Like other distinctive cultures, Western culture has long struggled against its own particular demons. Especially during the period from the Dark Ages through the Renaissance, Europeans viewed this struggle literally as a battle with the Devil and his cohorts for the souls of humanity. By the eighteenth century, however, many Western thinkers had come to view the dark forces that their ancestors so feared and struggled against as essentially a product of destructive beliefs, social institutions, and practices. They disputed philosophies that promoted absolute rule, a rigid class system, impoverishment of the vast majority, and extreme judicial inequality; and they disputed the idea that a rigidly structured human hierarchy was justified as part of a divinely ordained order. This challenge to traditional authority reached a culmination during the eighteenth century Enlightenment and helped precipitate the revolutions that followed. It brought with it eventual change to societal institutions and, among other things, put a formal end in the West to one of the world’s great evils: slavery.
Much of what occurred is well-documented. What has been largely overlooked is the sizable role that Western music and the affective theories that helped shape it have played in this history. This book recounts the dark side of that extraordinary and often surprising influence on Western culture and history.
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