Greek music

Greek music,

the music of the ancient and modern inhabitants of Greece.

Ancient Greek Music

The music of ancient Greece was inseparable from poetry and dancing. It was entirely monodic, there being no harmony as the term is commonly understood. The earliest music is virtually unknown, but in the Homeric era a national musical culture existed that was looked upon by later generations as a "golden age." The chief instrument was the phorminx, a lyre used to accompany poet-singers who composed melodies from nomoi, short traditional phrases that were repeated. The earliest known musician was TerpanderTerpander
, fl. c.675 B.C., musician of Lesbos, one of the earliest founders of Greek classical music. Upon somewhat doubtful evidence, Terpander is credited with having completed the octave and adding the sixth and seventh strings to the kithara.
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 of Lesbos (7th cent. B.C.). The lyric art of ArchilochusArchilochus
, fl. c.700 or c.650 B.C., Greek poet, b. Paros. As an innovator in the use and construction of the personal lyric, his language was intense and often violent. Many fragments of his verse survive. Bibliography

See H. D. Rankin, Archilochus of Paros (1978).
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, SapphoSappho
, fl. early 6th cent. B.C., greatest of the early Greek lyric poets (Plato calls her "the tenth Muse"), b. Mytilene on Lesbos. Facts about her life are scant. She was an aristocrat, who wrote poetry for her circle of friends, mostly but not exclusively women, and like
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, and AnacreonAnacreon
, c.570–c.485 B.C., Greek lyric poet, b. Teos in Ionia. He lived at Samos and at Athens, where his patron was Hipparchus. His poetry, graceful and elegant, celebrates the joys of wine and love. Little of his verse survives.
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 was also musical in nature.

In the 6th cent. B.C., choral music was used in the drama, for which PindarPindar
, 518?–c.438 B.C., Greek poet, generally regarded as the greatest Greek lyric poet. A Boeotian of noble birth, he lived principally at Thebes. He traveled widely, staying for some time at Athens and in Sicily at the court of Hiero I at Syracuse and also at Acragas
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 developed the classical odeode,
elaborate and stately lyric poem of some length. The ode dates back to the Greek choral songs that were sung and danced at public events and celebrations. The Greek odes of Pindar, which were modeled on the choral odes of Greek drama, were poems of praise or glorification.
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. The main instruments at this time were the aulos, a type of oboe associated with the cult of Dionysus, and the kitharakithara
or cithara
, musical instrument of the ancient Greeks. It was a plucked instrument, a larger and stronger form of the lyre, used by professional musicians both for solo playing and for the accompaniment of poetry and song.
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, a type of lyre associated with Apollo and restricted to religious and hymnic use. This classical style of composition decayed in the last quarter of the 5th cent. B.C.

After the fall of Athens in 404 B.C., an anti-intellectual reaction took place against the classical art, and by about 320 B.C. it was almost forgotten. The new style, which resulted in the rise of professional musicians, was marked by subjective expression, free forms, more elaborate melody and rhythms, and chromaticism. The chief musical figures were Phrynis of Mitylene (c.450 B.C.), his pupil TimotheusTimotheus
, c.450–c.357 B.C., Greek poet and musician of Miletus. An innovator in music, he added a string to the kithara. Fragments of his dithyrambs and nomes remain. Euripides wrote the prologue for his Persae, a lyric nome.
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 of Miletus, and the dramatist EuripidesEuripides
, 480 or 485–406 B.C., Greek tragic dramatist, ranking with Aeschylus and Sophocles. Born in Attica, he lived in Athens most of his life, though he spent much time on Salamis. He died in Macedon, at the court of King Archelaus.
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. Finally, ancient Greek music lost its vitality and dwindled to insignificance under the Roman domination.

There were two systems of musical notationmusical notation,
symbols used to make a written record of musical sounds.

Two different systems of letters were used to write down the instrumental and the vocal music of ancient Greece. In his five textbooks on music theory Boethius (c.A.D. 470–A.D.
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, a vocal and an instrumental, both of which are, though still problematic. They are decipherable largely because of the Introduction to Music written by AlypiusAlypius
or Alypios
, fl. c.360, Greek author of Introduction to Music, chief source of modern knowledge of Greek musical notation.
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 (c.A.D. 360). In spite of the prominent position of music in the cultural life of ancient Greece, only 15 musical fragments are extant, all which date from the postclassical period. Early in its history, Greek music benefited from the discovery, usually attributed to PythagorasPythagoras
, c.582–c.507 B.C., pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, founder of the Pythagorean school. He migrated from his native Samos to Crotona and established a secret religious society or order similar to, and possibly influenced by, the earlier Orphic cult.
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 of Samos, of the numerical relations of tones to divisions of a stretched string. The temperamenttemperament,
in music, the altering of certain intervals from their acoustically correct values to provide a system of tuning whereby music can move from key to key without unacceptably impure sonorities.
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, or Pythagorean tuning, derived from this series of ratios has been important throughout subsequent music history.

Modern Greek Music

Dormant for nearly two thousand years, Greek music underwent a musical rebirth in the 19th cent. with the works of the opera composers Nikolaos Mantzaros (1795–1872), Spyridion Xyndas (1812–96), and Spyros Samaras (1861–1917). Elements of nationalism are prevalent in the folklike songs of George Lembalet (1875–1945) and Manos Hadjidakis (1925–94). Introduced in Greece by Nikos Skalkottas (1904–49), serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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 has been composed by Yorgos Sicilianos and by Iannis XenakisXenakis, Yannis or Iannis
, 1922–2001, Greek-French composer, b. Brăila, Romania. Xenakis studied civil engineering in Athens (1940–47) and was active in the anti-Nazi resistance.
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, who also writes electronic musicelectronic music
or electro-acoustic music,
term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the technological development of electronic instruments and the
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. During the late 20th cent. Greece's most popular composer was probably Mikis Theodorakis (1925–), whose opposition to military rule during the 1960s and 70s cost him several years of imprisonment and precipitated the banning of his operas, symphonic works, film scores (most notably for Zorba the Greek), and hundreds of songs.


See C. Sachs, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World (1943); E. A. Lippman, Musical Thought in Ancient Greece (1964).

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