Music of ancient Greece

The music of ancient Greece was almost universally present in ancient Greek society, from marriages, funerals, and religious ceremonies to theatre, folk music, and the ballad-like reciting of epic poetry. It thus played an integral role in the lives of ancient Greeks. There are significant fragments of actual Greek musical notation[1][2] as well as many literary references to ancient Greek music, such that some things can be known—or reasonably surmised—about what the music sounded like, the general role of music in society, the economics of music, the importance of a professional caste of musicians, etc. Even archaeological remains reveal an abundance of depictions on ceramics, for example, of music being performed.

The word music comes from the Muses, the daughters of Zeus and patron goddesses of creative and intellectual endeavours.

Concerning the origin of music and musical instruments: the history of music in ancient Greece is so closely interwoven with Greek mythology and legend that it is often difficult to surmise what is historically true and what is myth. The music and music theory of ancient Greece laid the foundation for western music and western music theory, as it would go on to influence the ancient Romans, the early christian church and the medieval composers.[3] Specifically the teachings of the Pythagoreans, Ptolemy, Philodemus, Aristoxenus, Aristides, and Plato compile most of our understanding of ancient Greek music theory, musical systems, and musical ethos.

The study of music in ancient Greece was included in the curriculum of great philosophers, Pythagoras in particular believed that music was delegated to the same mathematical laws of harmony as the mechanics of the cosmos, evolving into an idea known as the music of the spheres.[4] The Pythagoreans focused on the mathematics and the acoustical science of sound and music. They developed tuning systems and harmonic principles that focused on simple integers and ratios, laying a foundation for acoustic science; however, this was not the only school of thought in ancient Greece.[5] Aristoxenus, who wrote a number of musicological treatises, for example, studied music with a more empirical tendency. Aristoxenus believed that intervals should be judged by ear instead of mathematical ratios[6], though Aristoxenus was influenced by Pythagoras and used mathematic terminology and measurements in his research.

Music of Greece
General topics
Specific forms
Media and performance
Music awards
Music charts
Music festivals
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem"Hymn to Liberty"
Regional music
Related areasCyprus, Pontus, Constantinople, South Italy
Regional styles
Apollo black bird AM Delphi 8140
The Cylix of Apollo with the tortoise-shell (chelys) lyre, on a 5th-century BC drinking cup (kylix)

Music in society and religion

Music played an integral role in ancient Greek society. Pericles' teacher Damon said, according to Plato in the Republic, "when fundamental modes of music change, the fundamental modes of the state change with them." Music and gymnastics comprised the main divisions in one's schooling. "The word 'music' expressed the entire education".[7]

Instrumental music served a religious and entertaining role in ancient Greece as it would often accompany religious events, rituals, and festivals. Music was also used for entertainment when it accompanied drinking-parties or symposia. A popular type of piece to be played while drinking at these drinking parties was the skolion, a piece composed to be heard while drinking.[8] Before and after the Greek drinking parties, religious libations, or the religious the act of partaking and pouring out drink, would be made to deities, usually the Olympic gods, the heroes, and Zeus. The offering of libations were often accompanied by a special libation melody called the spondeion, which was often accompanied by an aulos player.[9]

Music occupied an important role in the Greek sacrificial ceremonies. The sarcophagus of Hagia Triada shows that the aulos was present during sacrifices as early as 1300 BC.[10] Music was also present during times of initiation, worship, and religious celebration, playing very integral parts of the sacrificial cults of Apollo and Dionysus.[11]

Music (along with intoxication of potions, fasting, and honey) was also integral in preparation and catalyzing divination, as music would often induce prophets into religious ecstasy and revelation, so much so that the expression for "making music" and "prophesying" were identical in ancient Greek.[12]

Instruments were also present in war time, though it may not have been considered music entirely. Specific notes of the trumpet were played to dictate commands to soldiers on the battlefield. The aulos and percussion instruments also accompanied the verbal commands given to oarsmen by the boatswain. The instruments were used mainly to help keep the oarsmen in time with one another.[13]

Popular types of song

Paean: most commonly sung in honor or worship of Apollo as well as Athena, they usually solemnly expressed the hope for deliverance from a peril, or were sung in thanksgiving after a victory or escape.[14]

Prosodion: a type of hymn or processional that invoked or praised a god. Prosodions were usually sung on the road to an altar or shrine, and usually preceded or were followed by a paean.[15]

Dithyrambs: usually merrily sung in celebration at festivals, performed especially in dedication to Dionysus the god of wine. Dithyrambs featured choirs (choros) of men and boys who were accompanied by an aulos player.[16]

Poetry and drama

Whether or not long narrative poetry, or epic poetry like those of Homer, were sung is not entirely known. As in Plato's dialogue Ion, Socrates uses both the words "sing" and "speak" in connection with the Homeric epics,[17] however there are heavy implications that they maybe have been at least recited unaccompanied by instruments, in a sing-song chant.[18]

Music was also present in ancient Greek lyric poetry, which by definition is poetry or a song accompanied by a lyre. Lyric poetry eventually branched into two paths, monodic lyric which were performed by a singular person, and choral lyric which were sung and sometimes danced by a group of people choros. Famous lyric poets include Alkaios and Sappho from the Island of Lesbos, Sappho being one of the few woman who's poetry has been preserved.[19]

Music was also heavily prevalent in ancient Greek Drama. In his Poetics, Aristotle links the origins of tragic drama to dithyrambs.[20] The leaders of dithyrambs were the ones who led the song and dance moves, which would then be responded to by the group. Aristotle implies that this relationship between a single person and a group began the tragic drama, which in its earliest stages had a single actor who played all the parts through either song or speech. The single actor engaged in dialogue with the choros. The choros narrated most of the story through song and dance. In ancient Greece, the playwright was expected to not only write the script but also expected to compose the music and dance moves.[21]


Pan instructing Daphnis on the flute

The ancient Greek myths were never codified or documented into one form; what exists are several different versions from several different authors, across multiple centuries, which can lead to variations and even contradictions among authors and even the same author. According to Greek mythology: music, instruments, and the aural arts are attributed to divine origin, and the art of music was gift of the gods to men.[22]

Although Apollo was prominently considered the god of music and harmony, several legendary gods and demigods were purported to have created some aspect of music as well as contributed to its development. Some gods, and especially the Muses, represented specific aspects or elements of music. The 'inventions' or 'findings' of all ancient Greek instruments were accredited to the gods as well. The performance of music was integrated into many different modes of Greek story-telling and art related to mythology, including drama, and poetry, and there are a large number of ancient Greek myths related to music and musicians. [23]

In Greek mythology: Amphion learned music from Hermes and then with a golden lyre built Thebes by moving the stones into place with the sound of his playing; Orpheus, the master-musician and lyre-player, played so magically that he could soothe wild beasts; the Orphic creation myths have Rhea "playing on a brazen drum, and compelling man's attention to the oracles of the goddess";[24] or Hermes [showing to Apollo] "...his newly-invented tortoise-shell lyre and [playing] such a ravishing tune on it with the plectrum he had also invented, at the same time singing to praise Apollo's nobility[25] that he was forgiven at once..."; or Apollo's musical victories over Marsyas and Pan.[26]

the Pan pipes, or syrinx.

There are many such references that indicate that music was an integral part of the Greek perception of how their race had even come into existence and how their destinies continued to be watched over and controlled by the Gods. It is no wonder, then, that music was omnipresent at the Pythian Games, the Olympic Games, religious ceremonies, leisure activities, and even the beginnings of drama as an outgrowth of the dithyrambs performed in honor of Dionysus.[27]

It may be that the actual sounds of the music heard at rituals, games, dramas, etc. underwent a change after the traumatic fall of Athens in 404 B.C. at the end of the first Peloponnesian War. Indeed, one reads of the "revolution" in Greek culture, and Plato's lament that the new music "...used high musical talent, showmanship and virtuosity...consciously rejecting educated standards of judgement." [28] Although instrumental virtuosity was prized, this complaint included excessive attention to instrumental music such as to interfere with accompanying the human voice, and the falling away from the traditional ethos in music.

Etiological myths

Lyre: According to the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, Hermes, after stealing his brother Apollo's sacred cattle, was inspired to build an instrument out of a tortoise shell, he attached horns, and gut-string, to the shell and invented the first lyre. Afterward Hermes gave his lyre to Apollo, who took interest in the instrument, in payment for the stolen cattle. In other accounts, Hermes gave his newly invented lyre to Amphion, a son of Zeus and a skilled musician.[29]

Syrinx/ Pan-pipe: According to Ovid's Metamorpheses, Syrinx was a Naiad, a water nymph, who ran away from Pan after he tried to woo her. While she fled, she came upon an uncrossable river and prayed to her sisters to transform her so that she may escape Pan. Her Nymph sisters transformed Syrinx into a bundle of reeds which Pan found and fashioned an instrument out of, the pan pipe or syrinx.[30]

Aulos: According to Pindar's Twelfth Pythian Ode, after Perseus beheaded Medusa, Athena 'found' or 'invented' the aulos in order to reproduce the lamentation of Medusa's sisters. Since the same Greek word is used for 'find' and 'invent', it is unclear; however, the writer Telestes in the 5th century states that Athena found the instrument in a thicket. In Plutarch's essay On the Restraint of Anger, he writes that Athena, after seeing her reflection while playing the aulos, threw the instrument away because it distorted her facial features when played. After which Marsyas a satyr, picked up her aulos and took it up as his own.[31]

Myths of skill

Orpheus is a significant figure in the ancient Greek mythology of music. Orpheus was a legendary poet and musician, his lineage is unclear as some sources note him as the son of Apollo, the son of the Muse Calliope, or the son of mortal parents. Orpheus was the pupil and brother of Linus. Linus by some accounts is the son of Apollo and the Muse Urania; Linus was the first to be gifted the ability to sing by the Muses, which he passed to Orpheus. Other accounts state that Apollo gave Orpheus a golden lyre and taught him to play, while the muses taught Orpheus to sing. Orpheus was said to be such a skilled musician that he could charm inanimate objects.[32] According to the Argonautica, Orpheus in his adventures with Jason and the Argonauts, was able to play music more beautiful and louder than the bewitching sirens, allowing the Argonauts to travel safely without being charmed by the sirens.[33]When Orpheus' wife, Eurydice, died, he played a song so mournful that it caused the gods and all the nymphs to weep. Orpheus was then able to travel to the underworld, and with music, softened the heart of Hades enough that he was allowed to return with his wife; however, under the condition that he must not set eyes upon his wife until they finished their travel out of the underworld. Orpheus was unable to fulfill this condition and tragically, his wife vanished forever.[34][35]

According to Apollodorus in Bibliotheca, Marsyas the Phrygian satyr once boasted of his skills in the aulos, a musical contest between Marsyas and Apollo was then conducted, where the victor could do "whatever they wanted" to the loser.[36] Marsyas played his aulos so wildly that everyone burst into dance, while Apollo played his lyre so beautifully that everyone cried. The first round was judged, by the muses, to be a draw. According to one account, Apollo then played his lyre upside down, which Marsyas could not do with the aulos. In another account Apollo sang beautifully, which Marsyas could not do. In another account, Marsyas played out of tune and accepted defeat. In all accounts, Apollo then flayed Marsyas alive for losing. Pindar recounts a similar myth but instead of Marsyas, it was Pan who contests Apollo and the judge was Midas. This myth can be considered a testament of Apollo's skill but also a myth of caution towards pride.[37]

Greek musical instruments

The following were among the instruments used in the music of ancient Greece:


Boscoreale fresco woman kithara
A later vivid Roman representation of a woman playing the kithara
  • the lyre: a strummed and occasionally plucked string instrument, essentially a hand-held zither built on a tortoise-shell (chelys) frame, generally with seven or more strings tuned to the notes of one of the modes. The lyre was used to accompany others or even oneself for recitation and song. It was associated with an aristocratic upbringing and the cult of Apollo.
  • the kithara, also a strummed string instrument, more complicated than the lyre.[38] It had a box-type frame with strings stretched from the cross-bar at the top to the sounding box at the bottom; it was held upright and played with a plectrum. The strings were tunable by adjusting wooden wedges along the cross-bar. It is one possible origin of the contemporary guitar.
  • the barbitos, a taller lyre considered to be the least complicated, often associated with satyrs.
  • the kanonaki, which is a trapezoidal psaltery, invented by the Pythagoreans in the 6th century BC, however, may have had Mycenaean origins. It is based off the Pythagorean Theorem. It was held on the thighs of the player, and plucked with both hands with bone pickings.


Hydraulis 001
The hydraulis. Note the presence of the curved trumpet, called the bukanē by the Greeks and, later, cornu by the Romans.
  • the aulos, usually double, consisting of two double-reed (like an oboe) pipes, not joined but generally played with a mouth-band to hold both pipes steadily between the player's lips. Modern reconstructions indicate that they produced a low, clarinet-like sound. There is some confusion about the exact nature of the instrument; alternate descriptions indicate single-reeds instead of double reeds. It was associated with the cult of Dionysus.
  • the Pan pipes, also known as panflute and syrinx (Greek συριγξ), (so-called for the nymph who was changed into a reed in order to hide from Pan) is an ancient musical instrument based on the principle of the stopped pipe, consisting of a series of such pipes of gradually increasing length, tuned (by cutting) to a desired scale. Sound is produced by blowing across the top of the open pipe (like blowing across a bottle top).
  • the hydraulis, a keyboard instrument, the forerunner of the modern organ. As the name indicates, the instrument used water to supply a constant flow of pressure to the pipes. Two detailed descriptions have survived: that of Vitruvius [39] and Heron of Alexandria.[40] These descriptions deal primarily with the keyboard mechanism and with the device by which the instrument was supplied with air. A well-preserved model in pottery was found at Carthage in 1885. Essentially, the air to the pipes that produce the sound comes from a wind-chest connected by a pipe to a dome; air is pumped in to compress water, and the water rises in the dome, compressing the air, and causing a steady supply of air to the pipes.[41]
  • the salpinx was a brass trumpet used for military calls, and even contested in the Olympics. A number of sources mention this metal instrument with a bone mouthpiece.
Woman mirror tambourine MBA Lyon L631
Woman holding a tympanum with her right hand. red-figure oinochoe, c. 320 BC, from Magna Graecia. The coloured decorative woven stripes hanging on the tambourine can still be seen today on "tamburello" of Southern Italy

The lyre, kithara, aulos, hydraulis, and salpinx all found their way into the music of ancient Rome.


  • The tympanum or tympanon, a type of frame drum or tambourine. It was circular, shallow, and beaten with the palm of the hand or a stick.
  • Crotala, a kind of clapper or castanet used in religious dances by groups.
  • Koudounia, bell-like instruments made of copper.

Music and philosophy


The enigmatic ancient Greek figure of Pythagoras with mathematical devotion laid the foundations of our knowledge of the study of harmonics—how strings and columns of air vibrate, how they produce overtones, how the overtones are related arithmetically to one another, etc.[42] It was common to hear of the "music of the spheres" from the Pythagoreans.


At a certain point, Plato complained about the new music:

Our music was once divided into its proper forms...It was not permitted to exchange the melodic styles of these established forms and others. Knowledge and informed judgment penalized disobedience. There were no whistles, unmusical mob-noises, or clapping for applause. The rule was to listen silently and learn; boys, teachers, and the crowd were kept in order by threat of the stick. . . . But later, an unmusical anarchy was led by poets who had natural talent, but were ignorant of the laws of music...Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong way in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave. By their works and their theories they infected the masses with the presumption to think themselves adequate judges. So our theatres, once silent, grew vocal, and aristocracy of music gave way to a pernicious theatrocracy...the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of law-breaking.[43]

Photograph of the original stone at Delphi containing the second of the two hymns to Apollo. The music notation is the line of occasional symbols above the main, uninterrupted line of Greek lettering.

From his references to "established forms" and "laws of music" we can assume that at least some of the formality of the Pythagorean system of harmonics and consonance had taken hold of Greek music, at least as it was performed by professional musicians in public, and that Plato was complaining about the falling away from such principles into a "spirit of law-breaking".

Playing what "sounded good" violated the established ethos of modes that the Greeks had developed by the time of Plato: a complex system of relating certain emotional and spiritual characteristics to certain modes (scales). The names for the various modes derived from the names of Greek tribes and peoples, the temperament and emotions of which were said to be characterized by the unique sound of each mode. Thus, Dorian modes were "harsh", Phrygian modes "sensual", and so forth. In his Republic,[44] Plato talks about the proper use of various modes, the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc. It is difficult for the modern listener to relate to that concept of ethos in music except by comparing our own perceptions that a minor scale is used for melancholy and a major scale for virtually everything else, from happy to heroic music. (Today, one might look at the system of scales known as ragas in India for a better comparison, a system that prescribes certain scales for the morning, others for the evening, and so on.)

The sounds of scales vary depending on the placement of tones. Modern Western scales use the placement of whole tones, such as C to D on a modern piano keyboard, and half tones, such as C to C-sharp, but not quarter-tones ("in the cracks" on a modern keyboard) at all. This limit on tone types creates relatively few kinds of scales in modern Western music compared to that of the Greeks, who used the placement of whole-tones, half-tones, and even quarter-tones (or still smaller intervals) to develop a large repertoire of scales, each with a unique ethos. The Greek concepts of scales (including the names) found its way into later Roman music and then the European Middle Ages to the extent that one can find references to, for example, a "Lydian church mode", although name is simply a historical reference with no relationship to the original Greek sound or ethos.

A representation from the 1500s of the Muses dancing

From the descriptions that have come down to us through the writings of those such as Plato, Aristoxenus[45] and, later, Boethius,[46] we can say with some caution that the ancient Greeks, at least before Plato, heard music that was primarily monophonic; that is, music built on single melodies based on a system of modes/scales, themselves built on the concept that notes should be placed between consonant intervals. It is a commonplace of musicology to say that harmony, in the sense of a developed system of composition, in which many tones at once contribute to the listener's expectation of resolution, was invented in the European Middle Ages and that ancient cultures had no developed system of harmony—that is, for example, playing the third and seventh above the dominant, in order to create the expectation for the listener that the tritone will resolve to the third.

Plato's Republic notes that Greek musicians sometimes played more than one note at a time, although this was apparently considered an advanced technique. The Orestes fragment of Euripides seems to clearly call for more than one note to be sounded at once.[47] Research[48] in the field of music from the ancient Mediterranean—decipherings of cuneiform music script—argue for the sounding of different pitches simultaneously and for the theoretical recognition of a "scale" many centuries before the Greeks learned to write, which they would have done before they developed their system for notating music and recorded the written evidence for simultaneous tones. All we can say from the available evidence is that, while Greek musicians clearly employed the technique of sounding more than one note at the same time, the most basic, common texture of Greek music was monophonic.

That much seems evident from another passage from Plato:

...The lyre should be used together with the voices...the player and the pupil producing note for note in unison, Heterophony and embroidery by the lyre—the strings throwing out melodic lines different from the melodia which the poet composed; crowded notes where his are sparse, quick time to his slow...and similarly all sorts of rhythmic complications against the voices—none of this should be imposed upon pupils...[49]

Surviving music

Classical Period

Hellenistic Period

  • Papyrus Ashm. inv. 89B/31, 33
  • Papyrus Ashm. inv. 89B/29-32 (citharodic nomes)
  • Papyrus Hibeh 231
  • Papyrus Zeno 59533
  • Papyrus Vienna G 29825 a/b recto
  • Papyrus Vienna G 29825 a/b verso
  • Papyrus Vienna G 29825 c
  • Papyrus Vienna G 29825 d-f
  • Papyrus Vienna G 13763/1494
  • Papyrus Berlin 6870
  • Epidaurus, SEG 30. 390 (Hymn to Asclepius)

Roman imperial period

See also


Eustache Le Sueur 002
A 17th-century representation of the Greek muses Clio, Thalia and Euterpe playing a transverse flute, presumably the Greek photinx.
  1. ^ Henderson, p. 327.
  2. ^ Ulrich and Pisk, p. 16.
  3. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  4. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  5. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  6. ^ Bélis, Annie (2001). Aristoxenus. Oxford Music Online. 1. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.01248.
  7. ^ Edmond Pottier (1908). Douris and the Painters of Greek Vases. p. 78.
  8. ^ Katz, Israel J. (2001). Sendrey [Szendrei], Alfred. Oxford Music Online. 1. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.25401.
  9. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  10. ^ Johannes Quasten (1983). Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity. NPM Studies in Church Music and Liturgy. Translated by Boniface Ramsay, O.P. Washington, D.C.: National Association of Pastoral Musicians. p. .
  11. ^ Johannes Quasten (1983). Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity. NPM Studies in Church Music and Liturgy. Translated by Boniface Ramsay, O.P. Washington, D.C.: National Association of Pastoral Musicians. p. .
  12. ^ Johannes Quasten (1983). Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity. NPM Studies in Church Music and Liturgy. Translated by Boniface Ramsay, O.P. Washington, D.C.: National Association of Pastoral Musicians. p. .
  13. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  14. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  15. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  16. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  17. ^ Bussanich, John (2018-01-18). "Plato and yoga". Universe and Inner Self in Early Indian and Early Greek Thought. Edinburgh University Press. doi:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474410991.003.0007. ISBN 9781474410991.
  18. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  19. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  20. ^ "Aristotle, Rapin, Brecht", Making Sense of Aristotle : Essays in Poetics, Bloomsbury Academic, 2001, doi:10.5040/9781472597847.0013, ISBN 9781472597847
  21. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  22. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  23. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  24. ^ Graves, p. 30.
  25. ^ Graves, p. 64.
  26. ^ Graves, p. 77.
  27. ^ Ulrich and Pisk, p. 15.
  28. ^ Henderson p. 395.
  29. ^ Richardson, Nicholas (2010-04-22). Three Homeric Hymns. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511840296. ISBN 9780521451581.
  30. ^ Jones, Peter (2007). Glossary of technical literary terms. Reading Ovid. pp. 17–18. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511814198.003. ISBN 9780521849012.
  31. ^ Robertson, Noel; Bowra, C. M. (1970). "The Odes of Pindar. With an Introduction". The Classical World. 63 (9): 303. doi:10.2307/4347215. ISSN 0009-8418. JSTOR 4347215.
  32. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  33. ^ Depew, Mary (2010-05-20). "Book Review: Anatole Mori, The Politics of Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 260 pp". International Journal of the Classical Tradition. 17 (2): 292–295. doi:10.1007/s12138-010-0193-4. ISSN 1073-0508.
  34. ^ Landels, John G (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis. p. . doi:10.4324/9780203270509. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  35. ^ Waterfield, R (1996-01-01). "A. Nehamas, P. Woodruff (tr.): Plato: Phaedrus. Translated, with Introduction and Notes. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., Inc., 1995". The Classical Review. 46 (1): 10–11. doi:10.1093/cr/46.1.10. ISSN 0009-840X.
  36. ^ "Landels, William, (Willie), (born 14 June 1928), painter, typographer", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 2007-12-01, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u23721
  37. ^ Reiner, Paula; Ruck, Carl A. P.; Staples, Danny (1996). "The World of Classical Myth: Gods and Goddesses, Heroines and Heroes". The Classical World. 90 (1): 73. doi:10.2307/4351918. ISSN 0009-8418. JSTOR 4351918.
  38. ^ In the Politics (1341a), Aristotle describes the kithara as an organon technikon, or an artist's instrument, requiring training.
  39. ^ De Architectura x, 8.
  40. ^ Pneumatica, I, 42.
  41. ^ Williams.
  42. ^ Calter.
  43. ^ Plato, Laws 700-701a. cited in Wellesz, p. 395.
  44. ^ Plato, Republic, cited in Strunk, pp. 4-12.
  45. ^ Aristoxenus.
  46. ^ Boethius.
  47. ^ West, pp. 206–207.
  48. ^ Kilmer and Crocker.
  49. ^ Plato, Laws 812d., cited in Henderson, p. 338.


Salpinx player MAR Palermo NI1853
Warrior playing a salpinx, 6th/5th century B.C. Attic lekythos
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  • Aristoxenus (1902). The Harmonics of Aristoxenus, translated by H. S. Macran (Oxford, Calrendon; facs. Hildesheim, G. Olms, 1974).
  • Boethius (1989). Fundamentals of Music (De institutione musica), translated by Calvin Bower. edited by Claude Palisca, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
  • Calter, Paul (1998). "Pythagoras & Music of the Spheres". Course syllabus, Math 5: Geometry in Art and Architecture, unit 3. Dartmouth .edu (accessed 1 October 2014).
  • Graves, Robert (1955). The Greek Myths. Mt. Kisco, New York: Moyer Bell.
  • Henderson, Isobel (1957). "Ancient Greek Music". In The New Oxford History of Music, vol.1: Ancient and Oriental Music, edited by Egon Wellesz, pp. 336–403. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn, and Richard L. Crocker. (1976) Sounds from Silence: Recent Discoveries in Ancient Near Eastern Music. (CD BTNK 101 plus booklet) Berkeley: Bit Enki Records.
  • Landels, John G. (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-27050-9.
  • Olson, Harry Ferdinand. (1967). Music, Physics and Engineering, second edition. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21769-8.
  • Ovid (1989). Ovid's Metamorphoses. Dallas, Texas: Spring Publications.
  • Pindar (1969). The Odes of Pindar, edited and translated by C. M. Bowra. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Plato. Laws, (700-701a).
  • Plato. Republic, (398d-399a).
  • Quasten, Johannes (1983). Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity. Washington, D.C: National Association of Pastoral Musicians.
  • Richardson, N. J. (2010). Three Homeric Hymns: To Apollo, Hermes, and Aphrodite : Hymns 3, 4, and 5. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sendrey, Alfred (1974). Music in the Social and Religious Life of Antiquity. Rutherford N.J: Fairleigh Dickinson University.
  • Strunk, Oliver; Leo Treitler, and Thomas Mathiesen (eds.) (1997). Source Readings in Music History: Greek Views of Music, revised edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Trehub, Sandra (2000). "Human Processing Predispositions and Musical Universals". In The Origins of Music, edited by Nils L. Wallin, Björn Merker, and Steven Brown,. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  • Ulrich, Homer, and Paul Pisk (1963). A History of Music and Musical Style. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanoich.
  • Virgil (1830). The Eclogues Translated by Wrangham, the Georgics by Sotheby, and the Æneid by Dryden, edited by William Sotheby. 2 vols. London. Reprinted, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1834.
  • Virgil (1909). Virgil's Æneid, translated by John Dryden. The Harvard Classics, edited by C. W. Eliot. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.
  • Virgil (1938). The Aeneid of Virgil, translated by John Dryden, selections, edited by Bruce Pattison. The Scholar's Library. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Virgil (1944). Virgil, the Æneid, translated by John Dryden with Mr. Dryden's introduction; illustrated by Carlotta Petrina. New York: Heritage Press. Reissued Norwalk, Connecticut: Heritage Press, 1972.
  • Virgil (1975). The Aeneid of Virgil, in the Verse Translation of John Dryden, illustrated with the woodcuts of John Grüninger. The Oxford Library of the World's Great Books. Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library. Reissued 1982.
  • Virgil (1989). Vergil's Aeneid and Fourth ("Messianic") Eclogue, translated by John Dryden, edited, with introduction and notes, by Howard W. Clarke. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-00651-X.
  • Virgil (1997). Aeneid, translated by John Dryden, with an introduction by James Morwood. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature. Ware: Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1-85326-777-5.
  • Wellesz, Egon (ed.) (1957). Ancient and Oriental Music. New Oxford History of Music 1. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Reprinted 1999. ISBN 0-19-316301-2.
  • West, M. L. Ancient Greek Music (1992). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-814897-6. (Clarendon Paperback reprint 1994. ISBN 0-19-814975-1.)
  • Williams, C. F. (1903). The Story of the Organ. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons.
  • Ruck, Carl A.P. and Danny Staples, The World of Classical Myth (Carolina Academic Press) 1994.

Further reading

Piero di Cosimo 041
Detail from Piero di Cosimo's 16th-century version of Perseus rescuing Andromeda. The instrument in the hands of the musician is an anachronism and appears to be an imaginary combination of a plucked string instrument and bassoon.
  • Anderson, Warren D. (1966). Ethos and Education in Greek Music: The Evidence of Poetry and Philosophy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Anderson, Warren D. (1994). Music and Musicians in Ancient Greece. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-3083-6 (cloth); ISBN 0-8014-3030-5 (pbk).
  • Barker, Andrew (ed.) (1984–89). Greek Musical Writings, 2 vols. Cambridge Readings in the Literature of Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Limited preview of vol. 1 online.
  • Barker, Andrew (2007). The Science of Harmonics in Classical Greece. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521879514.
  • Bundrick, Sheramy (2005). Music and Image in Classical Athens. Cambridge University Press.
  • Comotti, Giovanni (1989). Music in Greek and Roman Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3364-7.
  • Hagel, Stefan (2009). Ancient Greek Music: A New Technical History. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-51764-5.
  • Kramarz, Andreas (2016). The Power and Value of Music. Its Effect and Ethos in Classical Authors and Contemporary Music Theory. New York/Bern: Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 9781433133787.
  • Landels, John G. (1999). Music in Ancient Greece and Rome. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16776-0 (cloth); ISBN 0-415-24843-4 (pbk reprint, 2001). Limited preview online.
  • LeVen, Pauline A. (2014). The Many-Headed Muse. Tradition and Innovation in Late Classical Greek Lyric Poetry. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107018532.
  • Lord, Albert B. (1960). The Singer of Tales. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Maas, Martha, and Jane McIntosh Snyder (1989) Stringed Instruments of Ancient Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03686-8. Limited preview online.
  • Mathiesen, Thomas J. (1999). Apollo's Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Limited preview online.
  • Mathiesen, Thomas J. (1974). Bibliography of Sources for the Study of Ancient Greek Music. New Jersey: Joseph Boonin, Inc.
  • Michaelides, S. (1978) The Music of Ancient Greece: An Encyclopaedia. London: Faber & Faber.
  • Monro, David Binning (1894). The Modes of Ancient Greek Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Republished as an unabridged facsimile by Elibron, limited preview online.
  • Murray, Penelope, and Peter Wilson (eds.) (2004). Music and the Muses: The Culture of 'Mousike' in the Classical Athenian City. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924239-9. Limited preview online.
  • Pöhlmann, Egert, and Martin L. West (2001). Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments Edited and Transcribed with Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-815223-X.
  • Power, Timothy (2010). The Culture of Kitharôidia (Hellenic Studies: 15). Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University. ISBN 9780674021389.
  • Sachs, Curt (1943). The Rise of Music in the Ancient World. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Webster, T. B. L. (1970). The Greek Chorus. London: Methuen anc Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-416-16350-5.
  • Winnington-Ingram, R. P. (1968). Mode in Ancient Greek Music. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert.
  • Plato. The Symposium. Trans. Alexander Nehamas and Pay Woodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1989. Print.
  • Apollonius, Rhodius. The Argonautica.Cambridge, Mass. : London :Harvard University Press; W. Heinemann, 1961. Print.

External links

Ancient history

Ancient history as a term refers to the aggregate of past events from the beginning of writing and recorded human history and extending as far as the post-classical history. The phrase may be used either to refer to the period of time or the academic discipline.

The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, beginning with Sumerian Cuneiform script; the oldest discovered form of coherent writing from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC. Ancient History covers all continents inhabited by humans in the 3,000 BC – 500 AD period.

The broad term Ancient History is not to be confused with Classical Antiquity. The term classical antiquity is often used to refer to Western History in the Ancient Mediterranean from the beginning of recorded Greek history in 776 BC (First Olympiad). This roughly coincides with the traditional date of the Founding of Rome in 753 BC, the beginning of the history of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Archaic period in Ancient Greece.

The academic term "history" is not to be confused with colloquial references to times past. History is fundamentally the study of the past through documents, and can be either scientific (archaeology) or humanistic (history through language).

Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, some Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD (the most used), the closure of the Platonic Academy in 529 AD, the death of the emperor Justinian I in 565 AD, the coming of Islam or the rise of Charlemagne as the end of ancient and Classical European history. Outside of Europe the 450-500 time frame for the end of ancient times has had difficulty as a transition date from Ancient to Post-Classical times.

During the time period of 'Ancient History', starting roughly from 3000 BC world population was already exponentially increasing due to the Neolithic Revolution which was in full progress. According to HYDE estimates from the Netherlands world population increased exponentially in this period. In 10,000 BC in Prehistory world population had stood at 2 million, rising to 45 million by 3,000 BC. By the rise of the Iron Age in 1,000 BC that population had risen to 72 million. By the end of the period in 500 AD world population stood possibly at 209 million. In 3,500 years, world population increased by 100 times.

Atrium Musicae de Madrid

Atrium Musicae was an early music ensemble from Madrid, Spain, founded in 1964 by Gregorio Paniagua, a Spanish monk.

Balkan music

Balkan music is a type of music found in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. The music is characterised by complex rhythm. Famous bands in Balkan music were Taraf de Haïdouks, Fanfare Ciocarlia, and No Smoking Orchestra.


The cithara or kithara (Greek: κιθάρα, romanized: kithāra, Latin: cithara) was an ancient Greek musical instrument in the lyre or lyra family. In modern Greek the word kithara has come to mean "guitar", a word which etymologically stems from kithara.The kithara was a professional version of the two-stringed lyre. As opposed to the simpler lyre, which was a folk-instrument, the kithara was primarily used by professional musicians, called kitharodes. The kithara's origins are likely Anatolian. The barbiton was a bass version of the kithara popular in the eastern Aegean and ancient Anatolia.

In the Middle Ages, cythara was also used generically for stringed instruments including lyres, but also including lute-like instruments. The use of the name throughout the Middle Ages looked back to the original Greek kithara, and its abilities to sway people's emotions.

Cristofano Malvezzi

Cristofano Malvezzi (baptised June 28, 1547 – January 22, 1599) was an Italian organist and composer of the late Renaissance. He was one of the most famous composers in the city of Florence during a time of transition to the Baroque style.

Malevezzi was born in Lucca. From 1551 he lived in Florence, serving the Medicis from 1562. He held a number of organist posts in the city, and also taught pupils, among them Jacopo Peri, who is often regarded as the inventor of opera. From 1573 he held the double post of maestro di cappella at the cathedral as well as at S Giovanni Battista, which was the highest position for a musician in the city. Among his works are three books of madrigals, a book of ricercars, but only two sacred compositions—a curious omission for a composer so closely connected with the church.

Because of his activity in Florence, the numerous intermedi that he wrote for the Medici and other members of the aristocracy, his dedication of a book of ricercars to Count Giovanni de' Bardi, and the dedication of a book of madrigals to Emilio de' Cavalieri, it is likely that he was a member of the Florentine Camerata, the group of progressive musicians and poets who, in attempting to recreate the music of ancient Greece, created the first monody and ultimately the first opera. This is reinforced by the fact that he composed much of the music for the La Pellegrina intermedi of 1589, which was carefully designed by the Camerata. Whether or not he was part of the intimate group, his music was among the best known in Florence. One of the grandest compositions of the time, a colossal setting of O fortunato giorno which he composed for a sumptuous intermedio intended for an aristocratic marriage, is for thirty separate vocal parts divided into seven spatially separated choirs. Some of his madrigals are written in the monodic style, which implies further a possible connection with the Camerata.

Malvezzi's brother Alberigo (around 1550–1615) was also an

organist and composer.

Diatonic and chromatic

Diatonic (Greek: διατονική) and chromatic (Greek: χρωματική) are terms in music theory that are most often used to characterize scales, and are also applied to musical instruments, intervals, chords, notes, musical styles, and kinds of harmony. They are very often used as a pair, especially when applied to contrasting features of the common practice music of the period 1600–1900.These terms may mean different things in different contexts. Very often, diatonic refers to musical elements derived from the modes and transpositions of the "white note scale" C–D–E–F–G–A–B. In some usages it includes all forms of heptatonic scale that are in common use in Western music (the major, and all forms of the minor).Chromatic most often refers to structures derived from the twelve-note chromatic scale, which consists of all semitones. Historically, however, it had other senses, referring in Ancient Greek music theory to a particular tuning of the tetrachord, and to a rhythmic notational convention in mensural music of the 14th through 16th centuries.

Early music

Early music generally comprises Medieval music (500–1400) and Renaissance music (1400–1600), but can also include Baroque music (1600–1760). Early music is a broad musical era in the history of Western art music.

Ella Adayevskaya

Ella Georgiyevna Adayevskaya (Russian: Элла (Елизавета) Георгиевна Адаевская; 22 February 1846 [O.S. 10 February] – 26 July 1926) was a Russian composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist.

Adayevskaya wrote vocal music (including choral works), chamber music, and two operas. She also edited a collection of Italian songs and published writings on folk music and the music of ancient Greece.

Jo Kondo

Jō Kondō (近藤譲; surname Kondō; born 28 October 1947 in Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese composer of contemporary classical music.

Kondo studied composition from 1968 to 1972 with Yoshio Hasegawa and Hiroaki Minami at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He won the third prize and made his debut in Japan-Germany Contemporary Music Festival in 1969. He serves as Professor of Music at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo and also teaches at Tokyo University of Arts and Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima.

His interests include hocket, the music of Ancient Greece, and strong differences in instrumental timbre, all of which are reflected in his compositions. The chamber version of his 1975 composition Sight Rhythmics reflects the latter in its unusual instrumentation of violin, banjo, steel drum, electric piano, and tuba, for example. His opera Hagoromo, based on a Noh play and premiered in Florence in 1994, is the unique case in which his music blends western techniques with oriental traditions. In 1978 he spent a year in New York City with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. While there, he became personally acquainted with a number of avant-garde American composers, including John Cage and especially Morton Feldman.Kondo's music has been performed by the London Sinfonietta, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Arditti Quartet, NEXUS, the Balanescu Quartet, Aki Takahashi and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Kondo's works have been recorded on the Hat Art, ALM, Fontec, and Deutsche Grammophon labels. His scores are published by the University of York Music Press and Edition Peters.

His notable students include Linda Catlin Smith and Paul Newland. Kondo was associated with John Cage in the 1970s.

Maurice Emmanuel

Maurice Emmanuel (2 May 1862 – 14 December 1938) was a French composer of classical music born in Bar-sur-Aube, a small town in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northeastern France. It was there where he first heard his grandfather's printing press which according to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, first gave him the feeling of rhythm.Brought up in Dijon, Marie François Maurice Emmanuel became a chorister at Beaune cathedral after his family moved to the city in 1869. According to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, he was influenced by the brass bands on the streets of Beaune and by the "songs of the grape pickers which imprinted melodies in his memory so different from all the classical music he was taught in the academy of music." Subsequently, he went to Paris, and he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where his composition teacher was Léo Delibes. However, Delibes' strong disapproval of his early modal compositions (Cello Sonata, Op. 2, Sonatinas No. 1, Op. 4 and No. 2, Op. 5) caused a rift between them and subsequently caused him to study with Ernest Guiraud also at the Conservatoire. At the Conservatoire he came to know Claude Debussy who was also a pupil there. In addition, he attended the Conservatoire classes of César Franck, about whom he wrote a short book in 1930 (César Franck: Etude Critique).

Emmanuel pursued a notable academic career. He wrote a treatise in 1895 on the music of Ancient Greece, and was appointed professor of the history of music at the Conservatoire in 1909. His students included Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. Emmanuel's interests included folksong, Oriental music, and exotic modes — his use of these modes in various of his works had appalled Delibes, who had vetoed his entering for the Prix de Rome. Other appointments included choirmaster at the church of Sainte-Clotilde from 1904 to 1907, assisted by Émile Poillot, during the tenure of organist Charles Tournemire.

The compositions of Emmanuel, seldom heard today even in France, include operas after Aeschylus (Prométhée enchaîné and Salamine) as well as symphonies and string quartets. Probably the creations of his most often performed now are his six sonatines for solo piano, which (like many of his other pieces) demonstrate his eclectic academic interests. The first of the sonatines draws on the music of Burgundy, while the second incorporates birdsong, the third uses a Burgundian folk tune in its finale, and the fourth is subtitled en divers modes hindous ("in various Hindu modes").

Middle Eastern music

Middle Eastern music spans across a vast region, from Morocco to Iran. The various nations of the region include the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the Iranian traditions of Persia, the Hebrew music of Israel and the diaspora, Armenian music, the varied traditions of Cypriot music, the music of Turkey, traditional Assyrian music, Berbers of North Africa, Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the Andalusian (Muslim Spain) music very much alive in North Africa, all maintain their own traditions. It is widely regarded that some Middle-Eastern musical styles have influenced India, as well as Central Asia, Spain, and the Balkans.

Throughout the region, religion has been a common factor in uniting peoples of different languages, cultures and nations.

The predominance of Islam allowed a great deal of Arabic, and Byzantine influence to spread through the region rapidly from the 7th century onward. The Arabic scale is strongly melodic, based on various maqamat (sing. maqam) or modes (also known as makam in Turkish music). Arabs translated and developed Greek texts and works of music and mastered the musical theory of the music of ancient Greece (i.e. Systema ametabolon, enharmonium, chromatikon, diatonon). This is similar to the dastgah of Persian music. While this originates with classical music, the modal system has filtered down into folk, liturgical and even popular music, with influence from the West. Unlike much western music, Arabic music includes quarter tones halfway between notes, often through the use of stringed instruments (like the oud) or the human voice. Further distinguishing characteristics of Middle Eastern and North African music include very complex rhythmic structures, generally tense vocal tone, and a monophonic texture. Traditional Middle Eastern music does not use chords, or harmony in the Western sense.

Often, more traditional Middle-Eastern music can last from one to three hours in length, building up to anxiously awaited, and much applauded climaxes, or tarab, derived from the Arabic term طرب tarraba.

Music archaeology

Music archaeology is an interdisciplinary study field that combines musicology and archaeology. As it includes music from numerous cultures, it is often seen as being a part of ethnomusicology, and indeed a study group looking into music archaeology first emerged from ethnomusicological group the ICTM, not from within archaeology.

Musical notation

Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instruments or sung by the human voice through the use of written, printed, or otherwise-produced symbols.

Types and methods of notation have varied between cultures and throughout history, and much information about ancient music notation is fragmentary. Even in the same time period, such as in the 2010s, different styles of music and different cultures use different music notation methods; for example, for professional classical music performers, sheet music using staves and noteheads is the most common way of notating music, but for professional country music session musicians, the Nashville Number System is the main method.

The symbols used include ancient symbols and modern symbols made upon any media such as symbols cut into stone, made in clay tablets, made using a pen on papyrus or parchment or manuscript paper; printed using a printing press (ca. 1400s), a computer printer (ca. 1980s) or other printing or modern copying technology.

Although many ancient cultures used symbols to represent melodies and rhythms, none of them were particularly comprehensive, and this has limited today's understanding of their music. The seeds of what would eventually become modern western notation were sown in medieval Europe, starting with the Catholic Church's goal for ecclesiastical uniformity. The church began notating plainchant melodies so that the same chants could be used throughout the church. Music notation developed further in the Renaissance and Baroque music eras. In the classical period (1750–1820) and the Romantic music era (1820–1900), notation continued to develop as new musical instrument technologies were developed. In the contemporary classical music of the 20th and 21st century, music notation has continued to develop, with the introduction of graphical notation by some modern composers and the use, since the 1980s, of computer-based score writer programs for notating music. Music notation has been adapted to many kinds of music, including classical music, popular music, and traditional music.

Musical system of ancient Greece

The musical system of ancient Greece evolved over a period of more than 500 years from simple scales of tetrachords, or divisions of the perfect fourth, to The Perfect Immutable System, encompassing a span of fifteen pitch keys (see tonoi below) (Chalmers 1993, chapt. 6, p. 99)

Any discussion of ancient Greek music, theoretical, philosophical or aesthetic, is fraught with two problems: there are few examples of written music, and there are many, sometimes fragmentary, theoretical and philosophical accounts. This article provides an overview that includes examples of different kinds of classification while also trying to show the broader form evolving from the simple tetrachord to the system as a whole.

Oxyrhynchus hymn

The Oxyrhynchus hymn (or P. Oxy. XV 1786) is the earliest known manuscript of a Christian Greek hymn to contain both lyrics and musical notation. It is found on Papyrus 1786 of the Oxyrhynchus papyri, now kept at the Papyrology Rooms of the Sackler Library, Oxford. The manuscript was discovered in 1918 in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, and later published in 1922. The hymn was written around the end of the 3rd century AD.

Pentatonic scale

A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five notes per octave, in contrast to the more familiar heptatonic scale that has seven notes per octave (such as the major scale and minor scale).

Pentatonic scales were developed independently by many ancient civilizations—an indication that pentatonic scales are based upon a naturally occurring phenomenon. They are still used all over the world, for example (just to name a few) Chinese traditional music and US country music, blues and metal.

There are two types of pentatonic scales: those with semitones (hemitonic) and those without (anhemitonic).

Renaissance music

Renaissance music is vocal and instrumental music written and performed in Europe during the Renaissance era. Consensus among music historians has been to start the era around 1400, with thith the beginning of the Baroque period, therefore commencing the musical Renaissance about a hundred years after the beginning of the Renaissance as it is understood in other disciplines. As in the other arts, the music of the period was significantly influenced by the developments which define the Early Modern period: the rise of humanistic thought; the recovery of the literary and artistic heritage of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; increased innovation and discovery; the growth of commercial enterprises; the rise of a bourgeois class; and the Protestant Reformation. From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular, the polyphonic style (this means music with multiple, independent melody lines performed simultaneously) of the Franco-Flemish school, whose greatest master was Josquin des Prez.

The invention of the printing press in 1439 made it cheaper and easier to distribute music and musical theory texts on a wider geographic scale and to more people. Prior to the invention of printing, written music and music-theory texts had to be hand-copied, a time-consuming and expensive process. Demand for music as entertainment and as a leisure activity for educated amateurs increased with the emergence of a bourgeois class. Dissemination of chansons, motets, and masses throughout Europe coincided with the unification of polyphonic practice into the fluid style which culminated in the second half of the sixteenth century in the work of composers such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlande de Lassus, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. Relative political stability and prosperity in the Low Countries, along with a flourishing system of music education in the area's many churches and cathedrals allowed the training of large numbers of singers, instrumentalists, and composers. These musicians were highly sought throughout Europe, particularly in Italy, where churches and aristocratic courts hired them as composers, performers, and teachers. Since the printing press made it easier to disseminate printed music, by the end of the 16th century, Italy had absorbed the northern musical influences with Venice, Rome, and other cities becoming centers of musical activity. This reversed the situation from a hundred years earlier. Opera, a dramatic staged genre in which singers are accompanied by instruments, arose at this time in Florence. Opera was developed as a deliberate attempt to resurrect the music of ancient Greece (OED 2005).

Music was increasingly freed from medieval constraints, and more variety was permitted in range, rhythm, harmony, form, and notation. On the other hand, rules of counterpoint became more constrained, particularly with regard to treatment of dissonances. In the Renaissance, music became a vehicle for personal expression. Composers found ways to make vocal music more expressive of the texts they were setting. Secular music (non-religious music) absorbed techniques from sacred music, and vice versa. Popular secular forms such as the chanson and madrigal spread throughout Europe. Courts employed virtuoso performers, both singers and instrumentalists. Music also became more self-sufficient with its availability in printed form, existing for its own sake. Precursor versions of many familiar modern instruments (including the violin, guitar, lute and keyboard instruments) developed into new forms during the Renaissance. These instruments were modified to responding to the evolution of musical ideas, and they presented new possibilities for composers and musicians to explore. Early forms of modern woodwind and brass instruments like the bassoon and trombone also appeared; extending the range of sonic color and increasing the sound of instrumental ensembles. During the 15th century, the sound of full triads (three note chords) became common, and towards the end of the 16th century the system of church modes began to break down entirely, giving way to the functional tonality (the system in which songs and pieces are based on musical "keys"), which would dominate Western art music for the next three centuries.

From the Renaissance era, notated secular and sacred music survives in quantity, including vocal and instrumental works and mixed vocal/instrumental works. An enormous diversity of musical styles and genres flourished during the Renaissance. These can be heard on recordings made in the 20th and 21st century, including masses, motets, madrigals, chansons, accompanied songs, instrumental dances, and many others. Beginning in the late 20th century, numerous early music ensembles were formed. Early music ensembles specializing in music of the Renaissance era give concert tours and make recordings, using modern reproductions of historical instruments and using singing and performing styles which musicologists believe were used during the era.

Sakadas of Argos

Sakadas of Argos won a musical competition at the Pythian Games in 586 BC, for Nomos Pythicos, a composition for the aulos that told of the battle between Apollo and Python. This event is one of the earliest known examples of the music of ancient Greece, one of the earliest known accounts of the use of the aulos as a solo instrument, and one of the earliest known accounts of program music.

The Oxford History of Western Music

The Oxford History of Western Music is a narrative history from the "earliest notations" (taken to be around the eighth century) to the late twentieth century. It was written by the American musicologist Richard Taruskin. Published by Oxford University Press, it is a multi-volume work, but is shorter than the same publisher's The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which is written by multiple contributors.

The Oxford History of Western Music appeared in 2005. A paperback edition in five volumes followed in 2009. It is available online, but is not part of Oxford Music Online, the portal which gives electronic access to the New Grove Dictionary (Grove Music Online) and The Oxford Companion to Music.

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