Evaluative judgments about musical innovations occur from the late fifth century BC in Greece and Rome and are reflected in similar discussions of Christian authors in the first centuries of the Empire. This article explores how pedagogical, theological, moral, and spiritual considerations motivate judgments on contemporary pagan musical culture and conclusions about the Christian attitude towards music. Biblical references to music inspire both allegorical interpretations and the defense of actual musical practice. The perhaps most intriguing Christian transformation of the ancient musical worldview is presented in Clement of Alexandria’s Protrepticus. Well-known classical music-myths serve here to introduce a superior ‘New Song’. Harmony, represented in the person of Christ who unites a human and a divine nature, becomes the ultimate principle of both cosmos and human nature. This conception allows music to become a prominent expression of the Christian faith and even inform the moral life of believers.
This paper serves to report on the MOISA Panel at the 150th Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies dedicated to the theme ‘Music and the Divine’, and to introduce one of the papers presented at the panel.
The destruction of Jericho’s city walls (Joshua 6) is commonly attributed to the blowing of trumpets. After examining similar stories from ancient Greece, the article addresses various imprecisions of this notion. First, the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of the biblical text suggest several possible instruments, but eventually the ram horn (shofar) remains the only reasonable option. Secondly, regarding the actual cause of the walls’ fall, textual analysis, again across languages, reveals a rather complex picture. Further insights are gained from the interpretations of both Jewish and early Christian commentators and contemporary scholarship. After considering a variety of possibilities, ranging from an earthquake to the ‘magic’ number seven, the solution proposed here is rooted in the soteriological hermeneutics of Sacred Scripture as a whole. In a way, none and all of the people’s actions are relevant, because only faith and obedience to God’s commandment elicit the divine ratification of salvation.
This article investigates to what degree the concept of ‘musical emotion,’ a term coined by contemporary psychology, can be traced in antiquity. Hence, it is necessary to begin by clearly defining ‘music’ and ‘emotion,’ in both ancient and modern understandings. The distinctions between ‘musically induced emotions’ and ‘musical emotions’ strictly speaking, and between the ‘referentialist’ and ‘absolutist’ (or ‘cognitivist’) school in music psychology structure the question. While most ancient theorists believe that the impact of music on the passions (παθήµατα) is of pedagogical or therapeutical relevance as it is able to create ethos in the human soul through mimēsis, others, similar to the cognitivists, limit its effect to (aesthetic) pleasure. Emotions unique to music are not explicitly discussed by the ancient theorists, although an indirect acknowledgment possibly exists in form of metaphorical descriptions of musical experiences, a certain notion of specifically musical pleasure, and the idea of music’s magical power.