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Ancient Greek Music - Bibliography Selection (new titles)


The following 10 titles have been suggested and commented by the musicologist Panagiotis Vlagopoulos; they constitute a supplement to the "Bibliography Selection for Ancient Greek Music" which has been included in the Library’s website in the last few years.

You will now find a compilation of all titles, old and new.

Bélis, Annie, Everyday Life of Musicians in Antiquity [Les Musiciens dans l'Antiquité - La vie quotidienne], transl. Stavros Vlontakis (Athens, Papadimas, 2004; first edition: Paris, Ed. PUF, 1999)

This is the more recent monograph by the French researcher of Ancient Greek Music, famous for her publication of the Delphic Hymns to Apollo, her monograph on Aristoxenus, as well as for founding and directing the Kerylos Ensemble which devotes itself to the performance of fragments of Ancient Greek Music. This is the first book that attempts an approach to music in the everyday life of ancient Greeks and Romans (from the 5th century BC to the 3rd century AD) and allows the author to draw - besides specific information on the professional situation of the various music professionals (flute players on warships or at funerals, skilled citharists and talented hetaerae) - crucial information on music in general, and more specifically the role of music in education and in society. In this work, Belis sheds new light on important and controversial historical questions, such as the opposition between conservatives and modernists (for instance Timotheus of Miletus) at the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the 4th century BC, or the development in music after the ‘gold age’ of Ancient Greece. Unfortunately, once again the translation is lacking in clarity and the original text is rendered into approximate Greek (see p.87 and p.295). 

Calame, Claude, Choruses of Young Women in Ancient Greece: Their Morphology, Religious Role and Social Function [Les Choeurs de Jeunes Filles en Grèce Archaïque], transl. Derek Collins & Janice Orion (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. First ed.: Roma: Edizioni dell’Ateneo e Bizarri, 1977)

Claude Calame’s 1977 PhD. dissertation is a milestone in the study of Greek poetry and music and marks what we would call an ‘anthropologic turn’ in the corresponding field of study. This new direction that focuses on the performance concept and on the gender viewpoint, has been unanimously accepted and counts many followers (see Goldhill & Osborne 1999 and Murray & Wilson 2004). The title of the ‘new and revised’ English edition is somewhat misleading: Calame undertakes to study the role of the young female choruses in the social system, as well as in the initiation system of young girls into adult society, mainly during the 7th and 6th century BC (which explains the word ‘archaic’ in the original title), and not generally speaking in Ancient Greece, as the English translation would imply. Calame’s conclusions have lost none of their significance. One of the points stressed here refers to the presence throughout Greece of female choruses under the aegis of Artemis for the young virgins and Hera for the older women. In particular Calame believes that in Lesbos Sappho’s role was to initiate young girls –daughters of aristocratic families- to their future role as wives and mothers. The homoeroticism elements in Sappho’s poetry, according to Calame, point to similar – and better documented- elements in the initiation of boys to adulthood. This was a restricted homosexuality, both chronologically and socially, which, when it appears in poetry, highlights basically the ritual parting between the girls undergoing initiation and the ones that have already been initiated. Equally original is the study of the totally different Spartan society. In general terms, Calame’s work constitutes to this day compulsive reading for all those interested in Ancient Greek Music. However, one would like this re-edition to include the illustrations of the various objects (paintings on vases, figurines and so on) that have inspired the author. This would make it easier for the reader to follow the arguments that the author extracts from these representations.

Gernet, Louis, Anthropology of Ancient Greece [Anthropologie de la Grèce Antique], transl. A. Methenitis & A. Stefanis (Athens : Patakis 2000. First edition, Paris : Flammarion, 1982)

Gernet’s anthropological approach broke new ground in providing a better understanding of Ancient Greek civilization. The author of ‘Law and institutions in Ancient Greece’ (Droit et institutions en Grèce Antique) compiles in this work his studies on religion, symposia, Dionysiac worship, the economic and legal meaning of value, the relation between myth and utopia in the stoic origin of the concept of ‘afterlife cities’, myths about lycanthropy and zoomorphy as in Euripides’ Riso and in the Iliad where Dolon, a Trojan, disguised as a wolf, was sent by Hector to reconnoitre the Greek camp, but Ulysses and Diomedes were quick to spot him and the latter killed him. The volume, with an introduction by Jean-Pierre Vernant, one of Gernet’s most eminent pupils, concludes with two philosophical studies: the first on the crucial aspect of antithetical thinking in the realm of law and oratory between the seen and the unseen, the second on the initial stages of Greek philosophy. Unfortunately, I feel I must once again warn the reader on the quality of the Greek translation: the meaning is often unintelligible unless one consults the original text (this translation is available in our Library).

Goldhill, Simon & Robin Osborne, edd., Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Proceedings of the conference held in Cambridge in July 1996 on the ancient Greek cultural phenomenon (specifically during the 5th and 4th century BC) seen through the versatile and modern approach of ‘performance studies’. In the introduction, Simon Goldhill traces the history of the meaning of performance to the works of philosophers such as Bachtin, Foucault and J.L. Austin, and anthropologists such as E. Goffman and V. Turner; he points out how this concept has expanded its meaning in the last years, being made to include not just theatrical presentations or religious rites but also daily activities; finally, he puts the accent on the flexibility of the concept and its capacity to interrelate various different fields of cognitive science: anthropology, philology, dramatic art, musicology, sociology, psychoanalysis. The essays that follow, written by leading scholars such as Peter Wilson (his text on the role of the flute in Athenian life is of foremost importance), Oliver Taplin, Andrew Ford, Claude Calame and Athina Kavoulaki among others, discuss the various aspects of the Athenian democracy which are characteristic of a ‘performance culture’, and describe the performance mechanisms in drama, during feasts, at the gymnasium or at the law-court, that were meant to guide every good citizen – whether male or female, musician, rhetorician or philosopher-  in performing his/her role.

Gottschalk, H. B., Heraclides of Pontus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, c1980)

ΑThough Heraclides is mostly known for his theory on matter and his studies in astronomy (in this field a precursor to Aristarchos and Kepler) he nevertheless dedicated much time to the study of literature and music. A large part of the work by pseudo-Plutarch Peri Mousikis (On Music) which deals with the early stages of poetry and music is attributed to him. Gottschalk, in an admirable effort, reorganizes as far as possible the much fragmented extracts that have survived: in Heraclides’ extensive work Peri Mousikis (On Music, Gottschalk tells us, the divine origin of music is discussed, attributing every genre to a specific deity. The Muses play here a central role. Epic poets, such as Phimios and Demodocus, considered by Heraclides as historical figures, come next. These are followed by historical figures, Terpandrus for instance, and the various poets of Heraclides’ generation. There can be no doubt, Gottschalk maintains, that Heraclides, like most of the great thinkers of the Academic and Peripatetic tradition, preferred the ‘Old Music’, emphatically rejecting the innovations of what was termed ‘New Music’. H. B. Gottschalk –who died in April 2004- devoted himself mainly to the post-Aristotelian philosophy and to the Peripatetic School in general.

His monographs on Heraclides and on Stratonas of Lampsacus, figures that are still somewhat enigmatic to us, are priceless and thus far, unique.

Goutas, Dimitri & Andrew Barker et al., ed. & transl., Theophrastus of Eresus: Sources for his Life, Writings, Thought and Influence (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 2 τ.

Theophrastus of Eresus in Lesbos (ca. 370 – 285) was Aristotle’s disciple and succeeded him in the direction of the Peripatetic School. He followed in his master’s steps and devoted his life to the study and research of all available subjects (whereas later Aristotelians tended to choose specific fields of study).  This monumental work is the result of a ‘Project Theophrastus’ in which leading experts in the history of ancient science and philosophy compile for the first time all the available evidence and all the surviving fragments from Greek, Latin and Arab sources (ed. D. Goutas). The editing of the highly significant chapter on surviving music fragments (2nd vol.) is the work of Andrew Barker. Three titles relative to music are attributed to Theophrastus. Ptolemy, who quotes him extensively, informs us that Theophrastus hotly disputed the theory of Pythagorean origin that confers an arithmetic basis to the influence of music and that he supported quality over quantity in the rendering of music phenomena. It is to Theophrastus that is attributed the idea that music is “a movement of the soul which liberates the negative elements of feelings [kinisis tis psychis i kat’apolysin ginomeni ton dia ta pathi kakon]”; passions –or rather feelings- are what cause music in the first place and they explain the creation of music, in particular feelings of sorrow, pleasure and enthusiasm.

Lord, Albert B., The Singer of Tales, 2nd edition. - ed. S. Mitchell & G. Nagy, Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature 24 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000) and
____________, Epic Singers and Oral Tradition, Myth and Poetics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991)

The monumental Singer of Tales was first published in 1960 and the present work, beautifully edited by the Milman Parry Archive editors, Gregory Nagy and Stephen Mitchell, combines a 40th anniversary edition with the first publication ever of the audio-visual material which served as a basis for Parry’s and -his assistant- Lord’s work. Together with Epic Singers and Oral Tradition it gives a general view of the most important twentieth century theory on the origins and structure of Homeric epics. This theory makes use of ethnography and anthropology to introduce for the first time the element of orality and performance in the study of the Homeric question. Besides providing the hypothesis of the oral origin and the characteristic use of ‘formulae’ in the Homeric epics, Lord’s and Parry’s theory -  as Nagy and Mitchell point out- also provides the tools for the corroboration of this hypothesis, and is widely influential in the research field of a number of other issues.

σημειογραφία στην ά σειρά με ύμνο προς τον Ασκληπιό από τον περίβολο του ναού του στην Επίδαυρο (3ος αι. μ.Χ.), κ.ά. 

Murray, Penelope & Peter Wilson, edd., Music and the Muses: The Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

In the Proceedings of this colloquium held at Warwick University in 1999, we find leading figures that had contributed to the Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy (1999), among them Claude Calame, Andrew Ford and Peter Wilson, as well as other important researchers in the field of Ancient Greek Music: Eva Stehle, Robert Wallace, Eric Csapo and Andrew Barker. What these two highly important volumes of essays document, and that which emerges as a common methodological tool used by the researchers mentioned above, is the anthropological approach, regarding the origins, the interdisciplinary approach, regarding the essence of the Ancient Greek Music phenomenon. The modern meaning of the word ‘music’ is more of an obstacle than a bridge between us and the Greeks of Antiquity. Whereas in the 1999 volume the emphasis was put on the performance approach, the 2004 volume pinpoints the considerable –and not so obvious- significance of the word ‘mousikê’ in ancient Greek culture. The interweaving, as much in etymology as in cult ritual, of initiation, music and the sacred Muses - typical of a culture that has not been altered in the modern, post-industrial sense - is the subject of Alex Hardie’s article, which opens this collection of essays with a subject that comes closest to the general title. In the second thematic unit Eva Stehle, Claude Calame and Andrew Barker discuss music in drama. The third unit introduces the political aspects of music with what is the best and - to date- most thorough essay ever written on this subject: its author, Eric Csapo, overturns the centre of gravity in Stehle’s essay which refers to the influence of the theatrical element in music, and supplies the historical, social, aesthetic and political label of ‘New Music’. Robert Wallace’s essay in this same unit offers a completely original interpretation on the relation between the famous music theorist Damon and his most celebrated pupil, Pericles, and the reasons that led to his ostracism against the background of Athenian democracy (the interest shared by musicians and politicians alike in ways to influence the people). The volume has a fourth and last unit which discusses the part ‘mousikê’ played in the education of young people. Andrew Ford, in an interesting contrasting approach to the central subject of the volume, re-examines the traditional reading of the eighth book of Aristotle’s Politics focusing in the strict and modern sense of ‘music’ and its role in the Aristotelian programme for the ethical education of the young. The volume closes with an essay on dance in Xenophon’s Symposium, by Victoria Wohl, and with Penelope Murray’s article on the changes of emphasis in the historical itinerary of the Greek world on Muse-related subjects, “from the song culture of early Greece up to the centuries when prose was sovereign, that is to say until the centuries of the Second Sophistry” (389).

Nagy, Gregory, Greek Mythology and Poetics , Myth and Poetics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), και
____________, Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Nagy, Professor of Classic Literature and Comparative Literature and Director of the Harvard Centre for Hellenic Studies, combines linguistics and anthropology in an effort to formulate a theory on the creation, crystallization, and apperception of Homeric epics. In a series of articles and monographs, he has elaborated what he himself terms an ‘evolutionary’ model for the Iliad and the Odyssey, making use of the meanings of ‘synchrony’, ‘diachrony’ and ‘markedness’; he also points out the semantic distinction between ‘transcript’, ‘script’ and ‘scripture’ to differentiate the various phases in the dissemination of the Homeric epics (see ‘the five Homeric periods’ in Nagy 1996: 110 ff.). In the same monograph, in an attempt to circumscribe the part song plays in a culture defined by ‘orality’, he looks for analogies in the culture of troubadours in medieval Provence. In general terms, Nagy’s work is extremely useful to help us understand the role of music in the Ancient Greek social system, but also and more generally to grasp the relation between traditional music and ‘orality’, as well as to see how music fits in with poetry, drama and cult ritual, revolving on the central function of ‘performance’.

Poehlmann, Egert & Martin West, Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 2001)

This much-awaited edition of the surviving fragments of Ancient Greek Music, has now recently been published, fully edited, transcribed and commented by the authors, two international leading experts in the field of Ancient Greek Music. The authors point out in their prologue that the edition doesn’t comprise ‘Ormasia’ and the ‘Specimina musicae antiquae’(Kircher), nor the inscriptions which in the 90s Ch. Spyridis and D. Themelis had mistaken for music inscriptions. In this new edition, which supersedes the Poehlmann edition of 1970, the fragments are presented in the chronological order suggested by Martin West in his book on Ancient Greek Music (1992). Altogether, the number of genuine fragments turned out to be 61 instead of 35. Some of the more significant additions over the last years include: a fragmentary inscription from the sanctuary of the Carian deity Sinuri in Mylasa (first century BC), lyric fragments from Iphigenia in Aulis (Euripides, 3rd century BC), tragic fragments from the Oxyrhynchus papyri (3rd century AD), an inscription with music notation in the first line in a hymn to Asclepius from his temple in Epidaurus (3rd century AD).


All the photographs included in this presentation come from the catalogue “Gifts of the Muses” (Mouson Dora), an exhibition which was held at the Athens Concert Hall (01/07-15/09/2004)

Panagiotis Vlagopoulos
(translated by Maria Teresa Hildebrand)
 Athens, 1st October 2004

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