Which philosopher laid some of the foundations for modern music theory? This is a question asked by many classical musicians as they attempt to engage with the world of modern composition. And it’s not always easy to trace the influence of certain people on the creation of Western music.
Before we examine the connections between ancient Greece and modern classical music it’s important to realize that ancient Greece was a society in which the intellectual elite were members of the masses, a fact that contributes to the difficulty of determining how the concepts of music and the arts came about. The great philosophers of the time all lived within a socio-economic system that was marked by extreme inequality. The most famous among them all were Aristotle, the earliest of the classical philosophers, and Seneca, a Roman philosopher who had been a practicing musician during his life. His works, particularly the Essays, are an influential part of our modern understanding of both philosophy and music. The way in which classical Greek ideas influence of Western art is sometimes difficult to understand unless you possess an advanced degree in the history of Western music and have read a number of his works.
One of the most profound ideas that Aristotle developed was that all sounds had a meaning, a pitch, a quality, a cadence, which he claimed was determined by the shape and structure of the objects around us. Aristotle theorized that the physical properties of the objects had an effect on the pitches and quality of sound that they produced. This led him to the conclusion that all sounds had a definite form, which he called tonal elements. These elements, according to him, could be composed of several simpler components, each of which had its own significance and contribution to music. These components became the basic framework on which modern music is assembled.
Another influential ancient thinker was Plato. He also held a strong belief in the necessity of music. He claimed that music had become necessary through the evolutionary process of all organisms and that without music human life would cease to exist. Plato’s views on music were not fully accepted by his contemporaries, however, and he was eventually replaced by the dominant school of musicology, the neo-classical music of the period, which tended to downplay the role of philosophy in the creation of music. Still, many philosophers have been responsible for helping develop the methods, theories, and forms of music that we know today.
Leonardo di Vinci is commonly credited with being the first artist to use the mathematical form of the four-voice invention in his music. While he did not invent the use of the two voice and tremolo, he did succeed in inventing the treble clef, which he used to create variations of the bass clef. The Italian composer, Bartok, is said to have used a similar style of music-tune in his Requiem for the Dying Christ.
Aristotle was a prolific writer, making important contributions to the fields of ethics, aesthetics, logic, physiology, pedagogy, and linguistics. Many of his works have survived us to this day because they are philosophical works of a wide variety. His basic philosophy of aesthetics, however, still puzzles modern students of music theory. His basic ideas of proportion, ratio, rhythm, and harmony, can be applied to a wide variety of genres. In the areas of composition and theory, he also offered important contributions to other areas such as music education, music theory, composition, and theory of music.
John Locke is generally considered to be the father of modern psychology. His thoughts on mind and body formed the foundation of modern medical philosophy. Descartes used his arguments to criticize the metaphysics of his day, and propounded a method of natural philosophy in the name of Leibniz. Locke was also an influential figure of the Continental revival, which attempted to give substance to the theories of both classic and renaissance classical music. He presented the idea that each part of a piece had a spirit independent of its material existence. He rejected the idea of the necessity of harmony in his thoughts on how music relates to human emotion.
music theory has come a long way since the days of the Ancient Greeks. Advances in mathematics and the study of the universe had touched upon many scientific concepts that had profound effects on the way music was created and performed. Today, music theory is not a subject that is discussed in universities like philosophy. Instead, many young people find it a fun and interesting hobby. There are even websites dedicated to helping young people learn about the history of music, and what some of the famous philosophers have said about it.
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