Rhythm and concord most of all sink down to the inmost soul and cling to her most vigorously

 Such is the power of music to grab hold of the soul that Socrates warns us of its dangers. “So then,” Socrates says to his young interlocutor, Glaucon, “isn’t this why upbringing in music is most sovereign? It’s because rhythm and concord most of all sink down to the inmost soul and cling to her most vigorously as they bring gracefulness with them; and they make a man graceful if he’s brought up correctly, but if not, then the opposite.” Socrates points to ‘rhythm and concord’ for the source of music’s power, not its tones, intervals, melodies, and harmonies. Is he right in that? Do we think he is right about the power of music for good and for ill?

 My alma mater’s President reflects upon the place of music in a liberal education.

5 Replies to “Rhythm and concord most of all sink down to the inmost soul and cling to her most vigorously”

  1. One heckuvan essay, Kathy. What an initiation for an incoming class, grads and alums of a designated, discreet soundtrack to the finer, yea heavenly tenets of how we spend our grace in this lifetime.
    I noticed that with the one exception of the college orchestra, the repertoire was exclusively halmarked by the marriage of text to song. The notion thus comes to mind of the "singer becoming the song" in a very profound way.
    But, as an alumnus, was there any expectation of exposure to the "mathematics and language" that exist in music without the added element of text? If this was the case, then I would expect it to be a matter of discipline and intent. A classic education, such as described here and in colleges like St. Thomas Aquinas in Santa Barbara should produce grads whose interests in all those other musics found on their devices can be pursued lifelong. But inasmuch as the professor singled out JSB's SMP as pure genius, I wonder if there is any room in the seminar for Bartoks Concerto for Orchestra, or John Coltrane's "Revolution." You know me, ever the enigma!

  2. There is an acknowledged preference at the college for works in all genres that have stood the test of time. One of our mottos says "the great books are the teachers." Lectures of any kind are rare events and in any case do not occur in the classroom, where instead, students and faculty (called "tutors") alike seek to mine the wisdom of the works themselves. Coltrane is really too young to be a "teacher" at St. John's; we do not yet know whether time will prove him "great."

    We did study composition, particularly of polyphonic harmony, and a staple text is the first movement of the Eroica, as an example of sonata form.

  3. Doesn't the first movement of Eroica depart from sonata form, with a second development? It's been a while since I studied/ listened to it. How about Mozart no. 40, I? Textbook sonata form!

  4. This is the kind of conversation that goes on at the college constantly, both generally and among the Instruction Committee, which reviews and tweaks the curriculum every year. Everyone thinks that there are texts that should be on the program but aren't, and vice versa. Some texts disappear and reappear every few years. One problem is that there are only so many hours in the day, and despite having 19-21 classroom hours per week, not everything "great" can be included.

  5. It's like when I used to program high school band concerts. So much great music to address the concepts, so little time!

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