Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plato vs. Duke Ellington

V


Another fascinating music theory class Tuesday night, this time focusing on different musical modes, specifically of the diatonic scale, which was the order of the day, prior to the chromatic scale of the "common practice period" - or as most people call the music of the common practice period, "classical."

I came home and read up via Wikipedia on the subject and got into the entry on the Music of Ancient Greece. And found this:

...Plato complained about the new music:
Our music was once divided into its proper forms...It was not permitted to exchange the melodic styles of these established forms and others. Knowledge and informed judgment penalized disobedience. There were no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping for applause. The rule was to listen silently and learn; boys, teachers, and the crowd were kept in order by threat of the stick. . . . But later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent, but were ignorant of the laws of music...Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave. By their works and their theories they infected the masses with the presumption to think themselves adequate judges. So our theatres, once silent, grew vocal, and aristocracy of music gave way to a pernicious theatrocracy...the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking.
Boy, things never really do change, do they? Some old guy complaining about the horrible music of the kids these days. I quoted Duke Ellington's famous line about music "if it sounds good, it is good" a few days ago on this blog. Clearly Plato did not agree:
They deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave.
Now get off Plato's lawn, you hippies!

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