Category Archives: Antiquity

Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking

In 2016 Peter Lang launched the series Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking with The power and value of music: Its effect and ethos in classical authors and contemporary music theory by Andreas Kramarz.

The series publishes innovative studies on medieval culture broadly conceived—works espousing, for example, new research protocols, especially those involving digitized resources; revisionist approaches to codicology and paleography; reflections on medieval ideologies; fresh pedagogical practices; digital humanities; advances in gender studies; and fresh thinking on animal, environmental, geospatial, and nature studies. In short, the series will seek to set rather than follow agendas in the study of medieval culture.

Since medieval intellectual and artistic practices were naturally interdisciplinary, the series welcomes studies from across the humanities and social sciences. Recognizing also the vigor that marks the field worldwide, the series endeavors to publish work in translation from non-Anglophone medievalists.

Below, Dr. Kramarz engagingly introduces himself and his subject matter.

BONUS: In an example of Apollonian aesthetics cited in the book, Tamino controls the elements with his magic flute in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

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Museo universal, sobre sonidos mexicanos

museo universal

Museo universal, sobre sonidos mexicanos, a virtual museum of pre-Columbian Mexican tlapitzalli (aerophones), is universal because it does not include language-based information; all it requires is Internet access and the ability to use a computer mouse.

Clicking on an illustration takes the user to an enlargement of the image along with a sound file of a brief performance on the instrument and a spectrograph of the sound. Written in the standard HTML markup language, it can operate on all major platforms.

Above, a screenshot of part of the museum; below, a brief demonstration of pre-Columbian Mexican instruments.

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Telestes

horsemen and aulos

In 2014 Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali inaugurated the series Telestes: Studi e ricerche di archeologia musicale nel Mediterraneo with Musica, culti e riti nell’Occidente greco, edited by Angela Bellia.

The articles address new perspectives on the music of ancient Greece, including social factors and regional distinctions.

Above, a group of clowns with an aulos player; below, a compilation of lyre music.

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Teatro antico in scena

Quaderni...

In 2013 EDUCatt launched the series Teatro antico in scena with Quaderni per la messinscena dello Ione di Euripide, edited by Elisabetta Matelli.

The series is issued in collaboration with Kerkis: Teatro Antico in Scena, which also sponsors events promoting the study and broader reception of Greek and Roman theater.

Below, an affiliated production of Plautus’s Amphitryon.

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Tut’ankhamūn’s trumpets

Tut trumpet

Among the “wonderful things” that Howard Carter saw when he entered the newly discovered tomb of Tut’ankhamūn in 1922 were two trumpets—one made of silver, and one made of bronze.

Seeing the potential for an extraordinary recording, in 1939 the BBC persuaded the Matḥaf al-Miṣrī (Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) to schedule a world broadcast. The bandsman James Tappern was engaged to perform on the historic instruments.

In what some people saw as the notorious “curse of King Tut”, five minutes before the live broadcast was to begin the watchmen’s lanterns failed and the museum was plunged into darkness; but candlelight saved the day, and enthralled listeners heard what were presumably sounds last heard over 3,000 years earlier.

This according to “Recreating the sound of Tutankhamun’s trumpets” by Christine Finn (BBC news: Middle East 17 April 2001). Above, a photograph of Tappern at the museum. Below, a narrative fleshes out the story; the recordings of Tappern playing the trumpets begin around 10:45.

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Greek and Roman musical studies

greek & roman musical studies

In early 2013 Brill launched Greek and Roman musical studies, the first specialist periodical in the fields of ancient Greek and Roman music.

The journal will publish papers offering cultural, historical, theoretical, archaeological, iconographical, and other perspectives on music in Classical antiquity, and on its reception in later times (especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also more recent periods).

The Editorial Board will also consider contributions on music elsewhere in the Mediterranean region, including Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. Cross-disciplinary approaches are particularly appreciated.

Related articles:

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Flower world/Mundo florido

flowerworld

Ēkhō Verlag issued the first volume of the series Flower world: Music archaeology of the Americas/Mundo florido: Arqueomusicología de las Américas in 2012.

This bilingual series aims to raise the study of the music-related activities of the pre-Columbian Americas to a new level, with peer-reviewed studies of both past and living traditions, providing a platform for the most up-to-date information on the music archaeology of the New World.

Below, a brief film about the pre-Columbian instruments of Mexico.

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Marquis Yi’s instrumentarium

bronze-bells-marquis-yi-tomb

Dating from the 5th century B.C.E., the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng in Suizhou, Hubei, furnished some of China’s oldest musical instruments and earliest reliable musicological writings.

The instruments, found in two separate rooms, appear to represent two separate musical genres. Those in the large central chamber—65 bronze bells in graduated sizes ranging over more than five octaves, a large pole-drum and two smaller drums, seven large 25-string se (zithers), four sheng (mouth organs), two paixiao (panpipes), and two chi (transverse flutes)—match the description of a courtly ensemble described in the Shijing (551–479 B.C.);

The instruments in the smaller chamber containing the Marquis’s coffin—two mouth organs, one small frame drum, three se, and one five-stringed and one ten-stringed instrument—suggest a more intimate chamber genre such as that depicted in a 5th-century tomb in Shaoxing, Zhejiang. These two genres may correspond to the “old” music of the Zhou court (ca. 1050–256 B.C.) that Confucius preferred, and the “new” music of the surrounding states that he felt had a corrupting influence.

This according to “Different tunes, different strings: Court and chamber music in ancient China” by Jenny F. So (Orientations XXI/5 [May 2000] pp. 26–34). Above, replicas of the bells; below, a performance on the bell replicas and those of other instruments from the tomb.

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Varieties of love

krishna radha

Earlier treatises placed śngāra (love/the erotic) among the aesthetic qualities known as  rasas, but the 11th-century Śngāraprakāśa, attributed to Bhojarāja, King of Malwa (inset), was the first to assert its supreme importance.

RajaBhojThe treatise includes highly detailed typologies of love—for example, chapter 22 alone discusses 64 stages of love, each subdivided into 8 categories, each of which is then subdivided into 8 more categories, with hundreds of illustrations from poetic works in Prakrit and Sanskrit.

This according to “Bhoja’s Sringara prakasa: A landmark in the evolution of rasa theory” by V. Subramaniam (Sruti 190 [July 2000] pp. 37–41). Above, a classic image of Krishna and Radha in the moonlight; below, the legendary T. Balasaraswati’s depiction of Krishna’s childhood provides an embodiment of śṛngāra in bharata nāṭyam (filmed by Satyajit Ray).

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Prehistoric singing

Styles of singing in which pitch is fixed, categorical, and independent of loudness originated in prehistoric times as a by-product of the development of musical instruments capable of this loudness-pitch independence.

The physical and consequent acoustic properties of the voice suit it to producing a range of timbres and vocalizations in which pitch and loudness are correlated and not controlled independently. To sing a fixed pitch while varying loudness, singers must make compensations in the vocal mechanism.

This unnatural, albeit ubiquitous, singing was influenced by instruments. One of the advantages of pitch-loudness independence is in teaching infants to analyze vocalizations in a reductionist manner.

This according to “Did non-vocal instrument characteristics influence modern singing?” by Joe Wolfe and Emery Schubert (Musica humana II/2 [fall 2010] pp. 121–138).

Above, The singing maidens of Pottery Mound, a reproduction by Thomas Baker of an 800-year-old Anasazi image.Below, Ella Fitzgerald demonstrates how instrumental music can influence singing.

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