Статья 'Музыкальные инновации в философии Аристотеля' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Music Novations in Aristotle's Philosophy

Orlov Vladimir

PhD in Art History

Associate Professor at the Department of the Theory of Music and Composition of Saratov State Conservatoire

410012, Russia, Saratovskaya oblast', g. Saratov, ul. Prospekt Imeni S.m., 1

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Abstract: This article studies the music novations in Aristotle’s philosophy. This research focuses on Aristotle’s philosophical and aesthetical views, with a particular emphasis on the musical novations in his philosophical works. It also aims to detect music novations in Aristotle’s philosophy. To achieve this purpose, the author performs the following tasks: studying Aristotle’s essays and defining his philosophic and aesthetic attitude to music resulting in music novations that appeared in his philosophy while also paying attention to Aristotle’s theoretical views on music. The main research methods are analytical and hermeneutical. The article analyzes the main ideas about music in Aristotle’s essays and characterizes musical innovations typical of his aesthetics. The author concludes that Aristotle’s philosophy and aesthetics contain the following novations: a music composition is the key jewel of a tragedy and is one of its components; music is divided into practical and theoretical (music art and music science); the “composer-performer” system appears in which a composer is the writer of the music, and a performer is the one who plays or teaches the music; the formation of a comprehensive concept of a piece of music; music is a melodic and harmonic reflection of life and an expression of spiritual and moral values and properties of humanity.  


theoretical music, antiquity, performer, composer, musical composition, aesthetics, philosophy, musical innovation, Aristotle, practical music

Questions on the philosophy and aesthetics of music allow you to deeply penetrate the content of musical works and understand their structure. Any real work of art is the embodiment of certain philosophical and aesthetic ideas. That is why it is important for every musician to study the philosophy and aesthetics of music.

The history of Western European musical culture shows that certain innovations individualized each epoch and distinguished them from all previous historical periods. In every historical period, there were thinkers who discovered new laws of the existence of art. New concepts of music that appeared in the works of scientists, we call musical innovations. Musical innovations are not only new works but also new ideas in the philosophy and aesthetics of music. They appeared in the era of antiquity.

Aleksei Losev pointed out that the aesthetic consciousness of antiquity "with great difficulty was separated from practical activity, from religion, morality, social life, technology and craft, and, in general, from a purely vital approach to reality" [1, 11]. Similarly, music was inextricably linked to the practice of social life. However, since the ancient era, music has received theoretical understanding in the teachings of Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Democritus, and in the treatises of Plato, Aristotle, their contemporaries and followers.

The purpose of this article is to identify musical innovations in the philosophy of Aristotle. To achieve this goal, we need to perform the following tasks: study the treatises of Aristotle and determine his philosophical and aesthetic attitude to music, from which follow the musical innovations that appeared in his teaching. The main research methods are analytical and hermeneutical. The article presents an analysis of the main provisions on music in the treatises of Aristotle and gives an interpretation of musical innovations characteristic of his aesthetics. In the context of this article, musical innovations in the teachings of Aristotle are the thinker's new philosophical and aesthetic views about music that first appeared through him and remain relevant to this day.

The first innovation, which follows from the content of the treatise Poetics, is connected with the theoretical understanding of the applied meaning of music. Aristotle pointed out that musical composition is one of the six components of tragedy (its other parts: plot, characters, thoughts, stage setting, text): "Of the other parts of the tragedy, the fifth, music, is the most important of the delights" [5, 653]. The thinker believed that musical composition is the most important decoration of tragedy. He was the first to call music a necessary component of tragedy. If we draw parallels with modernity, it turns out that this idea is very relevant today since music is one of the most important components of drama theater and cinema. It helps the modern viewer to sensuously perceive the action taking place on the stage or screen, which echoes Aristotle's judgment about the role of music in tragedy: "a significant part of it is the spectacle and music, thanks to which pleasure is especially clear" [5, 680]. The applied meaning of music, which was theoretically meaningful even in the ancient era, has been preserved to this day (along with music as an autonomous art form). Aristotle's innovation in his era concerned the theoretical understanding of music as one of the integral parts of tragedy and the awareness of its important role in developing action.

The next innovation in the teachings of Aristotle is the division of music into the theoretical and practical, which he outlined in the treatise Politics. Theoretical music, in modern terms, is musicology. The second kind of music is what we call music proper: musical works that the author creates for the purpose of subsequent performance for training, education, or leisure. Aristotle was the first thinker who essentially separated the art of music from the science of music. Aristotle first spoke about the need to study music in practice: "musical education should be arranged in such a way that those should be brought up learning music through practice" [5, 638]. He believed that it is impossible to judge music without knowing it practically: "people should, while young, do it themselves. When they get older, they should leave these classes, but they will be able to judge the beautiful and experience true pleasure thanks to the lessons they received in their youth" [5, 639].

For the first time, Aristotle believed that an author creates a piece of music (a composer), and a performer either learns, teaches, educates others, or improves himself. Similar thoughts will later appear in the works of B. Yavorsky and B. Asafyev (the triad: composer – performer – listener). Aristotle was the first to theoretically comprehend the functionality of the existence of musical art, associated with the existence of the author (composer) and performer.

Also, Aristotle was the first theorist who tried to form a complete concept of a musical work. According to his teaching about matter and form, there is a formless sound mass, which is transformed into the form of theoretical musical ideas, and then is embodied in the empirical forms of musical works. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle wrote that the measure and beginning "is something that is one and indivisible[…]" in the doctrine of heavenly bodies it, "is taken as the beginning and measure [...]" the fastest movement is the movement of the sky "[...], in music-a quarter tone" [2, 254]. Hence, according to Aristotle, from a quarter of a tone, all other consonances are measured.

Another Aristotelian innovation is his understanding of obtaining pleasure from a musical work and creative satisfaction. If the music created by the composer later becomes the subject of the activity of performers and listeners, then the pleasure of the creator grows, expands, and then transforms into a sense of creative satisfaction. Stagirite says that this is because "everyone loves his own creation more than he would have loved it if he had come to life; and this is probably the case with poets in the first place because they adore their own works as if they were their children" [5, 255]. This can also be attributed to composers. So, Aristotle was the first to talk about the creator and his creation, without denying music the right to be called an art form in the modern sense of the word. Before Aristotle, neither Pythagoras, Heraclitus, nor Democritus considered music as an independent art form but talked about music as a science. The main reason for this is the lack of internal differentiation in concepts such as music art and music science.

Speaking in Politics about the place of music in the system of common Greek occupations, such as grammar, gymnastics, drawing, Aristotle assigned music the role of a source of pure pleasure during leisure. If grammar teaches literacy, gymnastics "serves to strengthen health and develop physical strength" [5, 631], and drawing allows you to adequately evaluate works of art, then music is how a person can temporarily escape from everyday work and life and plunge into the world of beautiful sounds that have a beneficial effect on the soul and body through his hearing. "Therefore, it remains to accept one thing: music serves to fill our leisure, for which it was obviously introduced into the everyday life of education" [5, 631], wrote Aristotle. In his teachings, for the first time, there is a view of music as a means of filling leisure (previously, no philosopher had considered it in this way).

Aristotle also pointed out that music is a melodic-harmonic reflection of being and expresses the spiritual and moral properties and qualities of human nature. He rightly believed that music can radically change the state of the soul at any time and any point in space. This idea is in many ways similar to the platonic attitude to music, which also pays special attention to the impact of music on a person. "Rhythm and melody," wrote Aristotle, "contain the most realistic representations of anger and meekness, courage and temperance, and all their opposing qualities, as well as other moral qualities (this is also clear from experience: when we perceive the rhythm and melody with the ear, we change in the soul). The habit of experiencing distress or joy when perceiving something that imitates reality leads to the fact that we begin to experience the same feelings when confronted with reality" [5, 636].

In conclusion, we will sum up some results. In Aristotle's philosophy, five musical innovations were identified. First, musical composition, according to Aristotle, is the most important component of ancient tragedy. He considered music to be one of its parts. The applied significance of music remains relevant as it is an integral part of theater and cinema.

Secondly, the philosopher was the first thinker who divided music into the theoretical and practical (the science of music and music as an art form). It was with Aristotle that the differentiation of the science of music and the art of music began. This division is still relevant today: musicology is a science that studies music, and music is a type of art.

Third, Aristotle first spoke about the fact that there is a composer and a performer in music. The composer is the author who creates musical works, and the performer is the one who learns, teaches, or improves himself. This position has also not lost its relevance today. A piece of music is created by composers whose work is performed by musicians, studied by musicologists, studied by students and teachers. Many modern performers combine concert activity with pedagogical activity.

Fourth, in his teaching, a holistic concept of a musical work was formed: first, a formless sound mass appears, which is transformed into the forms of theoretical musical ideas, and then is embodied in the empirical forms of musical works. This concept has also been developed in modern musicology. A holistic analysis of a musical work involves the study of its form and all the elements of its musical language, the identification of their interaction with each other, the definition of the concept of the opus, and the role of the means of musical expression in the implementation of the composition's idea. Almost all of this was foreseen by Aristotle.

Fifthly, the thinker pointed out that music is a melodic-harmonic reflection of being and the expression of spiritual and moral properties and qualities of human nature, which, like previous innovations, has not lost its relevance in our time: all types of art reflect both the inner world of a person and being with the help of means of expression. In music, such means are, among others, melody and harmony. At present, both melody and harmony continue to be the most important means of musical expression. Of course, they are not the main ones in all modern music, but their presence in many musical works cannot be denied.

Thus, in his understanding of and attitude towards music, Aristotle is close to modern theoretical models of its interpretation: music is considered an art form and a science. A holistic concept of a musical work was formed, which later was used in a transformed way of analyzing musical works. Musical innovations that appeared in Aristotle's philosophy were further developed and continued in the works of not only his ancient followers but also thinkers of subsequent eras.

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