Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Censoring Music

Plato on purifying musical modes:

Ban lamentations and music fit for drinking parties. "[L]eave me, then, these two modes [Dorian and Phrygian], which will best imitate the violent or voluntary tones of voice of those who are moderate and courageous, whether in good fortune or in bad... [W]e won't need the craftsmen who make triangular lutes, harps, and all other such multistrigned and polyharmonic instruments" (Rep 399a-d)

'Ultra-Orthodox' Rabbi Luft:

Rabbi Luft has drawn up a black-list of musicians and bands - music that he says that is not kosher and cannot be played at ultra-orthodox weddings or public events because of its decadent nature... "The main part of the music should be the melody. Percussion should be secondary. They should not bend notes electronically and should not use instruments like electric guitars, bass guitars or saxophones in Jewish music," he says... [T]he "purpose of modern music - its influences - is to distract young people and change good characters into bad"... such music, even Jewish rock music, "where the dangerous beat plays more of a part than the melody, has no place in a society where people are trying to keep their moral standards high.

Is Plato "really totally in another league as far as insanely illiberal policy preferences go"? If he is, it certainly isn't a league of his own...

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At 3:39 pm, Blogger Rob Jubb said...

In the transparently lunatic Rabbi's defence as not being quite as mad as Plato, his complaint is possibly less wide-ranging musically, and certainly less wide-ranging context-wise. It looks like he's only telling Orthodox Jews to not listen to music with percussion in public, whereas Plato doesn't care whether you share his faith or not or whether you do it in public or not. Let us consider Rabbi Luft as the Middlesborough of the league of insanely illiberal policy preferences: unable to muster the pure madness that is Plato's unflinching totalitarianism across all fronts at the same time.

At 3:50 pm, Blogger Ben said...

It's hard to judge which is more wide-ranging musically - I'd need to know more to say.

I'm not sure you can appeal to context-restriction again though. I don't think the Rabbi's concerns are about public performance; as far as I can see, he's telling Jews not to listen to such music at all. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

True, his advice/commands extend only to a certain community - Orthodox Jews - but Plato's extend only to a certain community - inhabitants of his ideal city. (He makes clear that poets are allowed in other cities - 398a).


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