The Ancient Library

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must have formed one of the most essential points of difference between the ancient and modern music. How the rhythm of mere instrumental music was regulated', or what variety it admitted, does not appear. There is no reason, however, to believe that music without words was practised to any extent, though it was certainly known ; for Plato speaks with disapprobation of those who used [A€\os Kal pvOfjibv &j/€v py/AciTcav, tyiXr) Ki9apiff€t re kcu av\7](T€i irpocrxp^/J-evoi {Leg. ii. p. 669), and others mention it. (Bb'ckh, iii. 11.)

On the two last of the heads enumerated in dividing the whole subject, very little real inform­ation can be obtained. In fact they could not be intelligibly discussed without examples, a method of illustration which unfortunately is never em­ployed by the ancient writers. MeragoAtj was the transition from one genus to another, from one system to another (as from disjunct to conjunct or vice versa ), from one mode to another, or from one style of melody to another (Euclid. 20), and the change was made in the same way as in modern

modulation (to which /jieraSoX'f] partly corresponds), viz. by passing through an intermediate stage, or using an element common to the two extremes be­tween which the transition was to take place. (See Euclid. 21.)

MeAoTroua, or composition, was the application or use of all that has been described under the pre­ceding heads. This subject, which ought to have been the most interesting of all, is treated of in such a very unsatisfactory way that one is almost forced to suspect that only an exoteric doctrine is contained in the works which have come down to us. On composition properly so called, there is nothing but an enumeration of different kinds of sequence of notes, viz. : — 1. 0170)777, in which the sounds followed one another in a regular ascending or descending order ; 2. tt\okj], in which intervals were taken alternately ascending and descending ; 3. TreTTeia, or the repetition of the same sound several times successively ; 4. rovf), in which the same sound was sustained continuously for a con­siderable time. (Eucl. 22.) Besides this division, there are several classifications of melodies, made on different principles. Thus they are divided accord­ing to genus, into Diatonic, &c. ; according to mode, into Dorian, Phrygian, &c. ; according to system, into grave, acute, and intermediate (viraroeiS-fis, VTiroeiotis, njL€<Toei$i}s). This last division seems merely to refer to the general pitch of the melody; yet each of the three classes is said to have a dis­tinct turn (rp6iros), the grave being traffic, the acute nomic (vo/j.ikos}, and the intermediate di-thyrambic. Again melody is distinguished by its tharacter (^0os), of which three principal kinds are mentioned, Siao-rahriKov, crv(TTa\rtK6v, and yav-%aem«:oz>,and these terms are respectively explained to mean aptitude for expressing a magnaminous and heroic, or low and effeminate, or calm and re­fined character of mind. Other subordinate classes are named, as the erotic, epithalamian, comic, and encomiastic. (Euclid. 21; Aristid. 29.) No account is given of ihefortnal peculiarities of the melodies distinguished by these different characters, so that what is said of them merely excites our curiosity without tending in the least to satisfy it.

The most ancient system of notation appears to have consisted merely in the appropriation of the letters of the alphabet to denote the different sounds of the scale ; and the only alteration made


in it was the introduction of new signs formed by accenting letters, or inverting, distorting, and mu­tilating them in various ways, as the compass of the scale was enlarged. A great, and seemingly unnecessary, complexity was caused by the use of two different signs for each sound ; one for the voice, and the other for the instrument. These two signs were written one above the other imme­diately over the syllable to which they belonged. They are given by several of the Greek writers, but most fully by Alypius. The instrumental signs appear to have been chosen arbitrarily; at least no law is now discoverable in them: but the vocal (which were probably more ancient) follow an evident order. The sounds of the middle part of the scale are denoted by the letters of the Ionian alphabet (attributed to Simonides) taken in their natural order ; and it is remarkable that these signs would be just sufficient for the sounds com­prised in the six modes supposed to be the most ancient, if the compass of each were an octave and they were pitched at intervals of a semitone above one another. Accented or otherwise altered letters are given to the higher and lower sounds. To learn the system perfectly must have required considerable labour, though its difficulty has been much exaggerated by some modern writers. (See Bockh, iii. 9.) A few specimens of Greek melody expressed in the ancient notation have come down to us. An account of them may be found in Bur-ney (vol. i. p. 83), where they are given in modern notes with a conjectural rhythm. The best of them may also be seen in Bockh (iii. 12) with a different rhythm. It is composed to the words of the first Pythian, and is supposed by Bockh to be certainly genuine, and to belong to a time earlier than the fifteen modes. Its merits have been very variously estimated ; probably the best that can be said of it is that no certain notion can now be ob­tained of its real effect as anciently performed.

It has long been a matter of dispute whether the ancients practised harmony, or music in parts. We believe there are no sufficient grounds for sup­posing that they did. The following are the facts usually appealed to on each side of the question. In the first place, the writers who professedly treat of music make no mention whatever of such a practice ; this omission constitutes such a very strong prima facie evidence against it, that it must have settled the question at once but for supposed positive evidence from other sources on the other side. It is true that (jLeXoiroua, which might have been expected to hold a prominent place in a theo­retical work, is dismissed very summarily ; but still when the subjects which ought to be explained are enumerated, /xeAoTroua is mentioned with as much respect as any other, whilst harmony is en­tirely omitted. In fact there seems to be no Greek word to express it ; for ap/j.ovia signifies a well ordered succession of sounds (see Burney,i. 131), and &vjjt.($>(i}via only implies the concord between a single pair of sounds, without reference to succession. That the Greek musicians were acquainted with (Tvjjicpoovia is proved by many passages, though we are not aware that they ever mention the concord of more than two sounds. But the subject of con­cord, so long as succession is not introduced, be­longs rather to acoustics than to music. There is, however, a passage (Arist. Probl. xix. 18), where succession of concords is mentioned: — Aia ri ?}

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