Analizy, Psychologia -

“Music is an endless labyrinth where many new ways can be discovered and a place where mystery remains forever”. Pierre Boulez[1]

The words quoted invite one to replace, for a moment, the word "music" with the word "life", in such a way that they act as synonyms: life is an labyrinth without a beginning or an end, where many new roads can be found, where mystery lasts forever.

The proposed change has neither a purely coincidental effect, nor is it acquired by some kind of symmetry, but as an underlying structure behind the words, there is a common ontological basis. Therefore, concepts can be exchanged and lead to such a balanced definition that they become identical, because life and music involve such a close relationship that they may, in fact, be characterized in the same way.

Thinking of life in the abstract and assimilating it to music is almost a limitless exercise: harmony, rhythm, sounds and silences are present and are essential to both realities ... And while we may consider life to be somehow a co-authored piece (because of the need for you / You that everyone carries), limiting in a way the role of men in their lives, both tasks (living and composing) require a pen and a composer. Both are architects of the melody.

Music as an art, as a way of expression, and therefore as a language, has employed different structures, different, at least, among themselves. They have developed throughout history in order to direct the flood of creativity that is displayed through each and every note, depicting the spectrum of composition. On this occasion we will confine ourselves to one of these structures: symphony. This is because it is "one of the longer and more complex compositions, [because] it is very easy to listen to the most famous and favorite ones, [and] because they abound in compositions that almost everybody has ever heard…." [2].

It is this familiarity that allows us to see that life closely resembles a symphony. Social life, in fact, can be compared to an orchestra needing a leading baton to lead (politics) and, above all, an orchestra requiring rules of various kinds (law and economics): a few clear rules applicable to all to enable the development and the initiative of every member of the orchestra and, at the same time, that of the community as a whole, without stifling one or the other.

Etymologically, the word symphony or ‘symphonia’ means ‘harmonium chord of voices’. Although its structure has changed throughout its historical development, it usually has four movements: the first and fourth, rather quick, the second, slow, and the third, scherzo ("joke" or "game" in Italian), generally independent and cheerful.

In each of the movements, the composer develops emotive melodies with a different dye, rhythm, harmony and instrumental composition. Not every movement must involve all the instruments: there are roles in the orchestra, as in society. The different movements of the symphony can refer to different stages of life or different spheres configuring social life. But the main thing is that although the melody is different each time, and the sound and even the nuances vary, it always retains the unity of the same vital and social composition.

The harmony and the richness of every bar, depends on the composer’s commitment and the attitude. Hence the relevance of personal freedom not only at a personal level ("to be a good musician"), but also for the welfare of society, which is enriched by the characteristics of every person ( "to form a virtuous orchestra") . The beauty of the composition depends not so much on the perfection of each note, but on the mixing ratio and the method by which it is built. This is not about an absence of conflict, but about the way to resolve conflicts in an ethical order, while containing both the typical and distinctive elements of social identity. So, just as a symphony is rife with dissonance and there is certain friction between instruments ... The neat variety enriches everything, attracting a passionate and, at the same time, calm peaceful end.

No doubt, one of the most curious features of music is that, being a science of harmony and beauty, it is a mathematical art. The most accurate of arts, to be performed with method and order, following a precise logic. From chaos to order, music is constructed from tidy cells (symmetrical and strong bars) on which frequency and stability resonate in a solid composition. The order of economy also works in such a way, with its own methodology and its possibility to harmonize interests converging into wealth for everyone and for society… Thus, life also needs to be built on the solid rocks of effort and perseverance. This effort allows for the confrontation of the most difficult harmonies and dissonance, chromatic scale and flats, without losing either coherence or cohesion in the work as a whole. Rhythm, mathematics, sound economics and sound order combine to form a complete melody... and lead to the next movement…

The consistency of music’s speech is astonishing. For example, in the third movement we may see a variation of the main melody of the first movement. Similarly, learning from the past avoids staying with the same melody, and leads to change it, but bringing the best of the past to build the future ... Because the future cannot exist without the past, as it comes from it. It finds its origin in the past and, therefore, it also finds a set of inherited values. Here is the sense of history and tradition, which did not suffocate themselves but provide wings for the new flight beginning at every moment. Without them, there is no identity, no sense of belonging, and without belonging (without "private" things), the human being lacks the minimum security and encouragement necessary to undertake new things. If a symphony does not keep a basic melody it is incoherent and it loses meaning. If life, either personal or social, does keep certain boundaries with the past, it does not know who it is and therefore, where it is going. The person or society that lacks a lively project for it’s own life project, vanishes.

Over a symphony we switch from the liveliest spirit to the deepest sadness, then leading to a passionate end. As in life, music offers us different destinations other than those which we deal with without losing, that is the reason for unity. The key and the instruments, as well as the spirit and the rhythm can change, but the composition is always the same. Faced with this changing reality, a human being must be ready to lead, to gain the capacity to take risks and accountability, and be ready to have a strategic vision. He needs an enterprising character. Without this spirit, and without these skills, he will probably fall into apathy and will be led by the whims of masses. He will cease to be himself. He will be just one more individual in the masses: nobody.

The task is not easy and requires a lot of courage, but as the musician has many elements for his composition. People have countless gifts to compose their lives, especially their rational self and the ability to love. Life’s nuances are infinite and, as music, unlimited. As a musician, every person has received, among many other gifts, a pen, a lot of ink and a stave to make music of their personal and social life.

* * *

Any piece of music is written on the basis of a stave, where the first thing found is a key. Life also depends on where you are anchored according to the "key" chosen in freedom. It leads the effort toward some or other purposes, or will perform certain activities or the others, it will use the entire arsenal of intellectual capacities, such as volitive, emotional, body, sensitive and trend capacities, according to the direction of life projects it has chosen[3]. The political community is in charge of choosing the fundamental social key that identifies society. If the political community wants its members to establish and pursue magnanimous life projects, it needs to be noble and liberal itself, renouncing to rejecting to function different from promoting every people housed in its bosom.

Bars split time in the piece of music into equal parts in which differences integrate, provide patterns and marks in connection with time that must be used to interpret the piece of music rhythmically: equality in dignity, difference in personal manifestations and wealth in society. Bars symbolize the need for order that life itself imposes (hours, days, months, years) [4], which require that one does what is proper at every age , and learns the use of freedom with maturity. Each day also has its own bar, and when it is not respected we live “out of time and life loses its harmony. Just as the bar is nimbly made visible the baton of the director - clocks, calendars, academic courses, corporate balance sheets and parliamentary periods are also practical indicators of the bars of personal, social and political life.

Chords, groups of three or more notes sounding simultaneously and forming the basis of the harmonic piece of music, are directly related to melody. This can be compared to the various activities that are part of daily life: music without chords has no luster, and nor life without variety. Therefore, it is necessary to strike a balance between everyday routine and variety, so that life is harmonious and melodic. So, it is not good for a ruler to be visible in the day-to-day routine; he must work, but in the shade. Thus, facing the daily work known as service, situations of national holiday or difficulties are marked by the uniqueness of their presence.

Among many musical compositions, a symphony aims to build a music piece that is as finished and simple as possible. Therefore, it symbolizes human beings as being harmonious. Throughout the four movements of a symphony, the temporary nature of a human being could be referred to, with its leisure and work.

The Allegro of Novelty

The first movement allegro, lively and joyful, speaks of novelty as life, like music, always sounds different in each interpretation: days need their own colorful tones. What I live today I cannot repeat tomorrow. It may be similar, but it will not be today. This movement is a metaphor for the journey of life. A journey that feeds on what is new in the context of the known. There is a need for home and travel[5]. A need to set out from home for the news that life brings, a home to which one returns, where one passes on this novelty. A trip is enjoyable, but it is necessary to return to share what was lived. Without a trip (rupture of everyday life), home runs the risk of becoming boring. At the social level, novelty requires a great deal of flexibility, and it is not acquired without an open, free spirit, willing to hear what is diverse and take a stand for the most convincing option. Novelty has no place in a system of centralized or programmed life. There, what is new disconcerts and paralyses.

"Anyone who is bored is someone who rejects, i.e. a critic (…). Getting bored means not to accept: ab-horrere, hate, or, in other languages, in-odiare (ennui, noia, annoyance). Getting bored is, then, not being interested, not to exert that inter-esse, not getting inside"[6]: being a person without an inner self and, as such, being anxious because time goes by without an end. This is a piece of music without contrasts - monotonous and mundane. "Initially, (…) boredom was directed outwards, to objects, persons. The problem is that, the more we reject them, the more we were left alone. But there are two types of solitude: active and passive. The first is only apparent: I get momentarily alone to weigh and measure what I am concerned with, what I like. The second is the one of bored people, and shows a very distinctive trait (…), namely weakness[7]. “A bored person is the one who watches the passing of time, put into kierkergardian terms, who experiences it as such: as emptiness. It is the pure experience of time, a time that lacks quality, color, sound and taste. It is obvious; therefore, that what the romantic and the boring have in common is - as well notes Alvira - the disturbing inner presence of denial, of emptiness, of nothingness. This concept has to do with being narrow minded and with suffering from a certain mental stuffiness, which is in connection with the word ‘angustia’, meaning ‘narrowiness’ in deep structure, from which anguish has derived. Thus, anguish is typical of a lack of openness.

Because rejecting the other he or she is empty, in order to achieve personal encounter, exactly the opposite must occur: opening toward the other[8]. This opening - in its variety- will give color and sound to this new life that used to appear empty. For one to do this, they must "carry out a job (...): change the place of denial. If I used to reject what was outside me, putting rejection out of myself ("I am bored with everything"), by exercising the critical spirit in its most common form, I have to put rejection within my own self, I must reject myself, because that's the essential condition to accept the other [9]". Herein lays the deepest sense of freedom. Without it, we cannot choose the place of rejection and, therefore, we can not opt for a life filled with lively color, and we attain precisely the opposite: alienation, disinterest, the unwillingness to participate in public life, irresponsibility in it utmost expression.

Living to an ‘Andante’ Rhythm

The second movement of the symphony, the Adagio or Andante, having a moderately slow movement, speaks of the need for rhythm in life. Both notes and silences are fundamental: activity and reflection. Without silences, notes would have no life because of their lack of contrast. The same is true when conducting business without contemplation or reflection without action. In reflection, which requires true silence, the key of life is appreciated and, in the subsequent action, habits will be conquered to play the own role relatively easily in the difficult tasks that life entails. [10]. Habit allows for focus and overcoming a scattered way of life: it is the time lived, its capture and conceptualization. Through habits, time becomes habitable.

Making a person is not an easy task because the human being tends to infinity. When a child is born we cannot determine who he or she will become, because while any living being is defined by its specific purpose and it is enough to wait for that purpose to be fulfilled, a person is a being whose goal is so indefinable as indeterminable that it seems really random. That is why education is so important, because every person has first to inherit the entire past of mankind to conquer later, from his own freedom, his unpredictable future.

Human beings become human, first by meditation and withdrawal. A human being’s inner withdrawal is an attitude of mind by which a person wants to find himself and develop his own humanity. This withdrawal is literally the opposite of distraction. Only the disciplines of the inner self -music, poetry, literature, philosophy- awake, encourage, educate a man's – and woman’s -humanity. They do not teach how to be powerful, or cunning, or how to acquire interpersonal skills, or how "to be a worldly person”, but only how to be more attentive, more compassionate, more sensitive, kinder and more musical, in one word: happy.[11] Hence the great importance of the "return" to humanities in a society which, because of a high degree of technical development, prefers the safety of mechanical sciences to the unpredictability of the inherent freedom of human sciences. Technical progress is essential, but it must always be subordinated to man: it is better to be than to possess,, to have the power to choose than to be manipulated.

Who has not experienced how strongly music reveals our self and pushes us to regenerate our lives? This is how music achieves what any philosopher's teachings would wish to convey: it makes us feel the intensity of our own existence as a promise, and its ennoblement as a duty. Through science and technology, each generation inherits the whole humanity. It is enough with being born in a technically evolved country to be immediately ready to use all the new techniques. But this is not enough in the case of this pathetic experience by which every human being has to build his / her innermost thoughts and their subjectivity: each person has to discover his humanity, to grow it, to deepen it, to exert it... It is not enough, for example, to be born to a well-educated family to be a cultured person. In that intimate sense, attentive, tender, compassionate, every people’s humanity cannot be more than its own task. It is understood, as a result, that technique always advances, while the humanity of men and women (which makes us say of a person that he or she is humane, which we don not usually say about any people), having to start every time, is left to the adventure of the freedom of every individual.

Certain forms of modern humanism, which separated from the classical humanist tradition[12], were isolated from its core (and lost its key), falling into superficiality, duplicity and naturalism. They have made a fool of themselves and have taken refuge in phenomena such as noise creation and its allies: activism, obsessive fun and babbling. These stifle reflection, serenity and listening, which are the partners of the necessary silence for a person to develop his inner self. Viktor Frankl said that the more unaware a human being is of the purpose of his or her life, the more vibrating a pace they give to their own life.

The “Game” of Freedom

The Minuetto or Scherzo, the third movement of the symphony, is characterized by a moderate timing and, at the same time, intensive. Scherzo means game. And speaking of game, we cannot lose sight of what moves game in the long term and, therefore, its moderation and intensity.

There are two elements in a game: the external vicissitudes and the spirit in which it is played. Anyone who, perhaps losing too often overshadows his/her spirit will be tempted by the desire to leave. A person in such a situation, then, has no hope, and no longer wants to spend time on the game. People accept defeat, and say they can’t continue. Though they say so, in fact they do not really know, as they would be able to go on playing. Human life is a game that can be won only if the risk of freedom is assumed, and if hope is maintained that, beyond the fabric of its external vagaries, often bitter or hard, they deserves to be loved. Thus, on accepting this gift, hoping against all evidence of finitude, we beat death. Maybe that's why Christian tradition says that only those who welcome providence - that is, the game of God for every human being - do God’s will and are saved precisely because they keep on playing.

Thus, game involves risk, adventure; therefore game implies winning over danger, over the threatening denial, with the feeling of power it gives. Power is, in this sense, triumph over negativity. And that's why the essential virtue of the player is passion. Every player knows that he/she will win thanks to the love for what they do. As love is a great power, that is to say, the deepest form of life. Only love wins, love even defeats death. Therefore, playing always entails a certain effort, but sportive and willing. In addition, it continually holds the emergence of novelty: there are always new things in a game. But basically, as in life, everything is at the same time, essentially the same, imitation and repetition. This is an imitation on the one hand repeated, and on the other hand, always innovative. That way, in politics, the ruler must know how to play, in the first place by abiding personally by the rules set for everyone, and - even more important – he should allow everyone to play / act for everyone to get involved, in their own way, in the building of the novelty of public interest.

The ‘Allegro Finale’: The Symphony of Ethics

The ‘Allegro Finale’ or ‘Rondó’ is the climax in a movement, in which the joy of the symphony erupts without any racket, and transmits the joy consisting of its ultimate goal. Life gets joyful when the combination of novelty and habituality ("home" and "journey") is made in harmony, without discordant notes. Harmony is the result of an effort to guide life on the stave of clear priorities, which weaves a serene but lively melody that encourages people to follow the path, already facilitated by the acquisition of virtues. In a similar sense, social harmony arises from the set of personal lives (human sociability, which is the key) interwoven with family and work (the bars of economy), in a field guided by clear rules (the law stave), in the framework of the national and international projects (the melody of politics), based on an order that respects and promotes human dignity (the symphony of ethics).

The aim of music this way identifies itself with the aims of the life of the individual. This is the conquest of joy in harmony, and by it the conquest of social life: the conquest of peace based on the respect for personal rights. This is the ideal of objective integration (covering all areas), subjective integrity (which extends to all members of society), superabundance enriching oneself and others. It is the universal and harmonious development of the body and spiritual things, of intellect and will, of theoretical and practical knowledge, they all necessary for a personal identity to emergence rich, balanced, with a vision and love for reality[13].

The person (as the society) that seeks harmony, knows both the particular and the universal and tries to fuse one with the other. He/she raises what is particular and provides embodiment and specificity to what is universal. While this harmony is an ideal, unachievable in all its perfection, it is successful at its implementation: it makes people and societies balanced, open, grateful, creative, flourishing. It exceeds the clumsiness of narrowness, and the smallness of spirit, of isolation, of lack of care or understanding, of rudeness. Music has an extraordinary capacity to develop personal and social sensitivity. It becomes increasingly necessary for the development of the ability to perceive and understand mood, how to be and act as individuals, as well as the nature of the circumstances and environments, to act rightly for the benefit of others. Beauty leads to truth and sensitivity makes us awake to that reality, discovering everything affecting to a greater or lesser degree the personal, family, and social development. Music teaches us, finally, how to listen to them: the science of understanding and the science of openness to others. That is why it gives us joy and peace.

Anyone who knows the inner world of music "lives its moments" with special intensity, better than a profane[HR1] . And it is just that man’s or woman’s life is resolved in his/her interior, in the game of his/her freedom, because from what a person has inside he/she may end up nowhere, in emptiness, or transcending ad infinitum[14].

Alejandra Vanney, PhD

Cambridge University


  • Alvira, R. El lugar al que se vuelve: Reflexiones sobre la familia, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1999.
  • Alvira, R. “La pasión de jugar” en: Lecturas escogidas. En busca del rumbo perdido, Santiago, Chile. Ed. Universidad Católica de Chile, 1998. 191-203.
  • Alvira, R. "Sobre el Humanismo", en: Revista Empresa y Humanismo, Pamplona, 1999, Vol 1, N° 1, pp. 133-135.
  • Boulez, P. Musikdenken heute, Mainz, 1963.
  • Burgos, J.M., Antropología: Una guía para la existencia, ed. Palabra, 2003.
  • Choza, J. “La amenaza del aburrimiento” en: Nuestro Tiempo, N° 220, octubre 1972, pp. 31-45.
  • Gray, A. Breve guía de la música clásica, ed. Vergara, Buenos Aires.
  • Grimaldi, N. Cahiers de la société ligérienne de Philosophie, Tours, 1978, pp. 42-43.
  • Grimaldi, N. “¿Cómo hacer un hombre?”, en: Actas del I Encuentro Juvenil de Filosofía, Lleida, 2 de febrero de 2002.
  • Martí-Gracía, M. La intimidad, EIUNSA, Madrid, 1998.
  • Martí-Gracía, M. La elegancia, EIUNSA, Madrid, 2002.
  • Millán-Puelles, A. La formación de la personalidad humana, ed. Rialp, Madrid, 1989.
  • Polo, L. Presente y futuro del hombre, Rialp, Madrid, 1993.
  • Rojas, E. La conquista de la voluntad, ed. Planeta, Buenos Aires, 2000.
  • Sellés, J.F. La persona humana, Tomo III, ed. Universidad de La Sabana, Santa Fe de Bogotá.
  • Plá, S. "La antropología trascendental de Leonardo Polo", en: Studia Poliana, Pamplona, 1999, N°1, pp. 101-115

[1] Boulez, P: (1963), Musikdenken heute, Schott, Mainz.

[2] Gray, A.: (1995), Breve guía de la música clásica, Vergara, Buenos Aires.

[3] Burgos, J.M.: (2003), Antropología: Una guía para la existencia, Palabra, Madrid, pp. 299-320.

[4] Sobre el hombre y su temporalidad existencial: cfr. Polo, L.: (1993), Presente y futuro del hombre, Rialp, Madrid.

[5] Alvira, R.: (1999), El lugar al que se vuelve: Reflexiones sobre la familia, EUNSA, Pamplona.

[6] Choza, J.: (1972), “La amenaza del aburrimiento”, Nuestro Tiempo, vol. 220, pp. 31-45.

[7] Alvira, R.: (1997), “¿Qué es el aburrimiento?”, Humanitas, vol. 5, Santiago de Chile.

[8] Martí-Gracía, M: (1998), La intimidad, EIUNSA, Madrid, pp. 109-111.

[9] Alvira, R.: (1997), “¿Qué es el aburrimiento?”, Humanitas, vol. 5, Santiago de Chile.

[10] Millán-Puelles, A: La formación de la personalidad humana, Rialp, Madrid, 1989, pp. 175-185.

[11] Grimaldi, N: “¿Cómo hacer un hombre?”, en: Actas del I Encuentro Juvenil de Filosofía, Lleida, 2 de febrero de 2002 (no publicadas).

[12]Alvira, R: (1999), “Sobre el Humanismo”, Revista Empresa y Humanismo, vol. 1, Pamplona, pp. 133-135.

[13] Herrero, M.: (1999), “Voluntad, razón, corazón”, en: La libertad sentimental, Cuadernos de Anuario Filosófico, , ed. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Navarra, vol. 73, Pamplona, pp. 75-99.

[14] Plá, S.: “La antropología trascendental de Leonardo Polo”, Studia Poliana, , vol. 1, Pamplona pp. 101-115.

[HR1]It appears as if there is a word missing here.