The Doctrine of Ethos states that music effects character and emotion of man by way of morals or ethics. It was arranged into certain scales, each with a certain characteristic. Specific scales were said to be able to inspire rage or sadness. Some were said to inspire happiness, and one was even said to weaken the mind due to its simplicity. Greek music, of which the Doctrine of Ethos specifically talked about, wasn’t just solely instrumental. Improvising, they usually incorporated lyrics and even dance.
Music was studied by the Greeks on a level that would be considered excessive in our society by all but our musicologists, ethnomusicologist, music theorists, and a small minority that take their love of music to more than just an aesthetic level. In our world, a world of empiricism and skepticism, the Doctrine of Ethos may sound a bit hard to believe. It may even sound magical and mystical, but I feel that it has some deep roots in truth. Philosophers, musicians, and even the layman have all theorized about the effect of music on the mind, body, and soul.Order now
After all, as William Congreve said in his The Mourning Bride, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. ” It is difficult to show the effects of music on the individual, but it is easy to see how the individual chooses genres of music based on mood. The soldiers in Iraq, for instance, listened to a song by the band Drowning Pool titled, “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor,” over the speakers in their tanks. After listening to the song it would be easy to see that they didn’t just choose the song because they thought it pertained to their current situation.
The song is loud, fast, and hard. The song fueled the soldiers. I don’t think that it made them into bloodthirsty savages, but I do think that it pumped them up with adrenaline. Walk into any random Gold’s Gym and I’m sure you will not hear classical or new age music, but instead some sort of rock. David in the Bible played music to soothe Saul. Due to David’s harp and voice Saul calmed down and fell asleep. This is present even in today’s society.
After work, school, or any other long, exhausting event, it isn’t uncommon for people to go home and put on some soothing music in order to cure them of their horrible day. Filmmakers have known of the Doctrine of Ethos (even if they didn’t know what to call it) for as long as films have been popular. Epic movies like Braveheart, Gladiator, and The Last Samurai are generally considered to be emotional. “Chick Flicks” are generally moving, and horror films are intense. Why? The movies, no matter how well put together, would not be able to pull out emotions like it does with musical scores.
A strategically orchestrated and placed score is what makes any script seem dramatic and forces the audience to become personally involved with their feelings. The music for any movie is carefully selected to cause the plethora of emotions one feels while watching a two-hour long movie. The music is what heightens the viewers’ attention and understanding of the film and is what makes the hair stand up on end. As I stated in my introduction, the Doctrine of Ethos revolves around very specific scales.
There are seven different scales: Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, Lydian, Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, and Hypolydian. These scales can still be found today, perhaps under different names. The Mixolydian scale was said to sound sad, and thus provoked sadness. The Dorian scale was calm and easy to listen to, thus it caused people to be reasonable, contemplative and inspired feelings of calm. The Phrygian scale was said to make people become passionate and able to inspire, and thus it was the scale used to lead people (into combat for example). Last came the Lydian scale.
It was said to cause weakness of the mind due to its simplicity and was on a large scale avoided. If you look at modern music, you can see scales like these at work. Blues is generally considered to be gloomy, and is played in a lot of minors, where as pop music is upbeat as a whole, and is simple to play. Speaking of the easy-to-play popular music, it is easy to see its large scale effects on society. I will call it the Lydian effect. America has, by far, the largest music industry in the world. America also comes near the bottom in average test grades worldwide.
I propose that this is due to the largest amount of insipid “music” floating around every available airwave, dumbing down each passing generation, but I digress. The Doctrine of Ethos still applies today. I believe its relevancy is manifest in what we call today the “Mozart Effect”. Maybe it doesn’t apply specifically as if music is some mind-altering chemical (although there are parents who would argue with this), but at the very least music causes feeling of varying degrees. Music has, does, and will continue to bring on strong emotions.