MUSIC OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS
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Greek Music Examples
|Lyrics (Text)||Listening (MP3)|
|Choral Ode from Orestes||Choral Ode from Orestes|
|Choral Ode from "Iphegenia et Aulis||Choral Ode from "Iphegenia et Aulis|
|Dramatic Lament on the Suicide of Ajax||Dramatic Lament on the Suicide of Ajax|
|Epitaph of Seikelos||Epitaph of Seikelos|
|Hymn to Nemesis||Hymn to Nemesis|
|Hymn to the Sun||Hymn to the Sun|
Fundamental Greek Concepts About Music
|A concept of music consisting of pure, unencumbered melodic line|
There is always a symbiotic relationship between singing, poetry and playing a musical instrument. Greek melodies are intimately linked with words (lyrics) and their rhythm and meter.
|A philosophy which regarded music and art as an orderly system interlocked with nature|
|A scientifically founded acoustical theory, and a system of scale formation based on the tetrachord|
|Musical scholarship, terminology, and a concept of aesthetics|
A tradition of improvisation in performance. Musical performance and the art of listening to music was a vital part of the education and ethical training of Greek citizens.
From before the time of Homer, music was an integral part of Greek culture, linking Greek musical expression to their views about Art, Science and Morality. Festivals, rituals, parties, work, games, theater, and war were all accompanied by music. Greek literature extolled music and was linked with it: much of the Greek poetry and drama known today was originally sung or musically accompanied. Professional musicians were valued members of society whose merits were judged in public competitions. In addition, musical education was an important part of the training of elites in Greek society, and amateur accomplishments in music were regarded as a sign of culture and taste. In the ancient world, Greek music was known throughout the Mediterranean world, influencing and being influenced by the other musical traditions it encountered. The precursors to ancient Greek civilization came from Egypt, Crete, Etruscan and Mesopotamia regions.
Music and the Greek Gods
The word "Music" is derived from the Greek word "mousikC", meaning "of the Muses". named after the nine daughters of Zeus, thus, music's link to the Greek notion of divinity.
The Muses shared a common affection for music, dance, poetry, and drama. Each muse in her own way let her talent shine through, and they performed all over ancient Greece at parties, festivals and religious celebrations. As time passed, the nine sisters also represented the different sciences too.
Calliope - muse of epic poetry (parchment roll or tablet)
Clio - muse of history (partially opened scroll)
Erato - muse of love poetry (small lyre)
Euterpe - muse of music and lyric poetry (double flute)
Melpomene - muse of tragedy (tragic mask)
Polyhymnia - muse of hymns and sacred music (veiled figure)
Terpsichore - muse of dance (lyre)
Thalia - muse of comedy (comic mask)
- muse of astronomy (rod in one hand and a globe in the other.
Dance, poetry, rite, and music seem inseparably associated in the early history of music in ancient Greece. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey report vintners' songs, dirges, and hymns of praise to Apollo (paeans). Music was described as an art exerting great power (ethos) over human beings, and certain musical styles came to be associated with particular peoples and deities. The KITHARA, a plucked string instrument, came to be linked with Apollo, the god of the Sun and reason, while the aulos, a loud double-reed instrument, came to be identified with Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstatic revelry. The most important of mythic musicians in ancient Greek culture was Orpheus, whose music had the power to cause inanimate objects to move and even influence the forces of Hades.
Music, Mathematics and the Cosmos
The Greeks were one of
the first cultures to look upon the heavens as a set of phenomena amenable to
comprehension and separated from the sometimes fickle whims of the Greek gods. The Greeks were able to
extract a great amount of information using basic reasoning and very elementary observations. The Greek view
of the world and its origin was firmly based on creation myths consolidated by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Beginning with the Greeks, we have come to see Reason as the ground of insight and a source of human capacity.
The arrogance of this perspective has led us to believe that the Western notion of reason/rationality is both universal
and uncontroversial in that we perceive the divergent perspectives of other cultures as being "less rational, even
superstitious". Our veneration of numbers and abstract formulas stems from a long held cultural conviction (Greek
based) that mathematics is the model of rationality in the West. Indeed, numbers have been taken as testaments of
absolute truth. Likewise, emotion is at times perceived as an obstacle to good reason and good moral practice, for
one must suppress emotion and the senses of the body to achieve Reason.
Greek Cosmos, Music is the sound of "necessity" in the Cosmos, created by the
Greek gods/goddesses to
make a certain order visible. Thus, through reason and order, this is attainable as permanent on earth by Man. The
word "Cosmos" meant "an order, a proportion, a harmony which embraced another paradox". The Greek concept
of "Harmony" (Harmonia) implied both tension (dissonance) and resolution of tension (consonance). Harmony is
Science and Religion working together to create Beauty. Harmony penetrates the Cosmos as a Universal. However,
the Greek developed an aesthetic theory of harmony based a paradox: That objects in the universe (Cosmos) could
be unified or uniform in their multiplicity and variety. And second, that the complex of things (objects), which besides
being beautiful and abstract, was also "useful". To the Greeks, that which lacked proportion was considered "ugly and
useless", even in a song.
ancient times (Greek and pre-Greek) believed that music had a sacred and moral
value, as well as therapeutic
and educative power. In Greek society, music was part of the Quadrivium and was, therefore, taught at both the practical
level (singing, dance, and instrumental music) and the theoretical level. Lessons in Greek music theory concentrated
solely on numbers and ratios and the role music played in the big cosmic picture. The ancient Greeks laid the foundation
of scholarship in music, its terminology and notation, its theory and philosophy. Broad currents of tradition flowed from
their music and music theory into Rome, Byzantium, and the Arabian Empire, and farther to the Far East. Some of our
fundamental musical terms - tone, rhythm, lyrics, harmony, orchestra- are of Greek origin. The word "music" has it's origin
in Greek religion: music is the only art form named after a god.
music theory and philosophy saw music as a reflection of the greater 'music of
the spheres', a harmony created
by the relative distances and rates of motions of the planets, and this harmony was constantly present if only people
were sufficiently sensitive to attune themselves to it. For the Greeks specifically, these ideas connected music to a
higher order, one which many believed that humanity should strive to be in tune. Thus, Greek music itself tried to
reflect the way the universe was put together.
cosmology derives from a mathematical discovery by Empedocles. He found that
there are only five solid
shapes whose sides are made from regular polygons (triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, etc) - for example,
the cube. Plato was so impressed with this discovery that he was convinced that atoms of matter must derive from
these five fundamental solids. But at the time the Greek periodic table consisted only of earth, water, air and fire
(i.e. four atomic types). Therefore, Plato postulated that a fifth atomic type must exist which Aristotle later called `ether'.
The heavens, and objects in the heavens (stars, planets, Sun) are composed of atoms of ether. This is perhaps the
first example of the use of theoretical thought experiments to predict or postulate new concepts. In this case, the
existence of a new form of matter, ether. And this led to the formulation of a Universe that looked like the following:
The "Greek" Cosmos
Greeks believed that music was given by the gods. According to Greek mythology,
invented music and
it's instruments. Many of the Greek gods enjoyed music and actively sang Greek songs and played Greek instruments
(i.e. Apollo was very fond of playing the kithara). Many of the early myths told of the powerful effects of music. Music
played an important part in both the public and private lives of the Greeks. They believed it could deeply affect human
behavior. Greek music was built up of a series of distinct modes, each with it's own name. According to the Greek
Doctrine of Ethos, each Greek music mode was so powerful that it gave music the ability to influence human actions in
a precise way. For example, the Phrygian mode expressed passionate and intimate emotions, where as the Dorian
mode produced forceful, rigid feelings.
Pythagoras and the Harmony of the Spheres
geometry in the humming of the strings... there is music in the spacing of the
Everything is created out of whole numbers. From their ratios, differences and sums everything is
made. The spheres are arranged by their immutable laws, rotating in eternal harmony. In the same
way we can attain perfect harmony with the cosmos by opening our minds to the truth of numbers."
- Pythagoras (6th Century B.C.E.)
One of the key
historical figures in music and mathematics was the Greek mathematician,
and philosopher known as Pythagoras. Pythagoras established the idea that numbers provided the means for
understanding the universe, a theory by which he tried to prove that the basic numbers of sound were also those that
were the basic numbers of the Universe. Pythagoras lived on the Greek island of Samos off the southern coast of Italy.
While he spent most of his life on this tiny island, his theories were known all over the ancient world. Pythagoras was
concerned with two primary elements:
Fundamental Ideas of Pythagoras
The philosophical belief in the universal significance of music and the practical discovery of its mathematical basis.
was the first person to define consonance as those pleasant sounds
the acoustic relationships between strings of proportional lengths.
Strings of equal tension (regardless of their material: gut, steel, rope, etc.) of proportional lengths create tones of proportional frequencies when plucked. For example, a string that is two feet long will vibrate x times per second (Hertz). While a string that is one foot long (x/2) will vibrate twice as fast: 2x. And furthermore, those two frequencies create a perfect octave. Thus, Pythagoras continued to search for a way to establish through reason, a basis of knowledge of the criteria for consonance. Pythagoras was the first to discover through reason by what ratio the concord of sound was joined together. He established that musical intervals could be expressed through numerical ratios.
Through a combination of knowledge of music
and mathematics, Pythagoras discovered the principle ratios of consonant
intervals that we still use today: the octave's ratio of 2:1, the fifth at 3:2, the fourth at 4:3, and the whole tone ratio of 9:8. Pythagoreans believed that these ratios were
forces of the cosmos, a point later supported by Plato in the Timaeus. In the minds of Pythagoras and Plato, music gets tied as much to mathematics as it does to art.
The Pythagorean tradition became a crucial influence in the development of music of medieval Europe. Pythagoras defined the scale according to the ratios of the
musical interval of a fifth (C-G or C-D-E-F-G), and the interval of a 4th (C-F, or C-D-E-F) being a mathematical ratio of 4:3. The difference between these two was then
9:8, which he defined as a tone, or whole step. Pythagoras then divided the octave so that there were the seven tones in the scale, just as we have today.
Cumulative Intervals: 1:1 9:8 81:64 4:3 3:2 27:16 243:128 2:1
Note: C D E F G A B C
|Unison - Unity of the One
|_________4th________| _________4th __________|
Consonances |___________ 5th___________|
|_________ Octave________________________________| (Unity of All)
The word "consonance",
therefore, implied "sonic order", as opposed to
"dissonance", which implied "dis-order or chaos. Today
refer to this system as
Pythagorean Tuning. These mathematical measurements established by Pythagoras from antiquity are still now the basis of the measurement of musical
intervals for out Western tuning system and the basis of our modern acoustic theory. Modern music (since the 18th century) is based upon the
Equal Tempered Scale, a modification of the Pythagorean system. These naturally produced sounds or pitches were reshaped by Greek theorists to construct
Greek scales or modes. Modes are basically a sequential inventory of pitches used to create melodies. the music played a particular mode will also evoke a
specific sense of mood or emotional state of mind in the listener. The "effect" of the Greek modes was of concern to major thinkers like Plato and Aristotle.
|Ancient Greek Modes|
|C- - D - - E - F - - - G - - A - - B - C|
|G - - A - - B - C- - D - - E - F - - - G|
|F - - - G - - A - - B - C - - D - - E - F|
|E - F - - G - - A - - - B - C - - D - - E|
G - - - A - - B - C - - D - - E - F - - G
A - - B - C - - D - - E - F - - G - - - A
The mathematical principles
used to construct modes also affected the construction and design of
physical structures such as ampitheaters, places which, of necessity required good sound (good acoustics).
Ancient ruins of a Greek Ampitheatre in Sicily, Mt. Etna in the background)
The Greeks developed a
sophisticated understanding of the controllable movement of sound waves, and
in building spaces that allowed that person in the last row to hear everything on stage (without amplification). In modern
times we did not surpass the Greek knowledge of acoustics until after World War II.
Music in the Daily Life of the Greeks
Among the ancient Greeks,
singing and dancing were seen as part of the same thing, together, not separate,
orderly sacrifices to the gods and athletic skills were manifestations of a civilized society in peacetime. The grimness of
war was expressed by calling it "dance less, lyre-less, generating tears". However, Greek music was not all merry or
happy. It could be used for lamentations or gloomy foreboding, pessimistic reflection or the narration of a horrific myth
or tale. When the Greek, Admetus, grieved for his wife, he ordered that neither the lyre nor the pipe be heard in that
town for twelve months.
Lyre and Auloi
Music was a requisite for
the good life in Greek society. Music was often times associated with the idea
Today we often associate and celebrate success or good fortune with a bottle of champagne, The Greeks turned to
singing and dancing as a celebration of good fortune. By far the greater part of Greek music consisted of singing,
either solo or choral. After all, where does the word "lyrics" come from? (The Greeks) Instruments could be played
on their own, but more commonly served to accompany the human voice in singing. A choir of many voices was not
balanced by an equivalent band of instrumentalists; very often a single piper (Auloi) carried the accompaniment for a
large group, even for a chorus of fifty, as in the Athenian dithyramb. Their songs were settings of thoroughly articulate,
often highly sophisticated poetic texts, with little verbal repetition. It was important that the words should be heard clearly,
and not submerged in instrumental sound. The arts of singing and playing a musical instrument, the relationship of poetry
and music were viewed by the Greeks as symbiotic, rarely did one appear without the other. Text always dominated the
The Greeks also
associated music and song with public worship of the gods. Many of the regular
local festivals held
annually , or in some cases at longer intervals, there were musical events, or at least musical elements in them: singing
processions, choral dances, or sacrifices accompanied by ritual hymns. Those participating in such ceremonies often
made their approach to the central location, or altar, or shrine, did so in a formal, showy procession, in which there might
be a singing chorus or choruses, sometimes dancing as they sang, or with instrumental accompaniment provided by a
single piper (aulos).
The Greeks well understood
the value of music as an adjunct to work and bodily movement, especially if it
was of a
repetitive or rhythmical nature. Music synchronized everyone's efforts. Both men and women sang to relieve the monotony
of work. In the Odyssey, Calypso and Circe sang while weaving at their looms. Women also sang while grinding corn,
or pounding things in mortars. Mothers and nurses sang lullabies to babies.
A Greek Lyre
There are Greek stories of
music being used deliberately to change people's moods; when Sparta was in a
political unrest in the first half of the 7th century B.C., an Oracle recommended that Terpander be invited to come, and
his singing restored the city to good order. The Pythagoreans claimed to have developed a science of musical
psychotherapy and a daily program of songs and lyre pieces that made them bright and alert when they got up, and
when they went to bed purged them of all the day's cares and prepared them for agreeable and prophetic dreams.
There is also the legend of Orpheus and Euridice
In his travels, Odysseus
Sirens, mythical creatures with divinely
beautiful voices and bewitching beauty,
yet capable fo luring ships and sailors to their deaths.
It is Circe that warns Odysseus of the Sirens, of smoldering skeletons and withering skin of the sailors who succumbed
to the Sirens' music. It is Circe who says, "there is no homecoming for the man who hears the Sirens voices-no welcome
from his wife, no little children brightening at their father's return."
Nevertheless, it is Odysseus
who wants to be the "listener in chains" (tied to the mast of his ship) , the
one who hears the music no one should hear".
Is their music some form of "heavenly harmony" or divine music? Is Odysseus trying to cheat death? Later on, Plato also wrote about the Sirens in
his Politics, but the Sirens are silenced this time by Plato, who placed them among the planets and constellations as a form of "music un-hearable
by human ears". These stories, of course, are based upon the power of the Greek musical Modes.
Plato and Aristotle on Morality and the Education of the Greek Citizen
Both Plato and
Aristotle wrote about the role of music in creating the ideal Greek City-State.
Music was used to provide
a basis for moral purity, necessary for the realization of the contemplative life of the individual. In the Greek view, "ethos"
and "pathos" had a functional relationship to each other. Where good and bad character was measured by the relative
success or failure of the individual in dealing effectively with his/her emotions. The individual had to be given the means
to improve character, and since good character was made overt and manifest through a set of behavioral habits formed
by "correct" practice, the very quality of that practice was vitally important. Thus, music was set to the strictest standards
Teacher and Student practicing Lyra and Aulos
For the ancient Greeks,
music served as an image of rationality functioning within the context of human
They believed that music is rational because it can be constructed by human reasoning and human efforts to
make systematic sense of the world. Music "fused" the rational with other human ways of experiencing the world:
emotions, senses, awareness of temporality, and even a Greek view of spirituality itself.
The Doctrine of Ethos was
based upon finding the proper balance (Ethos) between Logos and Pathos. Logos
associated with rationality and the Cult of Apollo, while Pathos (emotion, frenzy) was associated with the Cult of
Dionysius and the Greek Aulos. The aulos (or the plural form, auloi, meaning two reed pipes) had a loud nasal
sound, and therefore associated with the outdoors and nature=not under human control).
Apollo (left) playing the kithara in competition with Marsyus (Aulos)
The Greek God Apollo played
the Kithara, thus, the association of the kithara with reason and beauty.
as the Sun god, Apollo represented the idealized beautiful man (even though he was a god). with the sun's illumination
(light, brightness), beauty is made accessible to humans. Likewise, beauty and order/reason get linked, as does beauty
and proportion, symmetry. Not surprisingly, the most perfect notion of beauty is recognizable by means of measure.
|Logos = Rationality (ratio)||Doctrine of Ethos||Pathos = Emotion|
Reason as standard of
Desire, passion, sacrifice, excess, death
The Pythagorean view
of music as insight, while somewhat narrow in scope, saw the numerical
proportions of musical
intervals as coded messages about a larger reality. The reality of music (for Pythagoras) was the auditory experience
of harmony based upon ratio. Plato's conception of music as insight looked into the forms of music as the preconditions
for a human life regulated by harmony and reason, and, therefore, fundamental to the proper education of the individual.
In ancient Greece, as
in the modern West, reason is seen as the ground of insight and the main source
capacity. Out of Plato's teachings grew the belief that when one studied mathematics, one was studying the mind of
a god. Mathematical symmetries (likewise, those that were musical) were considered by the Greeks to be of universal
design and harmony. The Greek faith in an ordered universe compelled them to make precise observations and they
were sustained by their belief in the power of reason. Plato believed that though the physical applications of mathematics
may change, the thoughts themselves were eternal and in another realm of existence.
Even today we believe that
reason/rationality is both universal and un-controversial, in that we tend to
analyze the many
divergent perspectives of other cultures to be "less rational" (even superstitious). This notion of rationality defines levels
of development, with the implication of "we" as more rational (civilized) and the "others" as less rational (less civilized).
In the Western imagination, numbers are often taken as testaments of "absolute truth". Our veneration of numbers and
abstract formulas stems from a cultural conviction (Greek based) that mathematics, music, and proportion is the true
model of rationality. Emotion and passion can be an obstacle to reason and good moral practice, for one has to
suppress emotions and the sensory body to achieve reason. If we reflect back to our study of Eastern perspectives
(Hinduism/Buddhism), a different perspective emerges. The mind (rational) is that which interferes with spiritual insight,
practice, and wisdom. Here the stress is placed upon the impermanence of all things. For, in the Eastern view, rationality
too is impermanent, a cultural construction of the mind.
Let's take a closer
look at some Greek examples tied to the Western notion of reason. In Plato's
Republic, he cites the
importance of music in the education of the ideal citizen. Music was used to promote positive virtues. Plato also believed
in the censorship of the arts-only the best art forms should be exposed to young people. The notion of beauty was
associated with symmetry and order or form, and with the fitness of the body. Music was a requisite for the good life
in ancient Greece. The education of young men and women was not complete without extensive instruction in the
"ethical" qualities of music, with equal time given to performance of music. Music and gymnastics (balancing the human
body) were given equal time. For Plato, beauty transcends the work of art itself. For Aristotle, beauty is that which exists
within the work of art itself, it is an attribute of the art. Plato believed that "beauty" still transcended the actual work of art
itself, whereas, Aristotle suggests that "beauty" is inherent in the work of art itself. Music that was too sensual, too
complicated (virtuoso), or promoted un-patriotic tendencies should be censured and avoided. For Plato and Aristotle,
education was the principle means for achieving this, although Plato also advocated censorship of some kinds of music
listened to by young people. Music was associated with notions of beauty, order (form), symmetry (balance), and brought
"virtue" and, according to Plato, "sobriety of the soul". The Doctrine of Ethos was applied to education, emotional
communication, the ethical life, applied sciences, metaphysics, and Greek concepts about beauty. The Greeks were
familiar with the idea that music could alter the disposition of those who heard it. The Greeks believed that music had the
power to soothe, the console, to distract, to cheer, to excite, to inflame, to madden the individual. As a consequence,
the Greeks developed theories about the power of music to affect the moral and emotional states of the individual
(The Doctrine of Ethos).
It is by virtue of the
educational force that music gets classified in Greek moral philosophy as an
ethical, not affective,
material-this in spite of the fact that Plato and Aristotle understand perfectly well how music finds it's way into the human
soul. In modern times, we have come to see the affective side of music, rather than the ethical. The passions help to
explain human actions and motivation, thus, music was a powerful gent for expressing human emotion. Music grew
more and more to be seen a s an affective language, and less and less an ethical one. Plato intends for music to
contribute to the fostering of social virtue- to the making of good citizens. In modern times, find in music a primary
material for exploring the inner life. In modern times, we tend to err in recognizing that a shift has taken place.
Both Aristotle and Plato
have written extensively about the
Doctrine of Ethos,
in what philosophers refer to as the
Doctrine of Imitation. Aristotle explained this concept as related to the states of the soul (rage, gentleness, temperance).
He believed that music affected man's character and that the right kind of music affected man in a positive fashion while
the wrong kind of music would have negative effects. For example, in The Republic, Plato claimed that the Ionian and
Lydian are "relaxed / soft / drinking" systems, without military use, and should be banned. (It is hard to believe
commentators who say that "relaxed" just means the strings are less taut and thus lower-pitched.) Plato also described
the two Lydian systems, as expressing sorrow. The Dorian would remain legal for use in war and crisis, and the Phrygian
for peace, dignity, temperance, and worship. The discussion indicates that lyres were manufactured in various modes.
Plato wanted the government to control popular music by allowing only the manufacture of lyres built for the approved
modes. In particular, Plato wanted to ban lyres with lots of strings ("a multiplicity of notes") able to play several different
modes. Aristotle said that the Mixolydian mode made people "sad and grave". The Dorian mode settles the mind and
is gravest and manliest and "avoids extremes". The Phrygian mode inspires enthusiasm and is exciting and emotional
and the best for expressing "Bacchic fury". The "relaxed modes", i.e., Lydian and Ionian make people stupid.
The "ethos" of music was
very important to Greek philosophy, because music had such a strong influence on
and spirits of the Greeks. The City-State assumed total control of the process of music education, rather than leaving it
to the performing arts (and artists haven't had the reigns of control ever since...). The role of music was pedagogical -
to build the Greek character and morals. The performance of music was thus public, rather than private, an affair of the
State more than the home. Every melody, rhythm, and musical instrument (including the voice) had its own unique effect
on the moral nature of the Greeks and therefore upon the morality of the State. Ethos, logos and pathos, in the Greek view,
are thus in a functional relation with each other. Where good and bad character is measured by the relative success or
failure of an individual to deal effectively with his/her emotions. The individual must be given the means, therefore, to
improve his/her character; and since good character is made overt and manifest through a set of behavioral habits that
have been formed by the right kind of practice, the quality of the practice is of the essence. Thus, music is subject to
the strictest standards. It is by virtue of the educational force that music gets classified in Greek moral philosophy as
an ethical, not affective, material-this in spite of the fact that Plato and Aristotle understand perfectly well how music finds
it's way into the human soul.
One might compare and
contrast these views with other aspects of Greek philosophy. From the standpoint
moral philosophy, the only acceptable human behavior was temperateness, situated midway between the two extremes
(Dionysian and Apollonian) and achieved through the exercising of an action that stands as the diametrically opposites
of surrender, namely, self control. What Plato would dislike about the Dionysian approach is its abandonment of rationality.
The Dionysian descent to a level of consciousness where sensuality and the emotions (Pathe) take over and engulf the
rational, moving in the exact opposite direction from "logos", toward "pathos". The temperateness of Apollo, though not
synonymous with the rational, is nevertheless the consequence of having enlisted the rational in order to fight off the
emotions and the senses. In the Platonic view, "control" means an exertion of the "head" for the sake of resisting the
onslaught of the heart and sensual impulses; and it is in this resistance that lies an important ethical value. For Plato,
the effort made to withstand emotional pressures was a sign of good character; building the character- the ethos- of a
person was an aspect of Greek education which began at the earliest stages of childhood and which music was seen
as playing a major role. The root principle, then, on which the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy rests is not behavior itself
(hotness vs. coolness, moderation vs. violence, etc.), but the practices that nurtured certain kinds of character and their
outward manifestations: resistance and control oppose themselves to surrender and abandon, and in so doing, lead in
the direction of "ethos". The musicians were priests of the gods Apollo and Dionysus: Apollo was associated with the
string instruments used in Greek culture, particularly the lyra and kithara, while Dionysus was associated with the
orgiastic cult and the use of wind instruments like the aulos.
In modern times, we have
come to see the affective side of music, rather than the ethical. The passions
help to explain
human actions and motivation, thus, music was a powerful gent for expressing human emotion. Music grew more and
more to be seen a s an affective language, and less and less an ethical one. Plato intends for music to contribute to
the fostering of social virtue- to the making of good citizens. In modern times, we tend to find in music primary material
for exploring the inner life of the "individual".
Greek Musical Instruments
Kithara Auloi Kithara
Pronounced as: kithr or cithara sith- , a stringed musical instrument of the ancient Greeks. It was a plucked instrument, a
larger and stronger form of the lyre, used by professional musicians both for solo playing and for the accompaniment of
poetry and song. It consisted of a relatively square wooden box that extended at one end into heavy arms. Originally it
had 5 strings, but later there were 7 or 11 strings, stretched from the sound box across a bridge and up to a crossbar
fastened to the arms. Since the strings were of equal length, tuning was determined only by the thickness and tension
of each string. Because of its size and weight, it rested against the body of the player and was held in position by a band.
The player usually stood when performing.
Lyre or Lyra
The Lyre and Kithara were
played two ways, either with the hands or with a plectrum made from the
horns of an animal
made into a shape similar to that of a spoon. Today it would be called a pick. Tuning a kithara was accomplished with
a tool known as a kollops. Accurate tuning of the instrument is still a mystery. Most musicians held the kithara while
standing because of its size, which made the instrument easier to maneuver. The musician had to support the instrument
by holding his left arm high. The left arm was attached to a sling, which held the instrument against the player’s left shoulder
and chest. The right hand was used to pluck the strings with the plectrum.
Another instrument the Greeks used was the Aulos. This was a woodwind instrument played with a reed. The Aulos was
constructed of two pipes which were played simultaneously. The Aulos was mostly made of bone, but there were a few
wooden ones made as well. Each pipe only had a range of six possible notes, so by combining two pipes, the Greeks
had a more brilliant sound along with more notes. The Aulos was made up of five sections. The top two segments were
small bulbs, which connected the reed to the body of the instrument. The next piece was thinner than the bulbs and
contained four holes. The final piece of the instrument contained the last two holes, and was widened at the end for the
bell. Reeds were constructed by the player and required a precise craft, or else they did not vibrate properly. The reed
was inserted into the mouth much like the oboe is today. The body of the instrument did not protect the reed, so care was
needed to ensure that it was not broken or cracked. Finger holes in the instrument were bored with a fine tool that
produced a neatly rounded hole. We have archaeological evidence that proves that the Aulos would sound nothing
similar to the flute. The Aulos was used in sacrifices and other serious rituals of the Greeks.