Origins Of Western Music Essay

5469 Words22 Pages
Essays on the Origins of Western Music by John Smithers Essay Nr. 70: What was Ancient Greek Music Like? It is impossible for us now to recover the meaning of this dead music of ancient Greece. Henry S. Macran, 1974 When modern musicology was founded in the 19th century a decision was made that you can only study music if you have the actual music in front of you. It is for this reason that most books on Renaissance music, for example, are almost entirely limited to discussion of Roman Church music and the secular madrigal types. The fact is that relatively few men living in the Renaissance would have ever heard any of that music. Ironically, there are abundant contemporary sources which discuss in detail what Renaissance music practice was really like. This is the problem with ancient Greek music. From the Golden Age of Greece, the period of the lyric poets, Socrates, the great playwrights and Aristotle, no music survives. What has survived is a small body of melodies and fragments notated in a primitive alphabetic notation from only the most recent period of ancient Greece, the so-called “Roman Period of Ancient Greece,” (146 BC – 529 AD) a period long after the interesting centuries and a period identified by all writers as one of cultural decline. Therefore, music historians have generally thrown up their hands and declared that nothing can be known of Greek music. The quotation above is representative of that viewpoint. But a careful reading of Greek literature actually reveals much about ancient Greek music. First, there must have been similarities between the musical practice of the earlier civilizations of Egypt and ancient Greece. The relations between Egypt and Greece can be documented to very remote times, as, for example, in the case of Danaus, a probable brother to Amunoph III, who left Egypt and founded

More about Origins Of Western Music Essay

Open Document