All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.
Walter Pater, Fortnightly Review, 1877.
- If you have heard a piece of music so museless that it made you depressed and pessimistic, and sounded like lost souls crying in the House of Hades;
- if you have read a book so full of negation that it has loosened the ties of your belief in human nature;
- if you have seen a painting or sculpture that has made you turn your eyes away;
- if someone has designed and erected a building so rebarbative in its threatening ugliness that it lowers your quality of life every time you see it (what Bill Bryson calls the f*** you style of architecture);
then the question may arise—did the Greeks and Romans have a divinity who inspired people to create offensive things?
There was none; and if there had been, (s)he would have come up, like Alecto or Megaera, from the Underworld, summoned by the gods if ever they wanted to demoralize mortals.
Cacophilia: the Greeks didn’t have a word for it. A glance at any of Pindar’s Odes, luminous with the iridescence of things, may suggest why.
Next post: classicists and language.