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Episode 11: Music and Morals—Fr. Basil Cole, O.P.

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jul 17, 2018

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Are music and morals connected? If so, what is the nature of that connection? Are certain musical sounds morally bad or good in themselves, or are they neutral? Could the influence of music on morality be of an indirect kind? Is there such a thing as a virtuous way of listening to music? Can music prepare us for the spiritual life? Do you have to be a good person to make beautiful music? I discuss these questions and more with theologian Fr. Basil Cole, OP, an amateur jazz pianist who wrote his dissertation on the moral effects of music (not to be confused with another Fr. Basil who has also commented on the same subject!).


Basil Cole, O.P. bio

Read Fr. Basil’s dissertation

Fr. Basil articles at CC

Excellent article on the Rosary by Fr. Basil

Jeff Mirus’s review of Music & Morals

Jeff Mirus’s review of The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood

Jeff Mirus’s review of Christian Totality

Further recommended reading (not mentioned in episode):

Elisabeth-Paule Labat, O.S.B., The Song That I Am: On the Mystery of Music


3:16 Fr. Basil Cole interview

4:05 Fr. Basil’s musical background

10:01 Refuting the claim that certain musical sounds are intrinsically morally bad or good

12:20 Common misapplication of Plato’s theory of music

18:28 Does music imitate or express emotions?

20:05 Why certain personalities might feel threatened by musical creativity; the necessity of risk in art and the spiritual life

25:31 Why the philosophers have not understood music: it goes beyond reason and concepts

31:32 How good music teaches us to “rejoice rightly”

37:34 Music as school of contemplation

44:34 Beauty and morality: an indirect relationship; can music promote morality through happiness?

48:31 Temperance in listening to music

51:17 Is mediocre music morally degrading?

55:08 Using music to foster false identity and narcissistic sentimentality vs. true self-knowledge through contemplation

59:16 The vice of curiositas in music: music streaming tempts us to superficial musical gluttony

1:01:05 Curiositas: Over-analysis and musical snobbery

1:03:28 What Frank Serpico can teach us about music and integrity

1:06:38 Do you have to be a good person to make beautiful music?

1:10:50 What virtues does an artist need?

1:13:02 How to begin listening to music more deeply

1:15:47 This week’s excerpt: Sirach 32:5

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All podcast music by Thomas V. Mirus unless otherwise stated.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist living in New York City. He is the director of audio media for and hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

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