Tag Archives: Antiquity

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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Gluck and Winckelmann

Laocoön

“Sculpture, music, text: Winckelmann, Herder, and Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride” by Simon Richter (Goethe yearbook VIII [1996] pp. 157–71) considers Gluck’s opera in the context of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s writings on the statue known as Laocoön, widely regarded as the measure for classical beauty in the second half of the 18th century, and Johann Gottfried Herder‘s writings on the human voice as a common origin for both music and language.

According to Richter, Gluck’s Iphigénie enacts a musical version of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics, which in turn may have consequences for the way in which Iphigénie is performed, staged, and interpreted. Gluck is in every respect staging the allegorical triumph of his opera reform as the musical counterpart of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics.

This year we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Althertums (Dresden, 1764)! Winckelmann revolutionized the understanding of stylistic changes in Greco-Roman art and deeply influenced archaeological studies. His concept of edle Einfalt und stille Grösse (noble simplicity and quiet grandeur) put the excessive complexities of Baroque aesthetics to rest, influencing Gluck and others.

Above, the sculpture in question (click to enlarge); below, Véronique Gens as Iphigénie.

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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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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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Astérix and instruments

Astérix le Gaulois, a series of comics written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo between 1960 and 1999, received much acclaim for the attention to detail in Uderzo’s drawings of ancient civilizations.

Particularly interesting to an organologist are the illustrations of instruments—including carnyx, buccina, lur, bagpipe, harp, lyre, pipes, and drums—used by ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Gauls.

In the free online resource Musical instruments of antiquity as illustrated in “The adventures of Asterix the Gaul” Daniel A Russell compares Uderzo’s illustrations to photographs of period instruments and comments on their acoustic qualities, performance techniques, and the roles they played in their respective societies, both in real history and as experienced by Astérix and his friends.

Above, Uderzo’s depiction of a banquet accompanied by a kithara, a double tibia, and a frame drum (click to enlarge).

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Pitch perception B.C.E.

Although the notion of pitches being relatively high or low was well-established by the first century C.E., when Pliny used the terms summus, medius, and imus, there is no evidence that earlier Greek theorists espoused this metaphor. The terms νήτη (nētē, “down-located”) and ὑπάτη (hypatē, “up-located”) were used, but they referred to the physical placement of kithara strings, not to a spatial concept of pitch; in fact, the higher the pitch in our terms, the further down-located it was on the instrument.

The commonest adjectives for pitch in ancient Greek writings are ὀξύς (oxys, “sharp, piercing”) and βαρύς (barys, “heavy”). Ptolemy wrote that the former quality was a result of λεπτότης (leptotēs, “fineness”) and πυκνότης  (pyknotēs, “close spacing [of notes]”, and that the latter was caused by μανότης (manotēs, “thickness”) and  παχύτης ( pachytēs, “loose spacing”) . The idea of higher and lower sounds, and their eventual depiction as such in notation, was a later development.

This according to “The development of vertical direction in the spatial representation of sound” by Eleonora Rocconi, an essay included in Archäologie früher Klangerzeugung und Tonordnung: Musikarchäologie in der Ägäis und Anatolien (Rahden: Leidorf, 2002), pp. 389–392.

Many thanks to David Bloom for help with this post!

Related article: The perfect-pitch puzzle

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