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Greek Philosophers on The Value of Music

 

It’s obvious to all that music is influential:
* Who hasn’t wept at the strains of “Danny Boy” or “Taps?”
* Brass bands playing marches energize every audience.
* “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” has stirred people to action since 1861.
* “The Star Spangled Banner” rouses even tepid Americans as they recall the men who voluntarily gave up their lives to hold the flag a loft all during the night battle to convince the British fleet that “our flag was still there” despite hours of targeted shelling.
* New Orleans jazz evokes the bitter-sweet aspects of everyone’s life.
* Since radios became popular, each generation of young adults has fallen in love with the kind assistance of “Moon Glow,” “In the Mood,” “Wonderful Tonight,” “She’s Always A Woman to Me,” or “Thinking Out Loud.”

Five to seven hundred years after David used music to calm King Saul’s fits of insanity , the Greek philosophers opined that music education was necessary for young students in order to train them to control and direct their passions in order to live worthy lives.

A recent paper* by Dr. Thomas R. Lawson of St. Anselm College in New Hampshire illustrates their ideas: “Socrates claims that a good musical formation “tunes” a man, so to speak, so things that are truly good (as judged by reason), cause him sensual delight, whereas bad things (again, as judged by reason) cause him pain, disgust, or some other appropriate negative emotional or visceral response:
      “Furthermore, it is sovereign because the man properly reared on rhythm and harmony would have the sharpest sense for what’s been left out and what isn’t a fine product of craft or   what isn’t a fine product of nature. And, due to his having the right kind of dislikes, he would praise the fine things; and, taking pleasure in them and receiving them into his soul, he would be reared on them and become a gentleman. He would blame and hate the ugly in the right way while he’s still young, before he’s able to grasp reasonable speech.”

So, 2500 years ago, the Greeks considered music education as a method of instilling moral values and helping their children develop into the best version of themselves. Our advances in technology have made music readily available to almost every one, not just the wealthy. Following Socrates’ and Plato’s lead, today earnest young parents play classical music recordings to their babies while still in the womb, but the idea is the same.

*http://www.anselm.edu/Documents/Institute%20for%20Saint%20Anselm%20Studies/Spring%202016/Man_Music_Catholic%20Culture.pdf

© Copyright by Kaye Fairweather 2017

Beauty Changes the Man

 

 

 

 

A German-made movie, The Lives of Others, illustrates the power of beauty to change noxious beliefs and actions into deeds of kind heroism – even when it puts the perpetrator into danger. Despite needing English subtitles for most American viewers, it won the 2007* Academy Award for Best Foreign Movie. With a bare bones budget of $2 million, a brand new writer/director, and actors working for a mere 20% of their usual pay, it also received a record number of nominations and awards in Europe.

Most of the dialogue and action involves Georg Dreyman, a playwright, Crista-Maria Sieland, a successful actress, and their circle of artist friends. The group is basically apolitical; they just want to fulfill their creative desires without fear of retribution from the State. Eventually one of them commits suicide after six years of being blacklisted and not allowed to work at all.

However the main character is a proudly diligent Stasi Captain in East Berlin. Gerd Weisler is well trained in effective methods of interrogation and the official expectation that ordinary people do not change without punishment, if at all. Weisler is neither evil, nor a slacker; he worked hard to succeed at his assigned tasks. He believed in the system.

But the Captain begins to change when sent to personally monitor George and Crista-Maria with hidden cameras and microphones in every room of their apartment. After hearing George discuss Bertol Brecht, he slyly enters the Dreyman apartment to ‘borrow’ a book of Brecht’s poetry. When he first over-hears Dreyman play “Sonata for A Good Man,” he is mesmerized. (See entry for July 4, 2017). Quietly, almost imperceptibly, he begins to adjust his written reports.

The plot is subtle, but powerfully moving. You will be glad you watched all 137 minutes, just like 95% of reviewers on Amazon. You might even decide to buy a CD of the score by Gabriel Yared. The writer/director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, spent a month translating the script into French before sending it to Gabriel because he believed Yared would be the best composer for the soundtrack. (Some of it in is the clip above.)

* Just in case you’re wondering, I had a number of serious health issues in 2005-2007, so I didn’t even hear about the movie until I started looking for examples of beauty changing the world.

 

 

 

Can Beauty Save The World? II

“Can anyone who has heard this music – I mean truly hear it – really be a bad person?”

from a 2006 German movie : The Lives of Others, “Sonata of a Good Man” written by Gabriel Yarid and performed by Karin Okada

The movie is a magnificent one, winning top awards. On Amazon, where you may rent or buy it, there are 706 top reviews and only 42 with 1 to 2 stars. So I am not alone in highly recommending that you watch it. For those of us who don’t speak German, there are English sub-titles – and the movie is so good that American viewers don’t notice the handicap. It’s set in East Berlin in 1984 before the fall of the wall and celebrates the universal desire for the freedom that allows people to flourish, invent, and create and illustrates the soul deadening effect of stifling rules and political correctness.

The seed of the plot comes from a quote by Lenin when discussing Beethoven’s Apassionata.  In a conversation with Maxim Gorky, he extolled the power of Beethoven, but added, “I can’t listen to music too often. It affects your nerves, makes you want to say stupid nice things, and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”

Can Beauty Save The World? Luis Haza’s Answer

 

Luis’ father was Chief of Police in Santiago, Cuba when Fidel Castro first gained power and forced an end to Batista’s government. At first, Col. Haza gladly supported the Castro brothers, believing that a sparkling new era of freedom was just on the horizon. But, like many Cubans, he openly objected when the new regime admitted its Communist intentions.

Like all revolutionaries, Castro then methodically began to kill or imprison anyone in any position of authority who did not value the new rules and turn of events. Thus, the Chief of Police and seventy other men were lined up in a nearby cow pasture and shot for their lack of appreciation.

Eight-year-old Luis Haza found solace for his grief only when funneling energy and attention into violin lessons. By age eleven, he began performing solos all over the country. When he was twelve, the Castro regime “invited” him to perform for a gala television special to be shown nationwide.

Instead, Luis chose not to show up for his great “honor.” A few days later, a group of armed soldiers stormed his home, broke into his practice studio, and demanded that he play for them – or else.

Trembling, the young lad picked up his bow and violin. Slowly, gingerly he began to play just as the soldiers had insisted. But the government thugs were stupefied into silence and paralyzed with uncertainty as the unmistakable strains of ‘The Star Spangled Banner” filled the room.

Luiz Haza escaped from Cuba, grew up in the United States, and continued his life as a human rights advocate, violin virtuoso, and Grammy Award winning conductor. After performing in many venues around the world, gaining both acclaim and accolades, Haza now serves as Music Director and Conductor for the Coastal Symphony of Georgia.

Beauty did save his world!