“…from enjoying the imitation, they come to enjoy the reality.”
Socrates, in Plato’s Republic
If Socrates is correct then we have in music a remarkable opportunity to expand our souls. We also have the danger of deforming them.
Reading good books is an irreplaceable means for cultivating right reasoning. We can enter the minds of the wise, following their train of thought. Listening to good music is similar. But music is an intimate expression with a more immediate effect than the written word. This is because music—which Plato and Aristotle see as an imitation of human states—makes present something of the reality it imitates.
Despairing music really has something of despair in it. You can feel it. Courageous music really has something of courage in it. Just how this is so is hard to grasp. Here we bump up against one of those aspects of reality that causes wonder. Aristotle is insistent. A painting of a courageous man simply ‘points’ to courage; yet music can…