“Suppose that 2,500 years from now all that survived of the Beatles songs were a few of the lyrics, and all that remained of Mozart and Verdi’s operas were the words and not the music,” the BBC News reported recently.
Have you ever thought about how the music of an ancient culture sounds? Would you be able to recognize it as music or would it sound like noise? I mean consider how un-musical one generation’s music sounds to an older generation. Does that difference get multiplied by a factor with each additional generation’s separation?
A musician and tutor at Oxford University, Armand D’Angour, believes he has been able to recreate the music of Ancient Greece, which is something that hasn’t been heard for thousands of years.
Besides reconstructing the music from historical clues, you would have to be able to build the instruments that were used to play the music.
D’Angour believes that the rhythm of the words used in the ancient songs mimics the rhythm of the original music.
“And now, 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 BBC notes.
The Greeks also worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals. That, along with the documents, has allowed D’Angour to reconstruct some of the music.
Recreating the instruments is simpler, though not without problems. Lyres, reed pipes and percussion instruments are described in ancient texts and can be seen in paintings and even archaeological remains.
In bringing the music back to life D’Angour has had to act as a historian. He has had to put aside modern beliefs of what constitutes music and approach this project with fresh ears.
Do you think he succeeded? Click on this link to the original BBC story and you can also play an audio clip of one of the songs that D’Angour recreated.