Aristotle and the strength of music

TitleAristotle and the strength of music
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsGagliardi, F
EditorNika-Sampson, E, Sakallieros, G, Alexandru, M, Kitsios, G, Giannopoulos, E
Ancient AuthorsAristoteles et Corpus Aristotelicum Phil. (TLG 0086)
Book TitleCrossroads: Greece as an intercultural pole of musical thought and creativity

Reading a few pages of the VIII book of the Politics by Aristotle, you can well understand how this author could, also, be included in the subject of the present conference, with relation to the role of the ancient Greeks in the development of a Western Europe tradition in music.
I want to focus particularly on a recurring aspect in Aristotelian pages about music, pages that make this book remarkably modern, although it is clearly different in many other aspects from modern musical thought.
In fact, what strikes the reader is the constant difficulty shown in the words of the Stagirite, aiming to place music within the paideia of the ideal State, as suggested in Politics VII. The verb used every time he has to find a function that can be attributed to music is diaporein, that shows just the idea of getting into trouble, and that is closely connected with a philosophical technical term, aporia, that indicates just, the absence of a path, that is the lack of a certain research direction, research that, therefore, appears unsatisfactory to the researcher.
The use of this word suggests just the contribution of Aristotle in shaping the Western conception of musicology: a conception according to which it appears to be a subject in some way special, difficult to consider in a well‐defined area, and this is the sign of its extraordinary strength. It seems to be elusive and uncontrollable, and – just for this – it can be frightful. Since Aristotle sees that the numerous potentialities in music can be expressed in various forms, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, he goes on, although with a non‐dogmatic approach, with the detection of the possible uses of music, in order to find, from time to time, the most suitable use to each occasion that music can accompany. [Filomena Gagliardi, p. 347]


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