On this day 100 years ago, a British excavation team exploring Egypt’s Valley of the Kings discovered a step that proved to be the beginning of a descending staircase. Thus began the opening of the first known largely intact royal burial from ancient Egypt— Tut’ankhamūn’s tomb.
Among the “wonderful things” that Howard Carter saw when he entered inner chamber 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 British Army 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 more than 3,000 years earlier.
The scene depicts Dame Music as she recounts to Dame Justice the torments she has undergone at the hands of certain musicians of the time: Melanippides seized, debased, and weakened her with 12 tones; Cinesias ruined her with badly composed modulations; Phrynis bent, twisted, and completely destroyed her by sounding all 12 tones on the kithara; and, most egregiously of all, Timotheus, with his shrill dissonances and sinfully high-pitched and piercing notes and whistles, crammed her with modulations just as a cabbage-head is crammed with caterpillars, depriving her of all decency with his 12 tones.
This according to “Studies in musical terminology in 5th-century literature” by Ingemar Düring, an essay included in Eranos Löfstedtianus: Opuscula philologica Einaro Löfstedt A.D. XVII kal. iul. anno MCMXLV dedicata (Uppsala : Eranos Förlag, 1945; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1945-34).
Being open-access and available online, it is able to offer excellent visibility and a fast processing time from submission to publication. The journal aims to provide an interdisciplinary forum to showcase state-of-the-art research challenges.
There is no restriction on the length of papers or charge for extra colors, etc. Electronic files supplying details of calculations and experimental procedures as well as sound files can be deposited as supplementary materials.
Above, the cover of the inaugural number; below, Paphos theater, one of the acoustical environments discussed in the issue (RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2019-5509).
Saint Jerome was born in Stridon, a Dalmatian city that was destroyed by the Goths during his lifetime. Its exact location is unknown, and could have been in either modern Croatia or Slovenia. Though not a theologian, Jerome is mostly known for his authoritative translations of many texts, most importantly the scriptures, with several translations of the psalter. In iconography he is often depicted as a desert hermit. He, in fact, spent half of his life in the wilderness, but he was still very much engaged in intellectual and ecclesiastical discussions and controversies.
Jerome’s writings are filled with musical references, sometimes allegorical, sometimes in reference to the liturgy, sometimes in the context of moral instruction. He occasionally inserted musical analogies into his missives, comparing himself to a boatman or a shepherd, whose song had a particular purpose. He also frequently recommended the singing of psalms to those seeking his guidance, and these instructions have shed light on liturgical practice of the time.
As regards the content of his advice, which was rigorous at times, the topic could range from directing women away from the company of singers (cantors) and questionable performers who might be encountered in Rome, where he spent several years. In a paragraph to the young widow Furia, he turns an image from the enjoyment of music that praises worldly pleasures to a counter action—suggesting that she become a singer, and timbrel and lute player, modelling herself on the image of Miriam, who musically celebrated the liberation of Israel in the book of Exodus.
This according to James McKinnon’s Music in early Christian literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 1997-1322).
Today marks the 1600th anniversary of Jerome’s death (and his birth into eternal life) in Bethlehem. Above, Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome writing.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses an astonishing bronze figurine, perhaps unearthed in Cyprus: a nude woman playing a pair of cymbals, standing on a frog (inv. no. 74.51.5680). It was probably the handle of a mirror, and the craftmanship is typical of ancient Laconia.
Scholars have never explained the relationships between all the represented elements, but the figurine is obviously related to ancient Spartan music, or at least to its soundscape.
We may wonder whether there is a link between the frog and the cymbals in terms of sound. Did ancient Greeks perceive the croaking as a percussive sound? In Greek antiquity, frogs seem to be associated with several types of instruments.
Since the figurine might come from Cyprus and it depicts a nude woman, it is usually interpreted as Aphrodite. However, if it is a Laconian piece of art, it seems more relevant to recognize here one of the main goddesses of Sparta, Artemis Orthia. She stands on a frog, because her sanctuary was located in the marshlands of Sparta, a place appropriate for batrachia. This place had a specific soundscape of croaking frogs and water sounds. Further, there are remains of feline paws on her shoulders; the archaic Artemis is the mistress of wild beasts.
In the sanctuary, archaeologists found cymbals and auloi dedicated to the goddess for apotropaic purposes. It may be opportune to compare this piece with Asian drums decorated with frogs, which were used to ask for rain fertility: perhaps the cymbals associated with croaking had the same function in ancient Spartan marshlands.
This according to “Croaking and clapping: A new look at an ancient Greek bronze figurine (from Sparta)” by Sylvain Perrot (Music in art XLIII/1–2  pp. 175–83)
Below, an illicit visit to the sanctuary.
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The early 21st century witnessed a surge of interest in comics and cinema regarding Classical antiquity, inspiring new studies in Classical reception. Heavy metal has also drawn on historical and mythological Classical material for subject matter, but this genre has received little attention from academics.
Classical reception in heavy metal illustrates an independent engagement with antiquity by the world outside academia, illuminating ways for scholars and students to better understand the impact of the field on contemporary media. Since the late 1970s Classical works, themes, and characters of Greek and Roman antiquity have inspired the lyrical, musical, and visual content of a number of heavy metal groups, with topics including works by Homer and Aeschylus, the founding of Rome, and the rise of the Principate.
This according to “Heavy metal music and the appropriation of Greece and Rome” by Osman Umurhan (Syllecta classica XXIII  pp. 127–52).
Above and below, Ex Deo, one of the groups discussed in the article.
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“Sculpture, music, text: Winckelmann, Herder, and Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride” by Simon Richter (Goethe yearbook VIII  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.
The main entrance to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’s exhibition Lou Reed: Caught between the twisted stars opens up on Lincoln Plaza, directly adjacent to the The Metropolitan Opera house. On a sunny day, the Met’s … Continue reading →
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →