The Influence of Music on Self and Society - Values in Music in Eastern and Western Cultures

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Throughout history the unspoken but highly evocative language of music has exerted powerful influences on individuals and societies alike. Felix Mendelssohn once remarked that music is more specific about what it expresses than words written about those expressions could ever be. That music has the power to express, convey and illicit powerful emotions is without question, however the issue of music's moral and ethical power, and how that power affects individuals and societies, is one that receives too little attention in our post-modern world. Ancient cultures held strong beliefs in the moral and ethical power of music and as such it was imperative for artists within those cultures to exercise a certain moral and ethical responsibility…show more content…
the moral and possibly corrupting aspects of the music of his countrymen. He was equally concerned with the effects of good (moral) music on a person's character: "The noble-minded man's music is mild and delicate, keeps a uniform mood, enlivens and moves. Such a man does not harbor pain or mourn in his heart; violent and daring movements are foreign to him."

As mentioned earlier, a significant aspect of the ancient Chinese' concept of music was the effect of music on one's psyche and the issue of freedom and responsibility in all musical pursuits. When compared to the rationales and motivation of artists of our modern age the Chinese ideal of music-making seems highly enlightened as evident in the consideration given to the effect of music upon the character of the listener. If individuals were affected by music it stood to reason that the larger society could be influenced positively or negatively as well.

The ancient Chinese book "The Memorial of Music" states: "Under the effect of music, the five social duties are without admixture, the eyes and the ears are clear, the blood and the vital energies are balanced, habits are reformed, customs are improved, the empire is at complete peace." As we can see, the Chinese view that social order was juxtaposed to music plays heavily into its philosophical system and ideals. The connection of the tonal arts to the ordering principles of physical laws and metaphysical
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