Music today is largely appreciated as a creative art. Even when studied at academic institutions, music is mainly studied as an art form. In ancient Greece, however, the nature of music was interpreted as an art of numbers and proportions and not just solely considered an art of human creation. The ancient Greeks interpreted music as a numerically based explanation of the cosmos. In other words, the ancient Greeks believed that the basis of musical construction was more closely related to astronomy than it was to other art forms.
The origins of this alternative rationalization are attributed to a legend of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. According to this legend, Pythagoras developed his mathematical understanding of musical pitch relations upon hearing various pitches emitted when hammers struck anvils. However, the validity of this legend has been proven inaccurate as the Pythagorean relative musical ratios are only applicable to the modification of string lengths, and not to the size of musical hammers.
In addition, Pythagoreanism developed the notion of the musical harmony of the universe. Pythagoreanism determines that the celestial bodies generate a music that could not be heard by humankind due to its divine nature. However, the celestial music produced was still based on the mathematical proportions applicable to musical values experienced on earth. In this manner, Pythagoreanism explained how the order of the cosmos could be understood mathematically.
While the notions of Pythagoreanism concerning music and its place as an element of nature are eccentric and invalid, it is interesting that the Ancient Greeks viewed music as more than a form of entertainment. While music was utilized as a form of entertainment for social gatherings in daily life of ancient Greece, it is interesting to note that music took precedence as a subject of philosophical inquiry. Furthermore, philosophical inquiry was the current field of rational inquiry that has been replaced with the field of science today. As a result, it is important to acknowledge that while music largely serves as a form of entertainment, its nature should be remembered as a large representation of human culture.
Leave a Reply