Thursday, April 17, 2008

Greek Music

The musical culture of ancient Greece is known more through literacy references than through preserve musical documents. About 20 fragments of music are extant, written in a relatively late Greek notational system, but references to music performed at various rites and social occasions abound in the work of ancient Greek autors. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey report vintners' song, dirges, and hymns of praise to Apollo (paeans). Music was described as an art exerting great string instrument, came to be linked with Apollo, the god of Sun and reason, while the aulos, a loud double reed instrument, was identified with Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstatic revelry.

Among the earliest known Greek musicians are Terpander of Lesbos (7th century BC), the founder of lyric khitara performance; Pindar of Thebes (6th – 5th Century BC), whose odes represent the rise of Greek choral music; and Timotheus of Miletus (5th – 4th century BC), a virtuoso performer on the khitara. In the Athenian drama of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Solo and choral singing, instrumental music, and dance all played essential roles.

According to legend, the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras of Samos (6th – 5th century BC) discovered the mathematical rationale of musical consonant from the weight of hammers used by smiths. He is thus given credit for discovering that the interval of an octave is rooted in the ratio 2:1, that of the fifth in 3:2, that of the fouth in 4:3, and that of the whole tone in 9:8. Followers of Pytagoras applied these ratios to lengths of a string on an instrument called a canon, or monochord, and thereby were able to determine mathematically the intonation of an entire musical system. The Pythagoreans saw these ratios as governing forces in the cosmos as well as in sounds, and Plato's Timaeus describe the soul of the world structured according to this same musical ratios. For the Pythagoreans as well as for Plato, music consequently became a branch of mathematics as well as an art; this tradition of musical thought flourished throughout antiquity in such theorists as Nicomachus of Gerasa (2d century AD) and Ptolemy (2d century AD) and was transmitted into the middle ages by Boethius (6th century AD). The mathematics and intonation of the fluence in the development of European music during the middle ages and after.

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