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

8789 Words Dec 20th, 2011 36 Pages
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…
Like other forces of nature, music itself, as a phenomenon, was not biased towards producing either beneficial or destructive effects. The Chinese understood the power within music to be a "free energy," which each man could use or misuse according to his own free will.

What is significant here is the issue of freedom and its correlation to responsibility. Chinese philosophers understood that music was not composed or performed in a social vacuum and consequently there were great social implications in the creation and presentation of music. Due to this heightened awareness of the influence of music on self and society, Chinese philosophers and educators directed a great deal of attention to the music of their culture and as such music as entertainment had little redeeming social value in their societies. Music that endeavored to express or convey universal truths, which in turn could benefit the development of a person's character thus making that person an asset to the society at large, was music that was considered good and proper. Conversely, music that was deemed sensual or exotic was seen as being immoral and was thought to have negative effects on ones spirituality and character. Consider Confucius' remarks about the music of certain composers of his time: "The music of Cheng is lewd and corrupting, the music of Sung is soft and makes one effeminate, the

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