“Through pity (Eleos) and fear (Phobos),
effecting the proper purgation (catharsis) of these emotions”
Some words are born lucky; others, very lucky. The latter endure throughout the ages of men, maintaining more or less the same primary meaning they were happily assigned at birth. A new definition, one that demanded a fair designation, is precisely concentrated in them. In this particular case, it was trying to find the right word to specify and signify the primary role that tragedy fulfilled in ancient Greece. This word, again, was found and used by Aristotle. We are referring to the word κάθαρσις (catharsis), used a few times in Poetics and Politics.
In celebration of 2,400 years since the birth of Aristotle, the Music Philosophy Conference had to consider this concept, perhaps most relevant when the question of the role of music and its connection to the scenic arts comes up. Of course, other ideas and concepts have been added over the centuries, but the idea of catharsis endures as an underlying concept. Men, we could say, started coming up with stories and representing them through words, rhythms, and melodies because they needed to purge their emotions in a human way, through a symbolic representation of themselves.
Rivers of ink have been expended on this question. In addition to this one, other questions related to Aristotle’s ideas on tragedy and music will be addressed at this year’s Music Philosophy Conference.
Gotzon Arrizabalaga & Víctor Gómez Pin – Paideia and Catharsis
Francisco Jarauta – The Cry of Antigone
Carlos Mena – Poetic Song: Reflections of a Countertenor on the Representation of Catharsis in His Singing
Alfredo Aracil – Words Without Song: The Story in “2 delirios sobre Shakespeare” and “Siempre/Todavía”
José María Sánchez-Verdú – An Approach to Some Types of Catharsis in the Artistic, Poetic, and Scenic-Musical Creation in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Ramón Andrés – Necessary Catharsis: “An Innocent Joy” (Aristotle). From Orphism to Pseudo-Plutarch
Guillermo Heras – Musical Theater/Music for Theater
Tomás Marco – Musical Theater and Opera: A Reciprocal Catharsis