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. 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.