeates me; I feel myself as a person in someone else. I have this most joyful and universal feeling of sympathy, which is at the bottom of all other feelings of sympathy. And I have it the more intensely, the more I am touched by the sorrow and defeat of another person, or the more the humanity of another person is brought before my consciousness by his sorrow and defeat. Empathizing is experiencing. It is not just simply knowing that somewhere in the outer world there is something mental or inward, some joy, sorrow, woe, or despair, nor is it merely imagining such things (Aesthetic Theories Studies in the Philosophy of Art, ed. by Karl Aschenbrenner and Arnold Isenberg, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N. J. 1965, pp. 410-411).

He goes on to say that representative anger does not assault his being, nor stimulate him to practical action since it is not real. It might be better to say that it does not "necessarily" stimulate to practical action because some persons being unbalanced may well be led to do something violent or otherwise after the movie.

91 Betsy A. Lehman, The San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 24, 1990, B-30, cites many authorities. This was again confirmed in July 1991 in the U.S. congressional hearings (CBS News-radio, "The Osgood file," Tuesday, July 23, morning show).

92 F. Howes, Man, Mind and Music, Secker & Warburg, London 1948, P. 158. See also Grahan Wagstaff, Hypnosis, Compliance and Belief, St. Martin's Press, New York 1981, p. 216, where he makes mention of epilepsy caused by rock music. In the same book he mentions in passing that if a person is in love, erotic music can arouse it.

93 Assagioli, p. 243. This is similar to Stendhal's disease: see Newsweek, Dec. 14, 1987, p. 43, "Now, True Culture Shock." "Stendhal syndrome" is the name given to a psychosis by Grizella Magherini and her colleagues at Florence's Santa Maria Nuova hospital whose sufferers pass many days looking at art works. Generally, therefore, tourists are far from home. The problem originally was noticed when it happened to Stendhal in 1817. He felt palpitations of the heart. Magherini says that most victims are would-be cognoscenti who earnestly want to love art and go a little too ear. Doctors have reported similar reactions in Venice, Jerusalem, and Athens, where even Freud suffered a troubling exultation at seeing the Acropolis.

It is the conviction of Adam Knieste that one of the reasons for the violence found at rock concerts is the fatigue that listeners experience. Fatigue can generate anger. In the Saturday Evening Post, March 25, 1967, an article by William Kloman about the group "Mamas and Papas" reported that this group felt it could create audience hysteria by carefully controlled series of rhythms. A riot took place, as a result, it a concert in Phoenix, Arizona (p. 41).

94 Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis: A Collection of Basic Writings, Penguin, London 1976, pp. 239-240.

95 Medical World News, June 13, 1969, p. 13.

96 The German Behavioral scientist, Johannes Kneutgen, in his work Neue Wege der Musiktherapie, (Dusseldorf 1974) claims that music given to troubled youngsters before bedtime eases many chronic problems during the night from bed-wetting to insomnia.

97 Huston Bandura and Aletha C. Bandura, "Identification as a process of incidental learning," Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology 63 (1961), 311-318.

98 Young people learn that music with certain sonic characteristics reflect several moods, while other strains reflect different moods and so they learn to respond differently. However, in one study the emotions of fear and anger showed that sometimes young people became confused when new music was played for them, whereas adults were more apt to give better justifications for their choices for why certain pieces of music reflected one emotion rather than another. M. M. Tergot and F. Van Grinsven, "Recognition of emotions in music by children and adults", Perception Motor Skills, 67 (1988) 3, 697-8.

99 For example, there are many studies on both sides to show that some music (generally rock music) seems to kill or help foster life in plants. Other studies suggest that certain types of music seem to help protoplasm develop or retard in plants. For an example of one study, see Olga T.Curtis, "Music that Kills Plants", Denver Post, June 21, 1970, Based upon the work of George Day, Langston and De La Warr, Matter in the Making, Vincent Stuart, 1966.

100 D. L. Peterson and K. S. Pfost, "Influence of rock videos on attitudes of violence against women", Psychological Reports, 64 (1989), 319-22.

101 A. Mark, "Metaphoric lyrics as a bridge to the adolescent's world," Adolescence, 23 (1988), 313-323.

102 P. King, "Heavy metal music and drug abuse in adolescents," Postgraduate Medicine, 83 (1988) 295-301, 304.

103 P. R. Wilson, "'Stranger' child-murder: issues relating to causes and controls," Forensic Science International. 36 (1987) 3-4, 267-77.

104 A. Mark, "Adolescents discuss themselves and drugs through music," Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 3 (1986), 243-9.

105 J. G. Pfaus, L.D. Myronuk, W. J. Jacobs, "Soundtrack contents and depicted sexual violence," Archetypal Sexual Behavior, 15 (1986), 231-7.

106 Dr. Howard Hanson, American Journal of Psychiatry, 99 (1942), 317.

106 I have noted a similar conclusion advanced by Muzak (p. 165-66) but for different reasons.


During the historical journey of this hook, we have explored and tried to answer many questions relating to the moral theology of music by critically examining some philosophers of music, sacred scripture, texts of the Church Fathers, the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, and finally the documents of the papal magisterium. Throughout this work we reflected upon the following questions as the means to answer some bask problems of our theme:

  1. How do theology and music fit together? Does God reveal anything about music? Does the Church teach anything about music?
  2. How does morality fit in with music?
  3. Seen in a Thomistic perspective, what is beauty and how does it relate to moral goodness? What is an aesthetic experience and how related is it to the fine arts and morality?
  4. Is there a moral virtue relative to music from a Thomistic perspective'?
  5. How can one distinguish liturgical and religious music from each other and from secular music?

In the introduction of this work, my own experience as a jazz musician and my clerical critics of the past years were described as an important underlying force of this dissertation. Likewise, certain problems of music and morality were posed in the introduction vis-a-vis rock music via the analysis of Allen Bloom who claims that rod music is entirely an orgiastic protest against western culture and sexual norm: themselves. Is it the melody and rhythms as such that suggest these immoral forces? From another perspective came the question posed by Minto: can rock music be Christianized?

From another musical tradition, there also has been a revolution in "classical" music or a kind of nihilism against previous forms with no reference point or continuity with past musical laws, especially by the use of buzz-saws and the like interspersing atonal and at-random melodies. While one could argue about the musical quality of these latter experiments, can anything be said about morality here? If music should inspire love, sympathy and the like, can these latter developments, which merely image chaos, he said to be beautiful and moral music? While one could argue a priori that such playing is aesthetically ugly, from the perspective of morals, one could say that it might simply he a waste of time (listening to buzz-saws and random radio programs turned on and off at will) which is a moral judgement of a different sort. In the final analysis, it can he said that where there is no immediate conceptual reference point, music can have good moral consequences over the long term, but trying to predict such things is very futile. The beautiful can aid the life of virtue but it is difficult to prove that the musically deficient as such can aid vice.

From chapter two, I began with the notion that while theology is concerned with God, secondarily it examines all of reality in reference to God, one part of which is the accidental entity made by the human person and called music. Is it subject to moral evaluation? The answer throughout the rest of the chapters showed how difficult it is to determine; but 1 tried to show in what sense any moral evaluation could be possible. That much music can influence moral responses is without question. That an outside judge can easily make moral determinations without reference to poetic or past memory concepts is well-nigh impossible. Muzak is the exception, but only because of circumstances where this "canned" music is played, not from the music itself, as was shown in the last chapter. That some kinds of music can harm the sense of hearing, raise undue anxiety, or on the contrary, aid learning and medical treatment (not enough research has been done to show how some kinds may hinder learning and medical treatment) was also demonstrated in the last chapter.

While sacred Scripture says very little about music as such, it witnesses to the rich heritage which music had in the life of the Israelites, the time of Christ and the life of the early Church. Music can praise Yahweh and be involved in licit or illicit merrymaking and even help soldiers in war to terrorize an enemy. It can accompany as a heightening agent a whole host of activities both good and bad. Nowhere do the scriptures say that it molds or forms character. It can relieve stress as in the case of Saul, but not always. In St. Paul, we found him urging his people to sing to the Lord when they were joyful. Finally, the trumpet takes on significance as a symbol of God's final judgment.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius represents the beginning of the philosophical tradition which holds that music forms character and is a sign of order or disorder in the politics of the state. When music is changing or in a state of flux, he taught that it forebodes ill for society. Like many philosophers in this field after him, he did not try to prove these statements but simply asserted them based upon his observations of the music/poetry of his time.

Plato essentially taught what Confucius claimed, and more so, namely that music forms character especially through the modes of music. Through the character of its citizens, the state is formed. Music must never be indulged in for pleasure, nor should it be performed without words, which constitute its main feature. Melody and rhythm are to be the background for the poetic themes. Melody is for the words and its beauty is understood through the words. Harmony as we now know it did not exist in Plato's time. For all practical purposes, music was like the background music of our movies, not an independent fine art all of its own. Liturgical or ritual music was much like a revival of sanity from emotional stress. It was meant to sweep one's hyper-anxiety away emotionally much like black gospel music in a Southern Baptist choir sends people into emotional ecstasy after hours of singing and dancing, or like the whirling dervishes of one Islamic religion called Sufism.

Aristotle said that character comes through music but no proof was offered save his own observations of its effects on the emotions. He seems to follow Plato in holding that music is part of poetry, dancing and drama and so by reference to ideas suggested and emotionally charged, it is true that music can influence morality. But can pure music influence character? He seems to say "yes" in some sections of his writing but he could be thinking of music that immediately suggests ethical notions through the words, much like the "Star Spangled Banner" when played to an American audience without a singer; the audience either substitutes the words or knows what the significance is behind the melody. So, Aristotle really does not answer the question. It has been my thesis that pure music can have tremendous moral implications for the good, if the virtue of music appreciation is developed.

The Fathers of the Church became exceedingly critical of their contemporary musical situation for reasons of morals and religion. Many spoke against music of their times because it was essentially either idolatrous or licentious. Music of the theater was but an extension of the pagan cults and so to attack music was indirectly to uphold the fledgling faith of Christ in a people still filled with the dregs of their old ways, i.e., marriage parties, singing to their gods in their homes or on the occasion of pagan festivals still celebrated by their non-christian neighbors. On the other side, we find the Fathers waxing eloquent about the many effects of their "new song" inculcating the Christian virtues of patience, kindness, peace, joy and charity, bringing the assembly together in ardent and humble worship. That they likewise teach that music is subordinated to the words of the psalms is due partly to the influence of Plato's philosophy of music, and partly because some of them had composed or commissioned musicians to write hymns which contain the hard sayings of faith and theology made delightful in sound.

In the writings of Augustine, we saw the kernel of the idea of pure music with he concept of "jubilation" whereby a singer could he so moved by the Spirit as to chant melody flowing from the heart without words. For a philosopher, it is a simple step from singing to playing a musical instrument and so, to the conclusion that pure music could also be created or made.

Boethius was the cause of many ecclesiastics believing that the more one follows the mathematical rules of music, the more indicative music is of the moral life. Breaking the so-called laws of music (an occurrence which takes place in the history of music over the centuries) will usually he frowned upon by the past moralists among the early centuries, perhaps as a sign of breaking "natural" laws themselves. Such a theory held the early medieval music in check so that the Church was able to consolidate its own grip on its liturgical music. But as we saw in the early twelfth century, musicians were no mathematicians and therefore became prone to breaking all kinds of rules to create the music form called the "motet". This creative process has continued until the present day, sometimes with great success and sometimes with great failure.

It took Albert the Great to see that music as such can be like a game which purifies the emotions for good or ill and that songs can communicate good deep feelings that surround the many circumstances of life. When it came to sacred music, Albert noted that it not only gives pleasure but images a realm of innocence, which is a moral reference point.

Aquinas seems to derive nothing from the writings of Albert on music, but his analysis of the virtue of ars suggests very profoundly that "craftsman" is a wider term than today's use of the word and includes any kind of making. In so far as the artist (in the broad sense of the word) makes anything that affects humankind for good or evil, art has moral repercussions. Thomas does draw the distinction, as we saw, between the craftsman who makes things for utility and one who makes things for beauty. It is in the latter realm that one finds the musician.

The key analysis of beauty by Aquinas helps us appreciate the value of the musician because for Aquinas, the beautiful stimulates not only the pleasure of the ear but the delight of the mind. The three characteristics or properties of beauty - clarity, order and proportion, splendor of form - cannot be simply reduced to any laws of music or the supposed laws of the other arts. These properties transcend any laws, which is the key to appreciating the openness of Aquinas's thought to artistic evolution within any of the arts, notwithstanding the misunderstanding of the critics. Given his hints about the possibility of a virtue regulating the pleasure of the arts, I developed the notion of the virtue of music appreciation as a potential part of temperance. As one grows in the ability to distinguish beautiful music, one is able to turn the aesthetic experience of music into a preparation for contemplation of other things, pose and possibly answer certain important questions regarding the meaning of life. Likewise, the virtue of music appreciation will lead one to know when to get refreshment from music and when one is becoming too attached to this pleasure and so must moderate its use in the overall life of virtue.

After Aquinas, the next chapter shifted to the principal questions of sacred music. What has become very clear concerning sacred music (liturgical and religious) is that this kind of music requires diverse gifts from the musician, whether he be composer, singer or player. These gifts are different from the composer or player of pure music who provides the simple the aesthetic or purely intellectual/sense pleasure experience of melodies and harmonies in rhythm of themselves without reference to the virtue of religion and prayer.

The liturgical musician must he very similar to the icon maker for he is close to giving, through his music-making/performing, sanctifying and actual grace. Like the priest and the liturgy itself which he accompanies, he must understand his role as an opaque channel through which grace and the virtues of worship, prayer and contemplation are communicated to his listener. This normally requires of him that he be imbued in the act of prayer, worship, contemplation himself together with a host of other virtues while performing, though he may have a charism which could possibly bypass some of these requirements. He is not principally concerned with musical beauty but with something along the lines of what is taught by Plato in the natural order and John Paul II in the supernatural order: a music that communicates directly the divine values (mania for Plato), graces and realities which flow through the liturgy (relief or catharsis for Plato and Aristotle). His playing must in some way reflect that dialogue which is going on between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He is in the realm of the holy and awesome and so must reflect it. Hence his craft must transcend itself and in a sense disappear. This requires great self-discipline and dedication to the meaning of what liturgy is as worship. It requires ineffable communication, which for a musician is a kind of radical death to self as it would be for anyone to become so self-effacing. From another perspective liturgical music is like the incarnation itself. It is a kenosis artistically speaking. The ultimate sign that a liturgical musician has failed is if a musician deliberately incites the congregation to clap and cheer him after the Mass or liturgical service is over.[1] The sign of his success is if people prolong their experience of God and wish to stay after the liturgy to speak with and listen to God. I think we can now see how important the philosophical service of Plato and Aristotle was to the Fathers of the Church who wanted music to communicate the divine virtues and the Christian way of life. Certainly, liturgical musicians, potentially at least, do precisely this most important work of surrounding the entire dogmatic and moral message of Christ with prayer shot through with tonal beauty.

Now, the musician of religious music has a different but related task, like and unlike the liturgical musician. He must create and play music that is truly beautiful and inspiring that does indeed draw attention to itself as a work of exquisite music. People must become so moved as to question their lives and perhaps may even want to give themselves more to the service of God. All of this rich experience is done outside any liturgical context so that the medium of music shoots through any poetic texts, overwhelming the listener with pleasure and spiritual joy even occasionally mixed with sorrow. Sometimes, this is done even without immediate reference to any accompanied words but by reason of the title, or a song ordinarily used in the liturgy but now done as part of the accompaniment to a concert (think of the many works using the musical theme of the "Dies Irae" or the "Salve Regina").

Finally, there is the composer/player of simply pure music without words who fashions deep melodies, harmonies and rhythms in a unity amidst variety. He may or may not be leading a high moral life. His music may be simply sensuous of symmetrical. If he offers the gift of the aesthetic experience, we have seen that it is to be integrated as part of the moral life (in terms of the regulation of this pleasure as an aspect of play which is a potential part of temperance) and can, by its power of suggestion show its listeners the importance of a life pursued under the guidance of reason or order. Secondly, pure beautiful music when allied with emotions suggesting the heroic, or any virtue connected with happiness or sadness, also can suggest by example the conflicts in the struggle for virtue and keep offering to listeners the possibility of some vague or general hope in the attainment thereof.

It now should be clear that music which accompanies words and feelings of an immoral character and nature could then share in this moral ugliness even though it melodies, harmonies and rhythms are proportionate and filled with aesthetic splendor It may sometimes happen that the words are forgotten and then the musical sound it brought into its own realm. Moreover, it may happen that good music by reason of it suggested mood may be used for extrinsic purposes or a morally disvalued feature not at all intended by the composer as in the case of some Muzak. Likewise, certain pieces of music may hinder attention unreasonably when driving a car, but certainly such danger does not flow from the music itself but the lack of prudence on the part of the driver.

The use of music in medicine, psychiatry, study and the like are really discoveries made outside music's parameters and purposes. To the extent that it helps humankind overcome certain evils both physical and moral, it is to be commended. But this will not be so simply because it follows certain musical laws of a particular time and place as its inner core shares in the ineffable mystery of the human person. Created musical beauty has other mansions or levels within itself that not even the musician is always aware of, which in some ways has been the task and findings of this book.

It has been difficult to develop an understanding of the theology of music from a moral perspective because it is perplexing to comprehend what music is and why it exists at all, since we are dealing with a string of ordered accidents: timing, tuning, rhythms, melodies and harmonies. Additionally, once one has developed an appreciation for particular pieces of music, it is difficult to make allowances for new music as the school of Aristotle (and experience) has noted. Also, there are the further problems about musical species: are there distinct kinds or is there simply one music?

It has become my contention that music is like a genus with various specific branches that have blossomed over the centuries based upon many factors: development of the art form by musicians and composers who were equipped to write both sacred music (liturgical and religious) and non-sacred pure works of music, with and without words and so with or without explicit meaning. Also, these works could not have been produced without the positive and even negative influence of the Church authorities. As music and musicians became more notable and important, a corresponding change in attitudes occurred toward instruments as such, simple things like the ability to write music in a common code to a common tuning fork, and finally, the various purposes of music changing over the centuries: all of these factors gave rise to the various branches of a common genus called music.

Certainly it should he clear by now even with different musical styles that (1) the quartets of Beethoven or a composition improvised by the Benny Goodman quartet, (2) the operas of Verdi and Wagner, or the songs performed by Frank Sinatra and the Beatles (3) a Mass of Bach or an oratorio by Handel, (4), a Mass of Palestrina or Gregorian Chant are four different kinds of musical, aesthetic and/or religious experiences. They are all related yet somewhat different by reason of their immediate end(s). They can have immediate or remote moral or immoral effects of themselves by force of the music plus implicit or explicit ideas drawn from the lyrics, pure music being "somewhat" of an exception. While I did not go into the effects of academic courses about music and musicians, one could argue that whatever increases the spiritual pleasure of listening can proportionately increase the related virtue.[2] Moreover, looking at the question extrinsically from the point of view the person listening, there can be moral or immoral experiences depending upon the motives and manner in which the musical experiences are employed or imbibed.

Based upon my studies, we saw that some music can stimulate good attitudes of moral behavior because of the words of the poetry which is the primary focus in the analysis according to Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle seemed to he open to the idea that music as such, that is, melody, harmony and rhythm, suggests virtue and thereby builds up or tear down character, though he never quite proved his theory or reconciled it with his other notions of music borrowed from Plato. We also saw that two known followers of Aristotle (Philodemus and Aristonexus) denied outright that music did anything for the human person but give aural pleasure. While answering their objections against Aristotle I also tried to show in my chapter on Aquinas, that the contemplation of beautiful music as an aesthetic experience, with or without a religious reference, can be for the human person a very moral act, depending upon circumstances and motives. This is more than a simple "fun" exercise of the sense of hearing.[3] If the reader recalls, I showed that the spiritual pleasure of music is an end in itself which can suggest higher realities, though this pleasure, if delighted in too much, can he the occasion of a moral problem as a form of excessive play.

Part of the "music" problem is that some people simply enjoy predominantly or exclusively the sense pleasure of hearing melodies and harmonies; others only enjoy freely associated memories of past experiences (happy and woeful ones); and finally, others do all the above and delight in the inner unity and symmetry of the music. What does morality have to do with these three different ways of listening to music?

While there is no revelation from heaven about the nature of music as such (which would shed light on answering the previous question), we have seen that much can be learned about this natural phenomenon by reading and thinking along with the philosophers, psychologists, and scientists who have examined these questions.

We have seen that music can have many different moral effects alongside of and inspired by the aesthetic effects, which on the objective level may not always exist because of the trivial qualities of the music itself. The distinction of pure music, liturgical music and religious music has not been without importance for our theme. Liturgical music, as we have seen, immediately can dispose one (if he or she is open) to a sense of prayer and contemplation, while religious concert music can cause one to think and ponder about the things of God in a more dramatic and exhilarating way without immediately leading to contemplative prayer. Looking at the history of the Church's struggle to discover this distinction has been an important segment of this dissertation, since for centuries, religious music seemed to be a threat to liturgical music with musicians and Church officials caught in the middle, not always grasping the problem themselves.

In addition to the objective side of music, there is the subjective or moral and aesthetic training and dispositions of persons listening to it. Training, sensitivity and suggestibility are involved in the virtue of music appreciation. Today's listeners can more easily learn how to change past musical conditioning and develop their sense of taste because of the electronic revolution which has enabled people to listen to more difficult pieces of music a number of times and so discover their unity in diversity. This process has familiarized people with previously unheard chord patterns and the like. While listening to music simply for aural pleasure is certainly good, the development of the virtue of music appreciation involves going beyond merely the sense enjoyment of melody and harmony. As a virtue, it is meant to stimulate profound questions concerning the meaning of human life and our response in virtue.

Music can bring people together, release one into the divine or even be an instrument of corruption without necessarily being ugly. I have tried to demonstrate how these distinctions are relevant.

In the final analysis then, there is more to music than meets the ear. Its sonic vibrations carry within its aural components messages from many sectors within its own accidental and fragile world as well as from the musician him or herself. To the extent that this dissertation has opened up the spaciousness of these mansions, it has succeeded. If the particular Churches scattered throughout the world and political society learn to employ more effectively these values and power inherent in music, civilization may well advance to newer heights of the spirit.

Chapter Endnotes

1 Benedict Groeschel, C. F. R,, (The Reform of Renewal, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1990, P. 171) makes the point that it is easy for the musician to become narcissistic. However, a caveat is in order. Great liturgical music is also beautiful. Some in the congregation indeed may clap and cheer, notwithstanding the prayerfulness of the liturgical musician and not by intent of the musician hut the subjective response to what beauty is present in the 1iturgicl music.

2 What then, if any, is the role of studying the background to musical compositions? Does knowing the life of the composer, or the structure of a particular work aid in the appreciation of its beauty?

In a study of Thomistic texts, Armand A. Maurer, C.S.B, has grasped the importance of knowing the background of a musical work of art for the aesthetic purposes which in turn influences the ethical as well according to the thrust of this dissertation:

This does not mean that the study of a natural object or a work of art counts for nothing in the aesthetic experience. Far from it! it usually prepares us for a more intense pleasure in beholding a beautiful object. If we understand a musical score we normally derive much more pleasure from hearing the composition. As Jacques Maritain writes, "All other things being equal, the better informed the mind is of the rules, the methods and the difficulties of art, and above all of the end pursued by the artist and his intentions, the better it is prepared to receive into it, by means of the sense's intuition, the intelligible splendor emnanating from the work, and thus to perceive spontaneously, to relish, its beauty...." Maritain emphasizes, however, that scholarly or scientific study of a work of art is only preparatory to the intuitive perception and the enjoyment of it; it does not formally constitute the perception (About Beauty, p. 36; see also, Jacques Maritain's Art and scholasticism, p. 165, n. 56).


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