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.
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.