I have long been familiar with a story about Socrates—that, while awaiting execution, he chose to use his time by learning to play a tune on the flute. An example of this in an article about a university lecture:
Antoni said he chose “Socrates’ flute” as the title of his lecture because the philosopher was a good example of having a passion for life. Antoni told the story of Socrates’ choice to spend his final moments before his execution learning a new song on the flute.
“It’s really the most wonderful example of someone who is staying curious until the very end to learn something new,” Antoni said. “Staying curious is really the key to a wonderful life.”
Yet this account does not appear in the Phaedo, where one would expect, and in fact the only source I can find is the modern Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, in his book Drawn and Quartered (p. 82), quoted in several places online:
While they were preparing the hemlock, Socrates was learning how to play a new tune on the flute. “What will be the use of that?” he was asked. “To know this tune before dying.”
I thought that maybe Cioran just imagined it to make a point, but then I found the next sentence, in which he writes,
If I dare repeat this reply long since trivialized by the handbooks, it is because it seems to me the sole serious justification of any desire to know, whether exercised on the brink of death or at any other moment of existence.”
So apparently it’s in “the handbooks”—but I just can’t find any earlier sources. Can anyone help?