Virtue and Music: Raising the Bar – Truth and Charity Forum

By Fr. Basil Cole, O.P.

I once wrote a book called Music and Morals in which I tried to show that some music has a dispositive effect on the moral life. Music does not immediately or directly cause virtue or otherwise the beautiful works of Mozart or Bach that were played at the same time while the Nazis were killing Jews would have prevented such atrocities.

Like preaching itself, many works of music motivate to transcendence or degradation of one’s moral life. For example, listening to Gregorian chant or Palestrina at the Mass, all things considered, normally intensifies prayer because the mood is prayerful caused in large part by prayerful singers. If one understands Latin, then the sentences take on a richer meaning leading to contemplative prayer, more or less, depending on one’s spiritual life. It can introduce the listener to the praise and adoration of God himself.

Read more . . . Virtue and Music: Raising the Bar – Truth and Charity Forum.

8 thoughts on “Virtue and Music: Raising the Bar – Truth and Charity Forum

  1. Wow, that was a powerful article. I might have to take a look at his book, Music And Morals. Applying his words to my life, my wife and I both enjoy classical and other higher forms of music, including sacred. I do have to admit, though, a still ingrained liking for rock, especially southern rock, that I grew up with. When it comes to popular music, I still listen to a good chunk of late sixties and early seventies stuff.


    • I think that different styles of music are interesting in their emotion and what in what they are evoking. A time and place for everything. It is certain, however, that classical music listeners do better in higher learning and develop a better grasp of the arts and mathematics as well; not to mention that they become less harried in life, more serene and more spiritual. It is an interesting phenomenon that we rarely even think about. It does help children to learn how to think. Another side effect is that classical music relieves anxiety in our pets as well: another study I read about many years ago. Try it with your cats.


      • Might have to try that with our cats, especially the black siamese hellion. Actually he’s a good cat, but full of energy and very mischievous. He could use some calming down.

        I’ve read before about the effects of classical music. What I would be interested in knowing is if anyone’s ever studied or observed any differences in effect between dramatically different composers, say between Wagner and Mozart. Or between Tchaikovsky and Chopin.


        • I never read any such study but would imagine that every piece of music would have nuances that affect our emotional and cognitive responses. It only stands to reason that individual compositions evoke many different responses so even the style of the composers themselves my have some kind of effect.


  2. I love the more “common” semi-classical music, something that brings back wonderful memories of the past, with those that are gone now with whom I so enjoyed those times together, things that bring tears of joy. My favourite is the New Years Day Vienna Philharmonic with it’s many waltzes and polkas always finishing with a tribute to Austria’s most famous General Johann Josef Wenzel (Anton Franz Karl) Graf Radetzky von Radetz, the toe-tapping hand-clapping Radetzky March. I’ll even settle for some good Operetta.

    These together with what for me were the songs I was brought up with, dancing in black or white tie to, songs whose lyrics you could understand and relate to. Dancing for me is of extended romance, not an exercise of physical abandonment. Don’t even get me started on Ballet.

    For me Opera and Rock and Roll are the same. In the former screaming overweight singers in a foreign language you can’t understand nearly always ending in overly dramatic multiple deaths. The latter, screaming mostly badly dressed people uttering words you can’t understand and in neither case can be danced to.

    Yes, for one brought on Pontifical High Masses with lots of incense swung 360 by an Advanced Thurifer and lots of Gregorian Chant puts me in a very special spiritual place as does my regular Sunday Charismatic Mass.

    I’m a full sized dog man myself, and have read from cover to cover, “The Hundred and One Things to Do with a Dead Cat.”….LOL!

    Pay no attention to this rant, it’s just the thoughts of a different generation.

    P.S. Basil, there was a Jewish orchestra in one of the concentration camps that played while others were lead to the gas chambers. So no, it didn’t have any effect on the Nazis…what effect it had on those about to be gassed we’ll have to wait to find out.


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