in collaborazione col
Dipartimento delle Arti Alma Mater Studiorum — Università di Bologna
ŠARŪNAS ŠAVĖLA (Bologna-Vilnius)
The case of inaudible music in Platonic cosmos: linking the perceptible to metaphysics
Although the notion of mousikē in Plato’s works has already received some attention, it can still significantly contribute to researching the link between musical practices and their reception. There have been studies dedicated to exploring music in the Platonic corpus which consider music and the soul, the divine music, music in social contexts, such as education, state affairs or ethical life of a polis. However, these conceptualisations greatly differ among themselves and the value attributed to these differently understood music(s) is rather varying: from an unimportant practice that exists merely for the sake of accompanying the lyrics to music which corresponds to the divine rules of cosmos and is powerful enough to significantly affect one’s soul.
This brings us to the question of how these conceptualisations that indicate the different value of musical practices correlate to one another. For this, I suggest exploring the connection between audible and metaphysical notions of music and going back to Classical Greece, primarily Plato himself, to take a more extensive look at the philosophical considerations. They do not only explain how music functions, but also allow us to find out what was conceived to be the preconditions for music to have an actual effect on one’s soul. Considering that a human soul was understood as having a numeric nature, similar to the soul of cosmos, I would argue that musical harmony becomes one of the fundamental parts of the Platonic world-view, which not only possesses the power to have an effect on the ethical level, but is also conceptualised as a medium through which mathematic proportions are able to present themselves in a particular way, different from the other forms of art. So not only musical theories explain the world, but the world itself presents its foundation through the medium of music. In this case, music obtains a status of the divine harmony presented itself to the humanly world through the sensibly perceptible acoustic medium.