Greek Music

Greek Music

Greek music, in a broader sense the music of the Greeks in the past and present, whose 3,000-year history includes ancient Greek music, Byzantine music (Byzantine culture) and modern Greek music.

In a narrower sense, Greek music means the music of the ancient Greeks (with the exception of early Christian music). According to its appearance, it is counted among the melodically oriented music cultures and thus differentiated from the different tonal-polyphonic music of the West.

Fundamental terms of occidental music theory such as tone, music, harmony, melody and rhythm come from antiquity. They have more or less distanced themselves from their original meaning. The Greek term »mousiké« initially encompassed a broader field than today’s term music and also included poetry and dance. The musical examples that have been discovered to this day are too short to give an idea of ​​the sound of ancient Greek music.

The tones arranged according to “traditional laws” were possibly based on a compositional principle similar to that of the Arabic maqam and the Indian raga. The Thracian singers Orpheus, Linos and Amphion were famous for the magical effect of their songs. According to legend, Orpheus’ head and lyre were washed ashore on Lesbos. From this island came the first music-historically verifiable figure, the well-known lyre player Terpandros. He brought seven-part kitharodic nomoi to Sparta and won there in 657 BC. At the Karneia (cult festivals in honor of Apollo).

The music of ancient Greece was a predominantly unanimous art that was cultivated as solo or choral singing (in tragedy and comedy), as instrumental music or as dance and singing accompaniment on kithara or aulos. There was also a kind of primitive polyphony in the juxtaposition of melody and drone; For church services and funeral celebrations, a choral polyphony is also handed down.

In the so-called Geometric Period (around 1150–700 BC). draw a.o. the legends of the gods a vivid picture of the Greek “mousiké”, which was an important companion on cultural and festive occasions. Chants of praise for certain deities were formed from the hymnos (song of praise) as genres: the paian for Apollo, the dithyrambos (forerunner of the drama) for Dionysus. Enkomion or Epinikion sounded after a victory, the Skolion (two- to four-line song) at the symposium (libation feast), Hymenaios and Epithalamion for the wedding, Threnos and Elegos (funeral song with aulos accompaniment) for the lament for the dead. In the Hellenistic period music became part of the seven liberal arts (Artes liberales), of which a. the Pythian Games witness. Musical agones (competitions) also took place at major cult festivals and at the Panhellenic Games (ancient festivals) in Delphi. Disciplines were solo performances on the aulos (auletics) and the kithara (kitharistics), solo chants accompanied by one of the instruments (aulody and kitharody), choral chants and theater performances. About 40 melody fragments are preserved in stone inscriptions (two Apollo hymns in Delphi from 138/128 BC, a Skolion on the grave column of Seikilos from the 1st century BC), in papyri (parts of instrumental compositions, tragedies and a paian) and in manuscripts from the 13th-16th centuries Century (hymns to the Muse, to Helios and to Nemesis of Mesomedes from the 2nd century AD).

The Greek philosophers (Plato , Aristotle , Aristoxenus, Euclid ) were the first to develop important music theories. In the 6th century BC BC Pythagoras of Samos made the first music-theoretical considerations, but these only passed on to his students. In connection with philosophical-mystical doctrines, he set intervals, the orbital speeds of the planets and their distances to the earth (harmony of the spheres) as well as the ethical effect of music in relation to numbers and their relationships. Musicological journals came in the 4th century BC. Chr. On. Among them are the treatises of Aristoxenus of Taranto represent the mainstay for today’s knowledge of Greek music theory. To what extent they corresponded to musical practice is not clear. The basic element of the theory of the tone order is the tetrachord (Greek “four strings”), which was further developed from the original system of pentatonic scales. is documented in the three-volume theory of harmony of Ptolemy . In the context of a fourth it comprises four tones, the sequence of which determines the tone gender (genos). There are three genera (arrangement from top to bottom): diatonic 1–1– 12 (agfe), chromatic 1 121212(a ges fe), enharmonic 2– 1414 (a geses quarter tone e). Tetrachords were put together into systems in which seven octave genres (one octave series with different interval sequences) and 15 keys (two octave series with the same interval sequences at different pitches) were formed. These double octaves, summarized in the “Systema teleion” (“perfect system”), differed in the position of the semitones: the Doric scale was considered masculine and warlike, the Phrygian as sensual and seductive, the Lydian as lovely and gentle.

These names for the Greek scales and their structure were transferred to the church modes of the Middle Ages (due to a misunderstanding after the relationships were reversed). In the Hellenistic period, this tone system was expanded by the introduction of the chromatic and the (less common) enharmonic tone system (in addition to the diatonic), whereby these terms were not used in today’s understanding and characterized physical tone relationships, but according to the ethos, among others. of Aristoxenus symbolized (emotional) moods, which were referred to as “colors” or “shades”. All three tone genders were based on the same tetrachord with identical edge tones and differed only in their modified inner tones.

It is not known whether the harmoniai of the early period characterized tonal centers and typical melodic figures in addition to scales. In the case of rhythm as the “order of times”, the smallest element was the “first”, no longer divisible time. The next largest unit was the “foot”, composed of arsis and thesis (originally putting the foot on and taking it off), which are in the same or different temporal relationship to one another and could be combined to form complex structures. Decisive for the deciphering of the Greek musical notation (vowel form with Ionic, instrumental form with Old Doric characters) are the explanations of Alypios (3rd – 4th century AD).

The Greek musical notions were handed down to the Middle Ages by Augustine, Martianus Capella (“De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii”), Cassiodor and especially Boethius (“Quadrivium”, “De institutione musica” in 5 volumes) and form due to their philosophical penetration as well as their theoretical foundations the starting point of occidental music. With the further development of the Greek letter notation, which only indicated pitch and length, Boethius laid the basis for a more precise written fixation of music.

Greek Music