Arts and Culture

Music and Beauty
Orlando Fedeli
I - The subjectivist Romanticism
II - Beauty and proportion
III - Greek art and proportions
IV - Numbers, beauty and music
V - The relation between numbers and shapes
VI - Everything is beautiful, for everything is musical
VII - Music, understanding and aesthetic pleasure
VIII - Kinds of music
IX - Analysis of several kinds of ,music
X - Inequality, order and beauty
XI - The Beauty is Virtue's twin sister 
XII - Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Music and in History


I - The subjectivist Romanticism

Along with the French Revolution, the liberalism has triumphed all over the world. This philosophical and political system that denies the very existence of objective truth and which, because of this, naturally has produced two mad fruits: subjectivism and relativism; which are responsible, nowadays, for the destruction of logic and wisdom.

Regarding aesthetics, the liberal and romantic subjectivism leads to the denial of objective beauty. As are truth and good, so would beauty be subjective. Beauty would be what each one deems being so. Consequently, there is no objective criterion regarding either beauty or aesthetic laws. It was this subjectivist way of thinking which prepared the anarchist explosion of Modern Art in our times.

II -Beauty and proportion

Everybody knows the drama lived by Cyrano de Bergerac, the hero immortalized in Rostand’s verses. Cyrano was physically ugly: his nose was too big to his face, i.e., was disproportional. In any time, in any play that he would live, Cyrano would be known by his nose... and by his “panache”. Due to his nose, he would be materially ugly, and by his soul’s “panache”, he would be beautiful. It was his nose’s disproportion that made Cyrano ugly. So, ugly is what is disproportional. And what has proportion is beautiful.

Now, proportion is the equity of two ratios:

a / b  = c / d  or  1 / 2  =  3 / 6

Proportion is a mathematical value, objective and universal. It does not depend neither on us, nor of the time, nor on the place. The relation 1/2 = 3/6 is true not because somebody believes this, but because both divisions, 1/2 e 3/6, equal 0.5.

But, if the beauty depends on the proportion and this one is objective, so is beauty. Something is beautiful because it has proportions and not because somebody considers it beautiful.

 Therefore, the material beauty is objective because it depends on the proportions of the measures, which means, the numbers.

III - Greek art and proportions

The Greeks were the great discoverers of the proportions as the cause of material beauty. In the Greek art everything was measured, everything was proportional.

 In the architecture, all the measures of Greek buildings were multiple and sub-multiple of the column’s diameter. In the sculpture, the statues were made taking the head as a model. The Hellenes were the first ones to discover the admirable proportions used by God to make man. In every art, the Greeks have had these worries regarding the measurement, with proportions and with numbers.

IV - Numbers, beauty and music

The Greeks were not just great artists, but also great philosophers. If material beauty comes from proportional measurements, which means, from the numbers, they asked themselves: “Why are proportions beautiful?”

The first philosopher that dealt with the relations between beauty and the numbers was Pythagoras, and his influence extended, through Plato, for centuries to go. Saint Augustine and Boethius were the announcers of this numeric concept of beauty in the beginning of the Middle Ages.

In the book “De Institutione Musica" (I, 10), Boethius tells us an ancient legend about how Pythagoras would have discovered the relations between the numbers, beauty and music.

 He tells us that Pythagoras, one day passing close to a forge, realized that the hammers, by hitting the anvil, produced harmonious sounds. In the beginning, he judged that the cause was in the strength with which the smiths would hit their hammers. In order to verify if it was correct, he asked the smiths to change their hammers among themselves. He perceived, then, that the sounds remained being harmonious. Therefore, the cause of the beauty was not in the strength of the smiths. Then, he weighted several hammers and verified their weights allowed making a proportion among them. The hammer’s weights were 12, 9, 8 and 6, so, it was possible to mount the following proportion:

6 / 8  =  9 / 12

And says Boethius: "The hammers which weight 12 and 6 resounded a “double” harmony. The hammer (weighting) 12 with the (one weighting) 9, as the hammer (weighting) 8 with the (one weighting) 6 related themselves with a “diatessaron” harmony, according to epitrite proportion; the 9, however, along the 6, and the 12 along the 8 resounded a tone in “one-and-half octave” proportion (Boethius, "De Institutione Musica", Ed. Teub., 1857, p. 196, 197, 198).

In other words, the hammers weighting 12 and 6, by hitting, produced the octave. The ones weighting 12 and 9, or 8 and 6 produced the quarter. Between the 9-weight hammer and the 8-weight there was an entire tone. In fact, in terms of numbers of double vibrations per second, the proportions between the several natural sounds are:

 DO 9/8 RE 10/9 MI 16/15 FA 9/8 SO 10/9 LA 9/8 SI 16/15

For example, suppose that the DO would be produced by 24 double vibrations per second, the remaining ones notes would have the following number of vibrations:

DO=24; RE=27; MI=30; FA=32; SO=36; LA=40; TI=45; DO=48

The octave, i.e., from DO to DO, corresponds to the double of the vibrations per second. The interval equal to 3/2 (from DO to SO, 3/2) is called fifth. Fourth is the DO to FA interval’s name and corresponds to 4/3. Tone is the interval from DO to RE, for example, and corresponds to 9/8.

The sounds, pleasant to the ears, correspond to proportional numbers and these numbers and proportions would be the cause of musical beauty. The simpler the numeric relation, the greater the harmony of the interval, the easier it is to the ear to grasp the harmony and the quicker it is for the reason to understand it.

The fundamental harmonies, which are result of the simplest and more easily perceptible relations are the double, the triple, the quadruple, the unity plus half (1+1/2= 3/2), i.e., the fifth interval, the unity plus a third (1+1/3= 4/3), i.e., the fourth relation.

V - The relations between numbers and shapes

The laws that rule musical beauty are, therefore, of mathematical order. It is the proportion that causes sound beauty. Now, as the sight is under similar laws as the ear, the beauty of visible shapes must also derive from numbers and proportions.

It is the numeric proportion that produces beauty, as if translated in sound forms, as if plastically expressed. Because of this, like in music, the more beautiful pictures are, the simpler and easier understandable, i.e., the ones whose parts make easier perceptible proportion as 1/1, 2/3, 3/4.

The simplest and easiest proportion is 1/1 and corresponds to the square. Everything in the square reminds the number one. The number 1 represents, symbolically, the identity principle, simplicity, constancy, indivisibility, power, etc.

On the other hand, the number 2 would symbolize compounded, divisibility, variety, and multiplicity. Boethius, in the "Institutione Arithmética", deals extensively on the relations of the numbers and shapes. He shows that the unity relates itself with the odd numbers, and the number 2 with the even numbers. He shows yet that the squares are generated by the sum of 1 with odd numbers:

1 (1 x 1)
1 + 3 = 4 (2 x 2)
1 + 3 + 5 = 9 (3 x 3)
1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 16 (4 x 4)
1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25 (5 x 5), etc.

By its turn, the sum of number 2 with odd numbers produces rectangles:

2 = (1 x 2)
2 + 4 = 6 (2 x 3)
2 + 4 + 6 = 12 (3 x 4)
2 + 4 + 6 + 8 = 20 (4 x 5), etc.

He observes, yet, among many others things, that in the sequence of squares and rectangles one could find continuous proportions: 

Squares:   1 - 4 - 9 - 16 - 25 - 36 - 49...
Rectangles:  2 - 6 - 12 - 20 - 30 - 42...

Then: 1/2 = 2/4;   4/6 = 6/9;   9/12 = 12/16; and etc.

Therefore, all rectangles are the proportional media between the square that is before it and the square that is the following.

Besides this, every number could be reduced to square and rectangles.

Boethius, as the Pythagorics, goes beyond a simple arithmetical observation, and heads off to a symbology and, even, to a kind of metaphysics of the numbers – an ambiguous door through which could infiltrate Pantheism, Gnosis and Cabala.

Here is what he says: "On the other hand, if we put the odd numbers in order from the unity, and under these the even numbers, from the duality, the accumulation of the odd numbers forms tetragons. The accumulation of the even numbers, on their turn, transforms the superiors (the even numbers) in rectangles. Therefore, this is the nature of the tetragons generated by the odd numbers: that they are partakers of the unity. This means, they have the same and immutable substance, and they are equal to all their parts, because the angles are equal to the angles, the sides equal to the sides, and the width to the length. Because of this one must say that these numbers are of the same nature and partakers of the one immutable substance; those however, whose parity creates rectangles, we say that they are of other substance” (Boethius, "De Inst. Arithmetica", Ed. Teub., p.117-118).

And more: "Every number, therefore, is part of those completely untied and opposite things, which are the even and the odd numbers. Here, therefore, the unity, there, the variation of instability; here, the unmovable vigor, there, the changing of the mobile; here, the defined solidity, there, the infinite generation of multiplicity...

Because of this, with reason, it was said that everything constituted by contraries would be united and compact by a certain harmony. The harmony of the multiples is, therefore, the consensus and the union of the dissents” (Boethius, "De Inst. Arithmetica", p.125-126).

For this reason the medieval philosophers claim that something is beautiful if it harmonizes unity and variety, stability and movement, odd and even, grave and acute, heavy and light, square and rectangle, etc.

Well, this is exactly what beauty of proportion explains. For, what is, in a deep sense, a proportion, if it is not the reduction of four diverse elements to just one quotient, or, to just one unity?

The proportion is the reduction of variety to unity. Symbolically, it shows us that all variety of the created things that compose the universe mirror, in some way, the unity of its Creator. This variety of creatures can be reduced to the unity – from this the total of created being form the UNI verse – so that through it we could understand something of the Infinite God.

There are several kinds of proportions. The one Pythagoras found by weight the smiths’ hammers was composed of four different numbers:

6 : 8 : 9 : 12.

If we would have a proportion of just three numbers, instead of four, this proportion would be simpler, and, as a result, it would be more easily understood by intelligence. This proportion is called continuous by the mathematics and called analogy, by the ancient Greeks. For example the proportion 1/2  =  2/4.

In it, the midi term is repeated, making easy the understanding of the relation between the two reasons.

If it would have one simpler proportion, it would be even more pleasing, because the simplicity of the things makes them more similar to God, which is the absolute simplicity.

If we take a straight line and we divide it in two parts so that the entire line is related with the major part, and in the same way it is related with the lesser part, we will only have a two–number proportion. This will be the simplest proportion, therefore, more beautiful.


_Entire Line_
_Major part_
Major part

Lesser part

The resultant of this proportion is the so-called gold number: 1, 618...

This number is a constant in the universe. It could be found in many things. Thus, it is found in the human body and in the human face.

The reason between the height of a face and the measure of the chin to the base of the nose is equal to the golden number, or, at least, close to it. And the closer to the golden number, the more beautiful will be the face. The same measure we can find between the arm with the and, to the measure of the elbow to the fist; from the chin to the mouth, to the distance of the mouth from the base of the nose; from one entire finger to the measure of two phalanxes, etc.

Besides, the height of a land snail, divided by its width will result exactly in the gold number. And if we do the calculation of the greater growth of the land snail to the lesser waste of material (economy law) we will find that he must grow up within the ratio of 1,618.

If we measure the distance between two rings of ivy surrounding a log, and divide this measure by the log’s diameter, we will find the same measure.

The book Le Nombre D’Or, of Matila C. Ghyka (Gallimard, Paris, 1959) is very rich in proves of this constant number in the nature. It proves what is said in the book of Wisdom when if claims that:  “thou (God) hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom, XI, 21).

Going back to the geometrical shapes, among the rectangles, those which have proportion of two to three, or three to four, are called privileged rectangles, in which the greater side surpass the lesser side in one unity. Thus, in the medieval architecture, the gothic cathedral façades are in the shape of privileged rectangles (3 x 2).

According to Vitruvio, the cube and the square would give the perfect beauty. In the Greek cities, the main square was always squared. The Roman Forum always had the 3/2 proportion, i.e., the proportion of the musical fifth.

Villard de Honnecourt traced the ideal plan of a cisterciense church. Its length would be 12 and the width would be 8; so, in the 3/2 proportion. The church chorus would be the projection of the fourth (4/3). Each arm of the cross would have the octave relation (4/2).  The transept would be square (4/4). The nave would have the third projection (5/4). Chorus and nave together, excluding the transept, would be equal to the transversal nave. Nave, transept and chorus together would be in the proportion of 9/8(i.e., an entire musical tone) regarding the transversal nave.



Total length = 12     12 / 8 = 3/2
Total width  =  8
Fifth interval (Do to So)
Chorus =  4/3 Fourth interval (Do to Fa)
Cross’ arms: 4/2  Octave Interval  (Do to Do)
Transept = 4/4   The unity
Nave = 5/4
Total Cross:  8/4  Octave Interval (Do to Do)
Nave  + Cross:  (without the transept): 8/4 Octave Interval (Do to Do)
Nave + Transept =  9               9/8 One tone interval (Do a Re)
Total Cross        =  8

VI - Everything is beautiful, for everything is musical

Because of all the above exposed, the ancient and medieval philosophers have considered that the beauty of a being came from the proportional relations of its parts. It was in the measures, in the proportion, and therefore in the numbers, that was beauty cause. God made everything with weight, number and measure, according says the Scripture (Wisdom XI, 21). So, in the world, everything is beautiful, everything is harmonious and musical.

Music, harmony and beauty are result of the number, of the weight and of the measure, so it is in the sounding music, so it is in the plastic shapes.

“When the reason goes through heaven and earth, it discovers that nothing pleases it out of beauty; and in beauty, the figures; in the figures the dimensions; in the dimensions, the numbers” (acc. Saint Augustine, “De Ordine”, II, XV, 42).

The same Saint Augustine, in the “De Musica”, asks: "Can we love anything else but the beauty? But it is the harmony that pleases in the beauty; well, we already saw, the harmony is the result of the equality of proportions. This equal proportion is not just found in the beauties proper to the ears’reign or in those which result from the movement of the bodies, but it exists yet in these visible forms, to which we usually give the name of beauty” (S. Augustine, "De Musica", VI, 13, 38).

VII - Music, understanding and aesthetic pleasure

In each materially beautiful being we need to distinguish:

a) The matter;

b) The numbers and the proportions that cause the beauty.

Before something beautiful, man should not limit himself to feel, but should try to understand the reasons of beauty. Because God dressed everything with beauty and made it understandable, in order that, through the beauty, man could arrive to the Creator, Infinite Beauty. Hence, we have the thesis of the Pseudo Dionysius, who says that "the love from God to man involves the intelligible in the sensible” This could be perfectly applied to beauty (acc. Pseudo Dionysius, "The Divine names", I, 4).

How can one explain, so, that men feel beauty in different grades?

Why does some kind of beauty cause us more pleasure than others, if all of them have harmony and proportion, if all have music?

 To answer these questions we must consider:

1st: The similar is pleased with his similar. Man feels aesthetic pleasure when he finds something that has a similar harmony to that one that exists in him.
2nd: The aesthetic pleasure will be greater the greater the resemblance between the beautiful object and the man that contemplates it.
3rd: The aesthetic pleasure will be greater the more capable to feel the beauty is the individual, and it will be higher the higher is his understanding of the numbers that cause the beauty, i.e., the reasons why the thing is beautiful.
4th: The easier the harmony is felt, the more pleasant it will be.
5th: The simpler and easier understood, the bigger the pleasure that harmony will cause on the individual.

VIII - Kinds of music

To the medieval and ancient philosophers, the word music would mean any harmony. Thus aesthetic can be qualified as musical.

 Boethius, in the "De Institutione Musica" (I, 2), distinguishes three kinds of music:

1. Worldly or Cosmic music – it would be the resultant of the harmony of universe elements;
2. Human music or the harmony that exists in man;
3. Artificial music, instrumental or sounding, which would be music so to speak.

This last one is just the expression of beauty of proportion through sounds. Throughout it, man attempts to express the harmonies he finds in the universe or inside himself. Because of this, the laws which rule instrumental music are the same that rule other kinds of music.

"Music is the science of harmonious relation as so, once abstraction of the matter of the different inter-related elements is made” (according to E. de Bruyne, "Estudios", vol. I, p. 326). The author gives us a general picture about the several senses in which the medieval thinkers have used the word music.

IX - Analysis of several kinds of Music

A) Supernatural or spiritual music - "Música Coelestis"

The heaven is an eternal symphony of glory to God. Saint Thomas, in the Summa Theologica (1, q. 108), deals with the angelic hierarchies, each one of them having three choir of angels, making the total of nine angelic choirs. He shows yet that this hierarchy of angels continues inside each, even though we cannot know the role of each angel inside the same choir.

In the article 8 of this same question 108 of Prima, he demonstrates that the saints will be raised, not by the nature, but by the grace and liberality of God, to the angelic orders. There, they can take part of the glory of several choirs of angels, according to their merits. Thus, the celestial music would be a product of the wise and proportional hierarchy in which angels and saints are ordered. The medieval used to say that these proportions, between the angels and the saints could be compared to the relations of octave, of fifth, fourth and of entire tone. God’s love would be the unifier element of so many proportionally inequalities. This “music” of the celestial proportion could be translated, also, in sounding music, in the canticles of the well-ventured ones.

Dante, in the chant XXVII of Paradise, poetically, describes this harmony and this music like this:

"Al Padre, al Figlio, al Spirito Santo
cominció "glória" tutto il paradiso,
si che m`inebriava il dolce canto.
Ció ch`io vedeva mi sembiava un riso
dell`universo; per che mia ebbreza
intrava per l`udire e per lo viso".
[Glory to the Father, to the Son, And to the Holy Spirit," rang aloud throughout all Paradise; that with the song My spirit reel`d, so passing sweet the strain. And what I saw was equal ecstasy: One universal smile it seem`d of all things; Joy past compare; gladness unutterable]

B) Boethius Mundane Music – Music of Universe

The mundane music, says Boethius, "must be mainly perceived in those things what are seen in the sky itself, or in the connection to the elements, or in the variety of the times. What could make such a fast machine to move in so quiet and tranquil a course? Even if that sound does not arrive at our ears, which is due to several causes, however, such a rapid movement of so big bodies cannot but produce some sound” (Boethius, "De Inst. Musica", I, 2, Ed. Teub. p. 187-188).

(Evidently, Boethius did not know Acoustic Physics, and has used the word “sound” in a wider sense, which we can only accept in the analogous form, i.e., as a proportion, and not in the common sense).

This “song” that shines in the stars comes from the proportional ordered disposition of the star mass and movement. It is an image of the proportion which exists among the angels and among the saints in Paradise, once Saint Paul, speaking of the inequality among the angels and of the ecclesiastic authorities, compared them to the differences between the stars, by saying: "stella differt stella"...

But not only in the stars there is proportional inequality and order,.i.e., “music”. In the entire universe, there is a rhythm of the stations, an atomic order, and a vegetative cycle. And animal’s organism also reveals us equilibrium, order and proportion. Thus, in the entire nature, one can find the harmony of several elements in the unity.

Saint Thomas shows us that God, being wise, should make everything orderly, but the order demands the diversification of the constituting elements. So God should make everything with inequality in order to be able to do everything in an order that would reflect his infinite Wisdom (S. Thomas, "Suma contra Gentiles", II, cap.XLV).

This order, this proportion of all creation, this harmony that exists in all creatures, constitutes the “music” of the universe. The medieval ones used to say that, considering in the time, the Universe is like an amazing poem or like a wonderful symphony - "universum est tanquam pulcherrimun carmen", in the words of Saint Bonaventure (Saint Bonaventure, "Sententiarum Liber", I D. XLIV, A. I,Q. IV). If we consider it spatially, the Universe would be like a huge and sublime painting. Painting, poem or music, each creature, and even more, the Universe as a whole, sings the glory of God.

C) Human “Music”

Man is like the summary of the creation, a microcosm in which every harmony of universe is reflected.

We can distinguish in man:

1- the “music” of the body – coming from his harmony, form the proportion of his limbs and from the balance of his organic functions.

2- the “music” of the soul – which is the harmony coming from the proportion of his potencies.

There is a perfect adaptation between body and soul and the human “music would be the result of the harmony between the “music of the body and the “music” of the soul.

The body and, mainly, the face reflects the soul and are proportional to her [the soul]. As man is the only animal body that has a rational soul, the human body must be more beautiful than the body of the animals. Because of this we have the nobility of the erect pose of man, caused by the union of the body with the soul.

We can also talk about moral music and social music.

The moral “music” results from the proportion and harmony of every unified virtue by the Wisdom. The soul of a saint is comparable to a symphony, so great is the order that he puts in all his acts. This explains why the medievals considered the virtue a harmony, and the wise man, a “musician”.

The social “music” results from the fair proportion of the several social classes and groups among themselves. Saint Thomas, int the 1§ q. 106 a 3 ad 1, says to us that "the ecclesiastic hierarchy imitates, in a certain way, the celestial hierarchy”. Leo XIII, in the encyclical "Quod Apostolici Muneris", develops this same thinking by saying "as (God) wanted in heaven that the choir of Angels would be distinct and subordinated one to another, in the Church, He instituted grades in the orders and diversity in the ministerial. He made it in an order so that not everybody would be apostle, not everybody, doctors, not everybody, pastor” (I, Cor. XII, 27). Thus, He established that we would have a civil society, several orders in dignity, in rights and power, so that society would be, like the Church, one single body. It comprises a great number of members, some more noble than others, but everyone reciprocally necessary and worried with the common wealth.

Because of this, a well-organized society must have the Church as its model, which, by its turn, has the angelic order as paradigm. We can say that a well-proportioned and harmonic society is musical. And Leo XIII, in its encyclical "Imortale Dei", says that the Medieval Christendom was one example of such society. It was feudally harmonious, crusade and vibrant like the trumpets sound, sweet and sacred as an organ’s melody inside one gothic hall. This "social music" demands proportional inequity and is completely against the Marxist ideal of a monotone and egalitarian society. It is contrary, by its turn, to the dialectic socialist doctrine of the clash of classes.

Finally, the music is the science of the proportion, whatever it could be. The real musician is the wise man that has in him, the moral human music and the music as science. Due to this Plato wondered whether there were greater music than Philosophy (Plato, "Fedon", 61).


X - Inequality, order and beauty

There is, this way, a whole pyramid of “musics”, one "fitted" into the other, the inferior always having the superior as model. And the celestial music produces the universal music, in which is fitted human music. The artificial music expresses, in sounds, the harmony of the universe and the harmony of the human soul, which are images of the celestial harmony and of the beauty of God. This divine beauty is what man must look for through the harmonies of the world. To love the beauty and the harmony of the creation is the way we can love the beauty of God and the harmony of His Wisdom. That is, actually, the goal of man. Therefore, Saint Augustine reminds us, in his "De Musica", what is said by the Ecclesiastes (VII, 26): " I have surveyed all things with my mind, to know, and consider, and seek out wisdom and reason”.

And in the books of Wisdom we can read “the first author of beauty made all those things", and " For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby" (Wisdom, XIII, 3 e 5). Therefore, to love the "music" is to love God.

XI - Beauty is the twin sister of Virtue

Dealing with music, in the dialogue about the Republic, Plato observes that the grace and the harmony are twin sisters of goodness and virtue, and their faithful image. And he said that there is a close relation between the lack of grace, rhythm, and harmony with the wickedness of the words and way of to be (cf. Plato, "Republic", book III).

More yet, he admits that the musical harmony and the “music of the soul”, i.e., the virtue, attracts, loves and influences one another reciprocally. If the similar pleases the similar, it is evident that the soul immersed in vices will be attracted by what is ugly.

Boethius will repeat this lesson in the “De Institutione Musica", by showing that if harmony causes pleasure to the man is because there is a similar harmony in him, and both get into an agreement. The aesthetic pleasure would be the effect of this loving encounter of two sister harmonies: the one existent in the subject and the one existent in the object.

Besides this, Boethius, following Plato, shows that there is always interaction between music and soul; or, using medieval terms, the human music and the exterior music, whatever they could be, influence one another mutually. It is natural that a happy person composes joyful songs and get happier when hears happy songs. By its turn, an impure soul will be delight with promiscuous melodies, which even increases more his promiscuity.

 According to Boethius and Plato, these principles apply to the individuals and to the people. A belligerent nation loves and produces heroic military marches, which excites and increase its tendency to bravery. A decadent people will enjoy languish songs and canticles, which will increase its sluggishness.

Considering this, Plato asks what must be the role of music in education, and what must be the role of the State, regarding the preservation of people’s the good customs.

To him, the musical education was the most powerful, because it would allow to introduce in the soul of a kid, from early childhood, the grace and the love to beauty and virtue. A person educated this way would be the one that would easily perceive the beauty and the harmony. And as cannot be love without hate, this person would be the one that would hate the bat and the ugly the most, and would be more susceptible to any thing that wounds harmony, and the one that would strongly react against the deformities. So Plato asks: "wouldn’t (this person) know how to praise what is good, and receive it with delight and, receiving it in his soul, feed himself from it and make himself a good man, at the same time that he would hate and repeal the ugly since he childhood, even before he can rationalize? And, when reason comes, the person educated this way will recognize it and embrace it with greater joy, as if it were an old friend.” (Plato, "Republic, book III).

Musically educated, “the youths will grow up in a healthful land, not losing just one effluvia of beauty that arrives at their sight and their ears. These effluvia of beauty proceeds from everywhere, as a vivifying aura brought to them from the purest regions, inducing our citizens, since their childhood, to imitate the idea of beauty, to love it, and get in tune with it” (Plato, idem, ibidem).

Consequently, the Greek philosopher claimed that one should not allow the artists to show “ the forms of vices, intemperance, villainy or indecency in sculpture, in the buildings and in other creative arts... "

He says: "we will not admit that our guardians grow up rounded by moral depravation images, feeding themselves from, so to speak, a bad herb that would have grown here and there in small quantities, but day after day it would introduce, no one realizing so, a great source of corruption in their souls.” (Plato, "Republic", book III).

Evidently, this claim of Plato deserves corrections, because it could give birth to a totalitarian state.

If it would be understood – as Plato seems to say – that the state has the duty to control art, from it will be born, for sure, a government with totalitarian characteristics. To the Church competes the duty of give the last word about moral in the arts. Once it does not intend to assume functions proper to the State, this control, made by the Church, prevents from the abuses of an over controlling State.

XII - Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Music and in the History

Boethius, always following the thinking of Plato, shows that music is the art that can influence the most a person or a people, for "to the soul, no way is more accessible to the disciplines than the ears. As, therefore, through them the rhythms and modes go down to the soul, one cannot doubt that they are, affect and shape the minds. This could be understood also to the peoples...”

"And here it must be especially remembered that, as if something changes by very tiny changes, without anyone understanding anything, at that moment, but making thereafter a big change, and this would arrive to the soul through the ears. From this Plato judges that it is a duty of the republic to guard a well-constituted music and modestly equilibrated, in order that it be modest, simple and male, and not female, fierce or complicated” (Boethius, "De Inst. Musica", I, 1, Ed. Teub., p. 180-181).

Plato demonstrates that it is easy to spoil the soul of a people and destroy a State through the music, “because it is there that the illegality can insinuate more easily, without being noticed... under the shape of recreation... at first seen as inoffensive. ".

“It not even, at the begging, causes any damage. But this licentious spirit, after finding a shelter, goes unnoticeably introducing itself in the uses and customs. And from there it passes, already strong, to the contract between citizens, and after the contracts, invade laws and constitutions, with great imprudence, until when, oh Socrates, transforms all private and public life" (Plato, "Republic", book III).

From these we have the Plato’s thesis that “every musical innovation is loaded of dangers to the whole city” and that “one cannot change the musical modes without changing at the same time the basic laws of the State" (Plato, "Republic", book III).

The music, therefore, can cause real revolutions by acting slowly and unnoticeably in the souls. And this thesis is easily proved in History.

The three great Revolutions – Renascence and Reform, French Revolution and Communist Revolution – as also the hippie revolution, came after big artistic transformations, which powerfully influenced the tendencies, and prepared the revolutionary explosions themselves.


BOÉTHIUS - De Institutione Musica, Edição Teubneriana.
         - De Institutione Arithmetica, Ed. Teubneriana.
PLATO - Diálogos - A República, Edições de Ouro, Tradução de Leonel Vallandro.
         - Fédon, Ed. de Ouro, tradução de Jorge Paleikate e João Cruz Costa.
E. DE BRUYNE - Estudios de Estética Medieval, Ed. Gredos, Madrid, 1958, 3 volumes.
         - História de la Estética, B.A.C, Madrid, 1963, 2 volumes.
         - Esthétique du Moyen áge, Louvain, Editions de l`Institut Superieur de Philosophie, 1947.
SAINT AUGUSTINE, De Musica, De Ordine
SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS - Suma Teológica, B.A.C. La Editorial Católica, Madrid.
DANTE ALIGHIERI, La Divina Comedia, Col. Comento Scartezziniano, Ed. Hoeplli, Milano, 1965
HOLY BIBLE, Vulgata Translation in Portuguese, Pe. Matos Soares, Ed. Paulinas, São Paulo, 1953.
HENRI MARTIN, L`Art Grec et l`Art Romain, la Grammaire des Styles, Flammarion, Paris, 1927.
JEAN CHARBONNEAUX et PIERRE DEVAMBEZ, La Grèce, in Histoire Génerale de l`Art, Flammarion, 1950
MATILA C. GYKA  --  Le Nombre D’Or, Gallimard, Paris, 1959.
UMBERTO ECO  -- Arte e Bellezza nell ‘Estetica Medievale – Bompiani, Milano, 1987.

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Online, 06/12/2023 às 01:26:34h