The musician and expert in classics at Oxford University Armand D’Angour has brought ancient Greek music back to life. The ancient Greek songs haven’t been heard for thousands of years, but the results aren’t very motivating. According to the musicologists and the historians, the recreation of music is a frightening task because, as we all know, the formal music notation has further developed over the course many years.
The research is based on some clues which Armand D’Angour has been studying. In his article for the BBC, he reminds us that the epics of Homer, the love-poems of Sappho and the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were all, originally, music. The actors sung to music following the lyre, reed-pipes and a variety of music instruments. Furthermore, in his article he spoke of the music itself.
According to ancient Greek history, the words themselves have music, rhythm, in the patterns of long and short syllables.
Nowadays, we know from the descriptions, the paintings and the archaeological remains that some instruments existed Giving us the opportunity to create the timbres and range of pitches they produced.
D’angour explains: “new revelations about ancient Greek music have emerged from a few dozen ancient documents inscribed with a vocal notation devised around 450 BC, consisting of alphabetic letters and signs placed above the vowels of the Greek words.”
The Greeks had worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals, for example an octave is 2:1, a fifth 3:2, a fourth 4:3. The first documents were published in 1581 and in recent decades we have found a lot of documents revealing quite a bit about the music. There is much to be learned about music in ancient Greece from documents dating from 300 BC to 300 AD.