The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Music (continued)



Phrynlchus and jEschylus, were held by the critics to be unsurpassable models. What was added in subsequent times can hardly be called a new development of the art. Athens in her golden age was the central city where professional musicians met one another,—Athens the home of Greek dra­matic poetry. At this time vocal, combined with instrumental, music largely prevailed over instrumental music alone. The latter was chiefly limited to solo performances.

Ancient vocal music is distinguished in one important point from ours: throughout classical times part-singing was unknown, and there was at most a difference of octaves, and that only when men and boys sang in the same choir. Again, in classical times, the music was subordinate to the words, and was therefore necessarily much simpler than it is now. It is only in this way that we can explain the fact that an ancient audience could follow the musical representation of the often intricate lan­guage of the odes, even when the odes were sung by the whole choir. Critics regarded it as a decline of art, when, at the end of the Peloponnesian War, the music began to be the important element instead of the poetry. This change took place at first in single branches of the art, as in the solos (monocKce) in tragedy, and in the dithy-rambic choruses. Thenceforward ancient music, like modern music, raised itself more and more to a free and independent position beside that of poetry.

The first place among the various kinds of music was assigned to the indigenous clth&rodlce, which was connected with the first development of the musical art; and indeed stringed instruments were always more esteemed than wind instruments, in part on account of the greater technical difficulties which had to be overcome, and which led to musicians giving particular at­tention to them. Moreover, playing on the flute was limited to certain occasions, as its sound seemed to the ancients to arouse enthusiasm and passion [Aristotle, Politics, viii 3]. There is evidence that, on the one hand, the ancient theory of singing and of instrumentation (in spite of the primitive nature of the instruments) was brought to a high degree of perfection ; and that, on the other hand, the public must have possessed a severely critical judgment in matters of music. The characteristic feature of ancient music is the great clearness of its form, resulting, above all, from the extreme pre­cision of the rhythmic treatment.

[In ancient Greece there were certain kinds or forms of music, which were known by national or tribal names, Dorian, Phrygian. Lydian, Ionian, and .32olian. Of these the Dorian and Phrygian are regarded by Plato as representing the mean in respect of pitch, while the highest varieties of the Lydian (called Mixo-lydiau and Syutono-lydian) are contrasted with the Ionian and with the lower variety of the Lydian (after­ wards known asHypo-lydian), the last two being described as " slack," or low in pitch (Republic, p. 398, and Aristotle, Politics, viii 5 and 7). Each of these was regarded as expressive of a par­ ticular feeling. Thus, the Dorian was deemed appropriate to earnest and warlike melodies ; the Phrygian was exciting and emotional; the Mixo-lydian pathetic and plaintive. The jEolian was intermediate between the high - pitched Lydian and the low-pitched Ionian (Athenaeus, p. 624 e, f, and 526 The terms Ionian and ^olian fell out of use, and the following names were generally applied to seven forms of music, beginning with the highest in pitch and ending with the lowest:—Mixo-lydian, Lydian, Phry­ gian, Dorian, Hypo-lydian, Hypo-phrygian, and Hypo-dorian. These seven forms wera known as harmonice (harmonia meaning literally a "fitting" or " adjustment," hence the " tuning " of a series of notes, or the formation of a " scale "). They were afterwards known as Wnoi, or tr6poi, the Latin niodi, and our moods or " modes." But the term ''modes" is ambiguous. According to some authorities (Westphal and his followers) the ancient " modes " differed from one another as the modern major mode differs from the minor, namely in the order in which the intervals follow one another, the difference in the "modes" thus depending on the place of the semi-tones in the octave. Others suppose that the terms Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and the rest, were applied to different scales of the same " mode " in the modern sense of the term. Thus, Mr. D. B. Monro, in his Modes of Ancient Greek Music, 1894, maintains that, in the earlier periods of Greek music, (1) there is no distinction between " modes" (liar- monice) and " keys " (tonoi or tropoi); and (2) that the musical scales denoted by these terms were primarily distinguished by difference of pitch (p. 101). To the passages quoted by Mr. Monro from Plutarch (De Musica, co. 6, 8,15-17, 19), in support of the identity of the Greek " modes " and " keys," may be added Plutarch, de E apud Delphos. c. 10, where the " keys" (tonoi) are regarded as synonymous with the " modes" (harmonitx.).}

As the basis of every melodic series of sounds the ancients had the tetrachord, a scale of four notes, to which according to tradition the earliest music was limited. The heptachord consisted of two tetra-chords, as the central note was at once the highest of the first and the lowest of the second tetrachord. The heptachord was certainly in use before Terpander, who is said to have given to the lyre seven strings instead of four. [Strabo, p. 618. He really increased the compass of the scale from the two conjunct tetrachords of the

About | First | Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.