Monday, October 12, 2015

More About Plato and Music

I don't really buy this claim that Plato's works were arranged to correspond with the 12 notes of a musical scale, but I do like the idea of "not revealing doctrines that would threaten the gods of Olympus." This is something worth reading, particularly for musicians who would, like me, have a bone to pick with Jay Kennedy's musical claims.

Here's some food for thought:
Positive concepts are lodged at the harmonious third, fourth, sixth, eight and ninth "notes", which were considered to be most harmonious with the 12th; while negative concepts are found at the more dissonant fifth, seventh, 10th and 11th.
Given a 12-note chromatic scale, which was more than likely NOT generally used for the music of Plato's time, the third degree of the scale would be a whole step from the root, the fourth degree, would be a minor third away from the root, the sixth degree would be a perfect fourth from the root, the eighth degree would be a perfect fifth, and so on. It doesn't make any musical sense to me.

If the degrees of the 12-note chromatic scale have particular qualities when they sound by themselves, then Plato would have to have had absolute pitch mixed with a kind of synesthesia. What respectable synesthete would divide notes simply between pleasant and dissonant. If that were true Plato would probably have written a lot more specifically about music. I believe that when he discussed modes he was commenting on the linear harmonic nature of a set of pitches going from "tonic" to "tonic" on instruments that did not have the ability to alter themselves chromatically (the lyre vs. the pedal harp, for example).

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