Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

SUPERMARKETS are planning to pipe into their stores music composed to persuade customers to buy, buy, buy. Such a move would have appeared entirely reasonable to the ancients.

Greeks were well aware of the power of music to change the disposition of those who heard it. Acolytes of the Greek mystic philosopher Pythagoras (6th century BC) claimed to have developed a form of music therapy. When they got up in the morning, songs and pieces for the lyre prepared them for the rigours of the day, and when they went to bed purged them of all cares and prepared them for prophetic dreams. Some believed that certain types of music could cure illness, e.g., fainting, epilepsy, sciatica and snakebites. There were incantations to induce and help labour. An unknown painter said that he achieved the best likenesses when someone was singing to the cithara.

There was also some agreement on the moral influence of music on the listener. The `Dorian mode' was held to be the most dignified and solemn. …

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