More to Music than Music: Diagoras’ Reply

Cicero recounts a story of how a friend of Diagoras of Melos tried to convince him of the Greek gods’ existence. His friend explained how many pictures were made of those who prayed to the gods and survived shipwrecks. Diagoras’ reply? “There are nowhere any pictures of those who have been shipwrecked and drowned at sea”.

There are nowhere any pictures of those who have been practicing rigorously and have not gotten the orchestral spot.

There are nowhere any pictures of those who have been promoting their music generously online and have not gotten recognition.

There are nowhere any pictures of those who had been esteemed by musicians who are in the history books and have been left out of such lineage.

What Diagoras’ observation shows is an inherent bias towards one result over the other equally probable one. Take the last example. There were just as many musicians or composers who were skilled and respected who fell through the cracks as there were others who did not. This does not deny artistry but places it within a world that is not purely meritocratic.

The field in which music operates is bound by the historical, economical, technological, biographical, political, psychological, coincidental, and boundless other factors. Perhaps how we operate within music is a specific concoction of all of these things and more. To examine and discuss such matters might be a way of admitting that there is more to music than music.

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