Above: Terracotta amphora (jar) with a young man singing and playing the kithara.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Drawing on a vast array of sources both in literature and in art, Anderson here illuminates the place of musicians and music-making in Greek life from the Archaic to the Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman periods. In his treatment of the musicians, Anderson addresses such topics as their costumes and sacral robes, their affinities with shamans and gods, the nature of their identification with the individual (the "outsider") or with the group, and their status as slaves or as freeborn citizens. As part of the larger picture, he discusses their instruments, principally the lyre or kithara and the double reed pipes, and he introduces the musical practices of other cultures as suggestive parallels. Appendices include technical descriptions of the instruments, details of scale-building and notation, and fragmentary remains of actual texts with notation, among them settings of passages from Euripides' tragedies.

The ancient science of harmonics investigates the arrangements of pitched sounds which form the basis of musical melody, and the principles which govern them. It was the most important branch of Greek musical theory, studied by philosophers, mathematicians and astronomers as well as by musical specialists. This book examines its development during the period when its central ideas and rival schools of thought were established, laying the foundations for the speculations of later antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It concentrates particularly on the theorists' methods and purposes and the controversies that their various approaches to the subject provoked. It also seeks to locate the discipline within the broader cultural environment of the period; and it investigates the mutual influences between music theory, philosophy, and intellectual culture.

Greek Musical Writings

ed. & trans. Andrew Barker, 2 vols. 1989

Music was of fundamental importance in the culture of ancient Greece. Its nature and significance cannot now, perhaps, be fully recaptured, but we have a rich fund of information about the Greek experience of music, its forms, its meanings, its social roles, and the practical details of its composition and performance. This pair of volumes offers a selection of Greek writings on music, newly translated into English and equipped with an extensive commentary.

The first volume contains passages from Greek poets, historians and essayists, evoking or describing aspects of the practical activities of musical performance and composition, together with excerpts from philosophers and social critics who comment on the moral, education and aesthetic dimensions of the art. The second volume contains important texts on harmonic and acoustic theory, illustrating the progress of these sciences from their beginnings in the sixth century BC over the subsequent thousand years.

Writers represented include Philolaus, Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Aristoxenus, Ptolemy, Aristides, Archytas, and Quintilianus. All the Greek texts are newly translated by the editor. Some replace inadequate existing translations; other significant portions of the book include much that is essential for an understanding of medieval and Renaissance musicology. Dr Barker provides detailed and authoritative commentary and annotations to all the texts. Each section is prefaced by an introductory essay and some of the more complex issues are discussed further in appendices.

Sound leaves no ruins and no residues, even though it is experienced constantly. It is ubiquitous but fleeting. Even silence has sound, even absence resonates. This book aims to hear the lost sounds of antiquity, from the sounds of the human body to those of the gods, from the bathhouse to the Forum, from the chirp of a cicada to the music of the spheres. Sound plays so great a role in shaping our environments as to make it a crucial sounding board for thinking about space and ecology, emotions and experience, mortality and the divine, orality and textuality, and the self and its connection to others. From antiquity to the present day, poets and philosophers have strained to hear the ways that sounds structure our world and identities. This volume looks at theories and practices of hearing and producing sounds in ritual contexts, medicine, mourning, music, poetry, drama, erotics, philosophy, rhetoric, linguistics, vocality, and on the page, and shows how ancient ideas of sound still shape how and what we hear today. As the first comprehensive introduction to the soundscapes of antiquity, this volume makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning fields of sound and voice studies and is the final volume of the series, The Senses in Antiquity.

Listening is a social process. Even apparently trivial acts of listening are expert performances of acquired cognitive and bodily habits. Contemporary scholars acknowledge this fact with the notion that there are “auditory cultures.” In the fourth century BCE, Greek philosophers recognized a similar phenomenon in music, which they treated as a privileged site for the cultural manufacture of sensory capabilities, and proof that in a traditional culture perception could be ordered, regular, and reliable. This approachable and elegantly written book tells the story of how music became a vital topic for understanding the senses and their role in the creation of knowledge. Focussing in particular on discussions of music and sensation in Plato and Aristoxenus, Sean Gurd explores a crucial early chapter in the history of hearing and gently raises critical questions about how aesthetic traditionalism and sensory certainty can be joined together in a mutually reinforcing symbiosis.

This book endeavours to pinpoint the relations between musical, and especially instrumental, practice and the evolving conceptions of pitch systems. It traces the development of ancient melodic notation from reconstructed origins, through various adaptations necessitated by changing musical styles and newly invented instruments, to its final canonical form. It thus emerges how closely ancient harmonic theory depended on the culturally dominant instruments, the lyre and the aulos. These threads are followed down to late antiquity, when details recorded by Ptolemy permit an exceptionally clear view. Dr Hagel discusses the textual and pictorial evidence, introducing mathematical approaches wherever feasible, but also contributes to the interpretation of instruments in the archaeological record and occasionally is able to outline the general features of instruments not directly attested.

Music in Ancient Greece: Melody, Rhythm and Life

Spencer Klavan, 2021

Life in ancient Greece was musical life. Soloists competed onstage for popular accolades, becoming centerpieces for cultural conversation and even leading Plato to recommend that certain forms of music be banned from his ideal society. And the music didn't stop when the audience left the theatre: melody and rhythm were woven into the whole fabric of daily existence for the Greeks. Vocal and instrumental songs were part of religious rituals, dramatic performances, dinner parties, and even military campaigns. Like Detroit in the 1960s or Vienna in the 18th century, Athens in the 400s BC was the hotspot where celebrated artists collaborated and diverse strands of musical tradition converged. The conversations and innovations that unfolded there would lay the groundwork for musical theory and practice in Greece and Rome for centuries to come. In this perfectly pitched introduction, Spencer Klavan explores Greek music's origins, forms, and place in society. In recent years, state-of-the-art research and digital technology have enabled us to decipher and understand Greek music with unprecedented precision. Yet many readers today cannot access the resources that would enable them to grapple with this richly rewarding subject. Arcane technical details and obscure jargon veil the subject - it is rarely known, for instance, that authentic melodies still survive from antiquity, helping us to imagine the vivid soundscapes of the Classical and Hellenistic eras. This book distills the latest discoveries into vivid prose so readers can come to grips with the basics as never before. With the tools in this book, beginners and specialists alike will learn to hear the ancient world afresh and come away with a new, musical perspective on their favorite classical texts.

Music in Ancient Greece and Rome

John G. Landels, 2002

This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the history of music from Homeric times to the Roman emperor Hadrian, presented in a concise and user-friendly way. Chapters include: contexts in which music played a role; a detailed discussion of instruments; an analysis of scales, intervals and tuning; the principal types of rhythm used; and an exploration of Greek theories of harmony and acoustics. The work also contains numerous musical examples, with illustrations of ancient instruments and the methods of playing them.

No ancient culture has left us more tantalizing glimpses of its music than that of the Greeks, whose art and literature continually speak to us of the role of music, its power, and its significance to their society. In this book two scholars—one of music and one of classics—join together to explore the musical life of ancient Greece, focusing on the Greek stringed instruments and, in particular, on the all-important lyre family. Unlike other recent studies, this book is distinguished by the equal emphasis it gives to pictorial sources of information (vase paintings, sculptures, and archaeological remains) and to literary descriptions of the instruments in Greek poetry and drama. According to Maas and Snyder, although the two types of sources cannot always be perfectly matched, an analysis of each in the light of the other yields a surprisingly consistent picture of the various instruments and their functions: the phorminx, the lyre of the Homeric bards; the small tortoise-shell lyra, instrument of schoolboys and amateur players; the barbitos, a long-armed lyre associated with some of the early lyric poets (including Sappho and Alcaeus) and with participants in drinking parties; the large, highly ornamented kithara, the instrument of male professional musicians; and various kinds of other lyres as well as harps and lutes. In each chapter the authors depict the instruments, describe the musicians who played them and the occasions on which they were played, and provide an etymology of names and terms. The book is the richest source of available information about the music of the ancient Greeks of the Classical and earlier periods.

Ancient Greek music and music theory has fascinated scholars for centuries not only because of its intrinsic interest as a part of ancient Greek culture but also because the Greeks' grand concept of music has continued to stimulate musical imaginations to the present day. Unlike earlier treatments of the subject, this work is aimed principally at the reader interested in the musical typologies, the musical instruments, and especially the historical development of music theory and its transmission through the Middle Ages. The basic method and scope of the study are set out in a preliminary chapter, followed by two chapters concentrating on the role of music in Greek society, musical typology, organology, and performance practice. The next chapters are devoted to the music theory itself, as it developed in three stages: in the treatises of Aristoxenus and the Sectio canonis; during the period of revival in the second century CE; and in late antiquity. Each theorist and treatise is considered separately but always within the context of the emerging traditions. The theory provides a remarkably complete and coherent system for explaining and analyzing musical phenomena, and a great deal of its conceptual framework, as well as much of its terminology, was borrowed and adapted by medieval Latin, Byzantine, and Arabic music theorists, a legacy reviewed in the final chapter. Transcriptions and analyses of some of the more complete pieces of Greek music preserved on papyrus or stone, or in manuscript, are integrated with a consideration of the musicopoetic types themselves. The book concludes with a comprehensive bibliography for the field.

What difference does music make to performance poetry, and how did the ancients themselves understand this relationship? Although scholars have long recognized the importance of music to ancient performance culture, little has been written on the specific effects that musical accompaniment, and features such as rhythmical structure and melody, would have created in individual poems. This volume attempts to answer these questions by exploring more fully the relationship between music and language in the poetry of ancient Greece. Arranged into two parts, the essays in the first half engage closely with the evidential and interpretative challenges posed by the interaction of ancient music and poetry, and propose original readings of a range of texts by authors such as Homer, Pindar, and Euripides, as well as later poets such as Seikilos and Mesomedes. While they emphasize different formal features, they also argue collectively for a two-way relationship between music and language: attention to the musical features of poetic texts, insofar as we can reconstruct them, enables us to better understand not only their effects on audiences, but also the various ways in which they project and structure meaning. In the second part, the focus shifts to ancient attempts to conceptualize interactions between words and music; the essays in this section analyse the contested place that music occupied in the works of Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, and other critical writers of the Hellenistic and Imperial periods. Thinking about music is shown to influence other domains of intellectual life, such as literary criticism, and to be vitally informed by ethical concerns. These essays illustrate the importance of music for intellectual culture in ancient Greece and the ancients' abiding concern to understand and control its effects on human behaviour.

Documents of Ancient Greek Music

ed. Egert Pöhlmann & Martin L. West, 2001

This uniquely complete and up-to-date collection of the surviving remains of ancient Greek music will serve as the standard work of reference for decades to come. Since its appearance in 1970, Egert Pöhlmann's Denkmäler altgriechischer Musik has been the standard collection of the surviving fragments of ancient Greek music. But the publication of many further texts in recent years has put it in urgent need of updating. In this new English edition, prepared in collaboration with Martin West, the number of items has risen to 61, of which 23 are additions to the content of the 1970 book. All the texts, new and old, have been carefully revised against the original documents or photographs, and many improved readings have been obtained as a result.

Kitharôidia was arguably the most popular, most geographically widespread, and longest-running performance genre in antiquity. From the archaic period to the late Roman imperial era, citharodes enjoyed star status, playing their songs to vast crowds at festival competitions and concerts throughout the Mediterranean world. This book is the first study dedicated exclusively to the art, practice, and charismatic persona of the citharode. Traversing a wide range of discourse and imagery about kitharoidia -- poetic and prose texts, iconography, inscriptions -- the book offers a nuanced account of the aesthetic and sociocultural complexities of citharodic song and examines the iconic role of the songmakers in the popular imagination, from mythical citharodes such as Orpheus to the controversial innovator Timotheus, to that most notorious of musical dilettantes, Nero.

Drawing on the latest research on the topic, this book provides a detailed overview of the most important issues raised by the study of ancient Greek and Roman music. An international panel of contributors, including leading experts as well as emerging voices in the field, examine the ancient 'Art of the Muses' from a wide range of methodological, theoretical, and practical perspectives. Written in an engaging and accessible style, this book explores the pervasive presence of the performing arts in ancient Greek and Roman culture -- ranging from musical mythology to music theory and education, as well as archaeology and the practicalities of performances in private and public contexts. But this Companion also explores the broader roles played by music in the Graeco-Roman world, examining philosophical, psychological, medical and political uses of music in antiquity, and aspects of its cultural heritage in Mediaeval and Modern times. This book debunks common myths about Greek and Roman music, casting light on yet unanswered questions thanks to newly discovered evidence. Written for a broad range of readers including classicists, musicologists, art historians, and philosophers, this work provides a rich, informative and thought-provoking picture of ancient music in Classical Antiquity and beyond.

This work offers a new approach to the study of classical Greek theater by examining the use of musical language, imagery, and performance in the late work of Euripides. Naomi Weiss demonstrates that Euripides’ allusions to music-making are not just metatheatrical flourishes or gestures towards musical and religious practices external to the drama but closely interwoven with the dramatic plot. Situating Euripides’ experimentation with the dramaturgical effects of mousike within a broader cultural context, she shows how much of his novelty lies in his reinvention of traditional lyric styles and motifs for the tragic stage. If we wish to understand better the trajectories of this most important ancient art form, Weiss argues, we must pay closer attention to the role played by both music and text.

Ancient Greece was permeated by music, and the literature teems with musical allusions. Here at last is a clear, comprehensive, and authoritative account that presupposes no special knowledge of music. Topics covered include the place of music in Greek life, instruments, rhythm, tempo, modes and scales, melodic construction, form, ancient theory and notation, and historical development. Thirty surviving examples of Greek music are presented in modern transcription with analysis, and the book is fully illustrated. Besides being considered on its own terms, Greek music is here further illuminated by being considered in ethnological perspective, and a brief Epilogue sets it in its place in a border zone between Afro-Asiatic and European culture. The book will be of value both to classicists and historians of music.