The Cave of Hermes

Michael Levy - Composer for Lyre

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The Cave of Hermes

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This album, like so many other recent of my recent releases, uses snapshots from the vast palette of ancient Greek mythology to inspire the ancient-themed compositions, which once again, feature a range of recreated ancient Greek lyres, tuned in a selection of some of the original ancient Greek modes, whose distinctive qualities are further enhanced using just intonation.

The lyres in this album were all lovingly recreated in modern Greece, by Luthieros:

https://www.luthieros.com

The lyres include two custom made tortoise shell lyres, featuring naturally occurring tortoise shells from long deceased modern Greek land tortoises; foraged from the forests near Thessaloniki (no live animals were harmed!) & a selection of 'chelys' form (tortoise shell form) lyres, which although fashioned in the form of a tortoise shell, feature resonators made from wood over which the skin soundboard is stretched - these lyres possess a richer, deeper timbre, more suitable to accompany some of the simple vocal lines which feature in some of the tracks.

In my continuing efforts to create the evolution of a truly distinctive 'New Ancestral' music genre, throughout this project, I also attempt to further enhance the dreamy quality of the timbre of the recreated ancient lyre, with a subtle palette of contemporary studio effects, ranging from reverbs sampled from actual cathedrals & caves, to specific melodic phrases enhanced with dream-like echoes & delays.

Expected release: January 1, 2022

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    The Cave of Hermes

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    Song of the Tortoise Shell Lyre

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    Ode to Aura

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    The Radiance of Helios

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    The Yearnings of Pophos

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    The Nightmares of Melinoe

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    The Healing of Asclepius

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    The Scented Flowers of Persephone

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ANCIENT GREEK THEMED ALBUMS

Echoes of Ancient Greece

Michael Levy - Composer for Lyre

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Echoes of Ancient Greece

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Aiming to 'carry on where the ancient Greeks left off', this album features new music - for the recreated ancient Greek lyre!

Inspired by an idea to literally musically evoke snapshots from ancient Greek mythology, the selection of tracks attempt to convey the distinctive attributes of many of the long-forgotten deities of the ancient Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses...

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    Tears of the Hyades

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    The Song of Calliope

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    The Lyre of Thamyris

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    The Sensual Desires of Erato

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    Lamentations of the Algea

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    The Cosmic Wisdom of Urania

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    The Chronicles of Cronus

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    The Underworld of Hades

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    The Apparitions of Phantasos

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    The Gardens of Alcinous

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The Ancient Greek Lyre

Michael Levy

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The Ancient Greek Lyre

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Featuring both the actual music of ancient Greece & original compositions in the original ancient Greek Modes, as described in the writings Plato & Aristotle, performed on a replica of the Kithara Lyre of the Ancient Greeks...

This unique album features 6 examples of some of the actual music of ancient Greece & 6 original compositions for replica ancient Greek Kithara lyre, in some of the original ancient Greek Modes (as described in the writings of Plato & Aristotle, some 2400 years ago) The concept of this album & my previous album, "The Ancient Greek Modes", is to recreate the both the sounds of the musical modes once used in Ancient Greece & to restore the lost sounds of the ancient Greek Kithara - the large wooden lyre once favoured by the professional musicians of Ancient Greece...

THE ANCIENT GREEK MODES

The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names!

According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian E-E: Dorian A-A: Hypodorian D-D: Phrygian G-G: Hypophrygian C-C: Lydian F-F: Hypolydian

For what Plato & Aristotle themselves had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm

More interesting reading can be found at :

http://www.midicode.com/tunings/greek.shtml

ANCIENT LYRE-PLAYING TECHNIQUES

The lyre-playing techniques heard in this album, are authentically based on lyre-playing styles which have remarkably survived from Antiquity & which still can be heard today in the amazing lyres still played throughout the continent of Africa, where unlike the rest of the Western world, a precious remnant of the cross-cultural influences from the around ancient world have miraculously survived. For full details, please see the “Historical Details” section of my official website:

http://www.ancientlyre.com

Some of these lyre-playing techniques include the “block & strum” method, still practiced today by the Krar Lyre players of Eritrea in East Africa – this technique allows the player to strum rhythm & basic chords on the lyre, similar to an acoustic guitar. This technique entails blocking strings with the left hand which are not required and leaving open only the strings which form the required intervals, which then can be strummed with a plectrum in the left hand.

Ancient illustrations of Kithara players seem to infer that this technique was also prominent in Ancient Greece – many illustrations clearly depict the left of the lyre player blocking/dampening the strings with the left hand whilst strumming the open strings with a plectrum in their right hand.

I also demonstrate all the possible styles available on the Kithara. These include the use of tremolo (based on the style of Egyptian Simsimiyya Lyre Players still heard today), alternating between harp-like finger plucked tones played with the left hand, and guitar-like plectrum-plucked tones with the right hand, using basic finger-plucked intervals/chords with the left hand to form a basic harmonic background for the melodic line being played with the plectrum in the right hand (the surviving fragments of Ancient Greek music clearly imply a basic harmonic tonality to these ancient melodies (as opposed to simple folk melodies which can simply be accompanied by a drone).

THE 12 TRACKS

1) Lament of Simonides (Ancient Greek Musical Fragment - Arranged For Replica Kithara)

This lovely melody, written in the ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode, can possibly be attributed to the ancient Greek poet & musician, Simonedes of Keo .Simonides of Ceos (ca. 556 BC-469 BC) was one of the 9 great Greek lyric poets. He was born at Loulis on Kea. During his youth he taught poetry and music, and composed paeans for the festivals of Apollo. He was included, along with Sappho and Pindar, in the canonical list of nine lyric poets by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. Further details can be found at:

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Bios/SimonidesOfCeos.html

Although initially the piece sounds as if it is in the Ancient Greek Mixolydian Mode (the equivalent B-B on the white notes of the piano - not to be confused with the Medieval "Mixolydian" Mode, which is G-G!), the tonality of the melody actually implies the Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode (G-G). Maybe it is this ambiguity of tonality which creates the haunting, mystical feel of this beautiful ancient melody?

The lyrics:

Ἄνθρωπος ἐὼν μήποτε φάσηις ὅ,τι γίνεται αὔριον, μηδ᾿ ἄνδρα ἰδὼν ὄλβιον, ὅσον χρόνον ἔσσεται· ὠκεῖα γὰρ οὐδὲ τανυπτερύγου μυίας οὕτως ἁ μετάστασις

In English:

"You are a human, therefore seek not to foretell what tomorrow may bring, nor how long ones happiness may last. For not even the flutter of the fly's wing is as fast as change"

2) Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Anonymi Bellerman 97 - Arranged For Replica Kithara)

This beauiful melody, written in the haunting ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode, was preserved in several Byzantine manuscripts - Conspectus Codicum: V. Venetus Marcianus appl. cl. VI, saec. XIII-XIV N. Neapolitanus graecus III. C4, saec. XV F. Florentius Ricc. 41, saec. XVI

3) Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (POEM, MOR 1, 11f MIGNE 37, 523 - Arranged For Replica Kithara)

This brief fragment of ancient Greek melody, written in the ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode, was preserved in several Byzantine manuscripts - Athanasius Kircher (+1680), Musurgia Universalis 1650. Schema Musicae Antiquae. "Bibl. S. Salvatore, Messina, Silicia", "Bibliothecam Graecis Manuscriptus", 17th century.

4) Epitaph of Seikilos (Complete Ancient Greek Melody Composed by Seikilos, Son of Euterpe, 1st c. CE - Arranged For Replica Kithara)

Engraved on an ancient Burial Stele at Tralles, Asia Minor, this beautiful melody was discovered and published by Ramsay, 1883. Musical signs deciphered by Wessley, 1891. The stone itself, long preserved in the collection of Young at Doudja, disappeared after the burning of Smyrna (September 1923). It is now in the Copenhagen Museum, Inv. No. 14897.

This song, written in the ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode, is so far, the oldest complete piece of music ever found - unlike the other precious shards of ancient Greek music which have survived, this piece is unique, as it survived in its entirety. The ancient Greek burial stele on which it was found, , bore the following epitaph: "I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance".

The timeless words of the song are:

"Hoson zes, phainou Meden holos su lupou; Pros oligon esti to zen To telos ho chronos apaitei"

Translation - "While you live, shine Don't suffer anything at all; Life exists only a short while And time demands its toll"

5) The First Delphic Hymn To Apollo (Ancient Greek Melody c.138BCE - Arranged For Replica Kithara)

This substantial fragment of ancient Greek music was composed ca. 138 B.C. by an Athenian composer. It was discovered inscribed on a slab of marble in May 1893, in the ruins of the Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi. Now preserved in the Museum of Delphi: Delphi Inv. No. 517, 494, 499.

There are two Delphic Hymns that have been discovered, and they were dedicated to the god Apollo. The two Delphic Hymns have sadly not survived in their complete form. However, they do survive in substantial fragments...giving just a tantalizing taste of the glory of the tragically lost, magnificent musical culture of ancient Greece.

The two Delphic Hymns are dated c.138 BC and 128 BC. Recent musilogical research may indicate that both Hymns were actually written in 128 BCE: " They were long regarded as being dated circa 138 BCE and 128 BCE, respectively, but recent scholarship has shown it likely they were both written for performance at the Athenian Pythaides in 128 BCE (Pöhlmann and West 2001, 71–72). If indeed it dates from ten years before the second, the First Delphic Hymn is the earliest unambiguous surviving example of notated music from anywhere in the western world whose composer is known by name." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphic_Hymns)

My rendition here, is of the First Delphic Hymn. It is written in the unambiguous alphabetical musical notation system used in ancient Greece, whereby alphabetical notation describing the pitch of the melody, is written above the text of the song, as can be clearly seen in this image of the actual Delphic Hymn, as it was found, inscribed in marble:

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Delphic_Hymns

The rhythm can easily be inferred from the syllables of the text.

I have based my arrangement for solo replica Kithara, on the first half of the fragment, which is based around the ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode. The second half of the Hymn is highly chromatic, (the piece was written for vocal perfomance) and not really suitable for performance on solo enharmonically tuned lyre with limited number of strings. In order to play chromatic accidentals on a lyre, it is necessary to stop the string with the left hand to shorten it's length to achieve the required pitch - this technique can be heard towards the end of the melody, where one of the notes of the melody is required to be lowered a semitone.

The translation of the fragment of text which has survived of the this, the First Delphic Hymn to Apollo, is as follows:

"Hear me, you who posses deep-wooded Helicon, fair-armed daughters of Zeus the magnificent! Fly to beguile with your accents your brother, golden-tressed Phoebus who, on the twin peak of this rock of Parnassus, escorted by illustrious maidens of Delphi, sets out for the limpid streams of Castalia, traversing, on the Delphic promontory, the prophetic pinnacle. Behold glorious Attica, nation of the great city which, thanks to the prayers of the Tritonid warrior, occupies a hillside sheltered from all harm. On the holy alters Hephaestos consumes the thighs of young bullocks, mingled with the flames, the Arabian vapor rises towards Olympos. The shrill rustling lotus murmurs its swelling song, and the golden kithara, the sweet-sounding kithara, answers the voice of men. And all the host of poets, dwellers in Attica, sing your glory, God, famed for playing the kithara, son of great Zeus, beside this snow-crowned peak, oh you who reveal to all mortals the eternal and infallible oracles. They sing how you conquered the prophetic tripod guarded by a fierce dragon when, with your darts you pierced the gaudy, tortuously coiling monster, so that, uttering many fearful hisses, the beast expired. They sing too, . . . ."

6) Invocation To The Muse ( Mesomedes of Crete, c.130 CE - Arranged For Replica Kithara)

This haunting ancient Greek melody in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode, was preserved in diverse Byzantine Manuscripts: First printed edition by Vincenzo Galilei, 1581. Mesomedes -- Conspectus Codium: V. Venetus Marcianus app. cl. VI, 10, saec. XIII-XIV C. Parisinus Coislinianus graecus 173, saec. XIV N. Neapolitanus graecus III C4, saec. XV Ve. Venetus Marcianus graecus 994, saec. XIV O. Ottobonianus graecus 59, saec. XIII-XIV

7) Hymn To Hermes (Original Composition For Replica Kithara in the Ancient Greek Lydian Mode)

8) Mount Olympus (Original Composition For Replica Kithara in the Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode)

9) Ode To Aion (Original Composition For Replica Kithara in the Ancient Greek Phrygian Mode)

10) Ode To Aphrodite (Original Composition For Replica Kithara in the Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)

11) Paean (Original Composition For Replica Kithara in the Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)

12) Song of Syrinx (Original Composition For Replica Kithara in the Ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode)

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    Lament of Simonides (Ancient Greek Musical Fragment - Arranged For Replica Lyre)

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    Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Kolon Exasimon, Anonymi Bellermann 97- Arranged For Replica Lyre)

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    Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Poem. Mor 1, 11f. Migne 37, 523 - Arranged For Replica Lyre)

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    Epitaph of Seikilos (Complete Ancient Greek Melody Composed by Seikilos, Son of Euterpe, 1st Century CE - Arranged For Replica Lyre)

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    The First Delphic Hymn To Apollo (Ancient Greek Melody c.138 BCE - Arranged For Replica Lyre)

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    Hymn To The Muse (Mesomedes of Crete, c.130 CE - Arranged For Replica Lyre)

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    Hymn To Hermes (Original Composition For Replica Lyre in the Ancient Greek Lydian Mode)

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    Mount Olympus (Original Composition For Replica Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode)

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    Ode To Aion (Original Composition For Replica Lyre in the Ancient Greek Phrygian Mode)

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    Ode To Aphrodite (Original Composition For Replica Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)

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    Paean (Original Composition For Replica Lyre in the Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)

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    Song of Syrinx (Original Composition For Replica Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode)

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The Ancient Greek Kithara of Classical Antiquity

Michael Levy

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The Ancient Greek Kithara of Classical Antiquity

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The wonderfully recreated Kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece - the large wooden lyre favoured by the professional musicians of Classical Antiquity...

THE ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA OF CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY

The kithara was the highly advanced, large wooden lyre favoured by only the true professional musicians of ancient Greece, which reached its pinnacle of perfection during the “Golden Age” of Classical Antiquity, circa 5th century BCE. My album "The Ancient Greek Kithara of Classical Antiquity" features the wonderfully recreated Kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece - hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros:

http://en.luthieros.com/

Since late 2014, I have been collaborating with Luthieros in their inspirational "Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the wonderful lyres of antiquity back into the modern world, to make these beautiful instruments accessible to each and every modern musician.

This new series of recordings hopefully demonstrate why the kithara was so venerated in antiquity, as the instrument of the professional musician - perfect for both accompanying the human voice and for as an incredibly versatile solo instrument. In particular, I attempt to demonstrate the wonderfully reconstructed 2500 year old vibrato mechanism, for which there is an almost overwhelming body of visual evidence to support this theory.

THE OVERWHELMING BODY OF VISUAL EVIDENCE FOR THE VIBRATO MECHANISM

All original illustrations of the ancient Greek kithara clearly show what appear to be 2 tiers of inverted ‘U’ shaped curved springs beneath the yoke to which the strings are attached, with the top of the arms carved almost wafer thin, (often with projections which could certainly be interpreted as actual articulated hinges), which almost certainly was to allow for lateral movement of the yoke and the attached strings, complete with 2 vertical levers either side of the yoke, which if light lateral pressure was applied, would certainly have an eerie vocal vibrato effect. The mechanism could also be operated by pushing in either of the discs protruding either side of the yoke.

Academic articles which describe the feasibility of interpreting the complex structures seen on all illustrations of the ancient Greek kithara as a potential vibrato mechanism includes a paper by Pavel Kurfurst, “The Ancient Greek Kithara”(1992) :

https://web.archive.org/web/20151211214505/http:/digilib.phil.muni.cz/bitstream/handle/11222.digilib/112395/H_Musicologica_25-1990-1_2.pdf

“The ancient Greek kithara makers devised a number of systems for enabling the crossbar and weights to move in relation to the arms of the instrument. Judging from the dating of the iconograms in which type of kithara is shown, all of these systems seem to have been in use at the same time. But first let us turn to a description of how the instrument and its individual parts functioned. The crossbar and the weights, attached at the joints to the ends of the kithara arms, were able to rock out in both directions from the vertical axis of the instrument. Whenever this happened, the crossbar, which passed through the weights in such a way that it could move, shifted a few millimetres towards the body of the instrument. This resulted in a temporary shortening of the strings (or rather a decrease in their tension), and had the effect of lowering their pitch. Depending on how far the weights were rocked out, the pitch of the strings could be lowered smoothly by almost three tones, which meant that the player could employ endless number of tones ranging from the highest to the lowest pitched strings. The stability of the basic tuning of the kithara strings, i.e. when the weights were more or less perpendicular to the crossbar, was ensured by the continuous pull of the strings in the direction of the longer axis of the instrument as well as by the operation of the symmetrical spring mechanism linking the individual weights with their arms. The main function of the spring mechanism was to maintain this stability and to speed up the return of the weights to their original position after they had been rocked out”

This is how Kurfurst theorized how the vibrato mechanism could be set in motion:

“Basically there were two means of achieving this, each qualitatively different. In the first — the commoner, to judge by the iconograms — the player used his chin, nose or cheekbone to push against the disc fixed to the end of the crossbar, in this way moving it and the weights away from himself. At the same time, he kept the instrument in the same position relative to his body. At first the kinetic inertia of the relatively heavy weights would be too great for the force being exerted by the player, but once this had been overcome it would itself contribute to the smooth and relatively slow movement of the crossbar. When playing the instrument in this way, the kitharistes hat two possibilities. He could either shift the crossbar to certain points, thus producing precise tones (within the compass of the THE ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA), or achieve a glissando effect by continuing to move the crossbar smoothly. At the same time, the spring mechanism and the continuous pull of the strings would act to return the crossbar to its position of rest. With the second method of playing the kithara, a tremolo could be created, with either very slight variations in pitch or larger vibrations covering a range up to approximately three tones. The speed of vibration of the tremolo would have been proportional to the range it covered: the less the variation of pitch, the more rapid the tremolo and vice versa. When using this method, the kitharistes would set the weights oscillating by moving the whole instrument at right angles to his body, in this way making use of the inertia of the weights, which would have a tendency to remain in their initial position. After they had been set in motion, the weights and crossbar would be kept moving by impulses from the impact of the spring mechanism, as well as by occasional movements of the body of the kithara by the player. Of course it would also have been possible to play the instrument without making use of the movable mechanism; in this case, it would have been played like the lyre, barbiton or phorminx (which, in terms of its construction, was the kithara's closest relative).”

In this section of his paper, Kurfurst theorised that the vibrato mechanism could be operated by the momentum of the player maybe throwing the kithara forward. I would tend to disagree, due to my own practical experience of actually playing one – due to the strong downward pull of the combined tension of the strings (even with low tension gut, this would still be well over 100 Lbs), in order to let inertia displace the yoke and set into operation the spring vibrato mechanism, the discs either side of the yoke would have to be very heavy and made of metal: speaking as a practical musician rather than a musicologist, this would render the beautiful light and resonant construction of the kithara so top-heavy that the instrument would be virtually unplayable!

Also, if metal discs were used, then these would have survived the ravages of time, and many such discs would have been found in ancient Greek grave goods, where it is likely that revered musical instruments such as the kithara may well have been placed (surviving examples of the fragments of ancient Greek tortoise shell lyres have been found as grave goods, for example the remains of the Elgin lyre preserved in the British Museum) – no such curious metallic discs have ever been found.

EVIDENCE OF COMPLEX ARTICULATED PROTO-KITHARAS

  1. THE ANCIENT GREEK PHORMINX

Popular during the time of Homer (circa 8th - 6th centuries BCE), the phorminx was an earlier form of kithara, illustrations of which clearly with striking visual evidence of articulated arms, which looked like they moved on hinges. Also, many examples of the ancient Greek phorminx are shown with eyes painted around the sound-holes – maybe to give the impression that the instrument was almost human in the way it could create its haunting vocal vibrato effect?

THE ANCIENT MINOAN LYRES

Going even further back in time, to the ancient Minoan civilisation, circa 1500 BCE, there are illustrations of lyres with curious circular structures at the bottom of each arm, which certainly could be interpreted as flexible, articulated joints. As the specialist ancient musical instrument luthier Peter Pringle (http://www.peterpringle.com) pointed out:

There is a "picture of a seven stringed lyre painted onto the famous limestone sarcophagus known as the "Hagia Triada", now in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. This instrument is Minoan, and is 1000 years older than the Golden Age kithara we are familiar with.

Notice the unusual construction of the two pillars of this instrument with their large ring-shaped, curiously jointed, configurations. Remind you of anything? To my eyes, this instrument is obviously articulated, just like the kithara of 500 B.C.

I have looked over the writings of archaeologists and musicologists who have examined this marvellous artifact, and not one of them has suggested that the ‘O’ rings have any purpose whatsoever beyond simple decoration.

Archaeologist C. R. Long, who wrote an extensive treatise on the sarcophagus in the 1970’s, says in regard to this lyre, 'Size is a matter of space available rather than proportion in Minoan/Mycenean art. We cannot tell how large the Minoan lyre was…..The player holds it in his left arm, assisted by a sling around his wrist and around the outer arms of the instrument so that his left hand fingers are free to pluck or damp'

EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARTICULATED ANCIENT GREEK LYRES?

The circumstantial body of evidence for articulated ancient Greek lyres is so extensive and whose prototypes dates back so far into the ancient Greek archaeological record, that to me, applying the philosophical method of Occam's Razor here, given the available overwhelming circumstantial archaeological evidence we have in the form of countless, detailed ancient illustrations, the simplest explanation for these complex structures seen on these ancient Greek lyres, is that the ancient Greeks had developed an intricate vibrato mechanism based upon the idea of articulating the arms of their lyres, refined over a period of at least a thousand years, before reaching its most advanced form, in the glorious kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece.

To say that these structures seen on all of these images of ancient Greek kitharas and proto-kitharas are 'purely decorative' is like imagining an archaeologist of the distant future, in a world where the common wheel had been replaced by an instant transport system of teleportation, arguing that the 'curious circular structures' seen in a pictures of late 19th century bicycles were for decoration...

From the point of view of epistemology (the philosophical theories on how we are able to gain knowledge), in order to gain knowledge about any facts, we must already have a certain amount of experience of similar facts in order to interpret the new facts - with no experience of hearing or seeing an ancient Greek or Roman kithara performed for over 2000 years, we are in a very similar position to our 'future archaeologist scenario' in his inability to interpret the fact that the 'curious circular structures' seen on late 19th century bicycles were, in fact, the things we currently call 'wheels'!

THE LUTHERIOS RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA

To my knowledge, besides the Luthieros replica “Kithara of the Golden Age” there is only one other replica of a fully articulated replica of an ancient Greek kithara, which I have seen in a video presentation by Michalis P. Georgiou:

https://vimeo.com/69801992

The Luthieros kithara is also beautifully hand-made, by their master Luthier, Anastasios Koumartzis. The real beauty of the Luthieros replica kithara, is affordability – thanks to the dedication of the Luthieros team in their mission to enable any modern musician to learn to play the beautiful lyres of antiquity, it is now possible for any curious musician in the modern world, to own a hand-made, working replica of the kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece, for about the same price as a regular Fender electric guitar! Below is the wonderfully reconstructed working replica of the ancient Greek kithara, hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros, complete with its fully operational vibrato mechanism.

The vibrato mechanism can be operated either by light lateral movement of either of the vertical wooden levers at each end of the yoke, or a more subtle vibrato can be achieved by pushing the discs either side of the yoke. The adjustable metallic structures beneath the 2 vertical levers, (the ‘weights’ described in Kurfurst ‘s paper) resting directly above each of the springs balances and supports the full tension of the downward pull of the strings to equally match the upward force of the springs. Rather than relying on adjustable weights, (the system theorised in the paper by Kurfurst), the balancing mechanism on the Luthieros kithara can be adjusted with a simple screw thread. When the system is perfectly balanced, it only takes light finger pressure on either of the vertical levers to create a haunting vocal vibrato effect!

VISUAL EVIDENCE OF THE STATUS OF A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN IN ANCIENT GREECE?

Another incidental observation, regarding the 'rock star' status of the kithara player in ancient Greece, is a possible explanation to account for the curious vertical sash seen in almost all illustrations of ancient Greek kithara players, which hangs below the player's left hand and is often quite ornate in decoration.

I have my own theory regarding the vertical sash. As mentioned by Franklin, the ancient Greek kithara player was exalted just the way rock guitarists are in our own times, so much so, that actual kithara contests were common, in which the virtuosity of the kithara player was judged, Therefore, I think that instead of playing any practical role, (unlike the cord known as the 'telamon' which was used as a hand-strap to hold the instrument), the fact that the sash was often also quite ornate, may imply that it actually was an indication of the kithara player's status as a professional musician. in much the same way that a Judo belt indicates the proficiency of a Judo athlete? If there are any Classics scholars out there who could verify my theory regarding the sash, from any snippet of ancient literature which mentions it, do please let me know!

For full details on all my research into the kithara of ancient Greece and Rome, please also see my blog:

http://www.ancientlyre.com/the_kithara_of_ancient_greece__rome/

THE TRACKS ON THIS ALBUM

The main musical concept of the album is to imagine the sort of melodies which once may have accompanied recitations of some of the classic legends and epic poems of ancient Greece, which would have almost certainly have been accompanied by the kithara; the lyre of the true professional musicians of Classical antiquity. Indeed, almost all the great works of literature from ancient times were originally meant to be sang; the music giving weight and emotional emphasis to the text and in doing so, helping to convey its true meaning...

All the tracks in this album are original compositions, in a selection of some of the original ancient Greek musical modes, in the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity. Also, to subtly add to the exotic timbre of the replica Luthieros kithara, I have tuned the kithara with A at the slightly lower reference pitch of 432 Hertz – although I certainly do not adhere to all the ‘New Age’ nonsense currently clogging the Internet about this particular reference pitch, the subtly lower pitch certainly does enhance the richness of the lower register of this wonderful instrument, with its authentic gut strings. For more details on my philosophical investigation into the multiple claims made about 432 Hertz, please see my blog:

http://ancientlyre.com/blogs/is_432_hz_new_age_schmertz/

The ancient Greek kithara was quite literally, the ‘guitar’ of Classical antiquity – indeed, it is actually from the word “kithara” which we d...

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    Contemplations of Classical Antiquity

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The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre

Michael Levy

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The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre

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A tribute to the great philosophers of ancient Greece, performed on an inspirationally authentic replica tortoise shell lyre, hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros Ancient & Modern Music Instruments

THE ANCIENT GREEK TORTOISE SHELL LYRE

This album was inspired as a tribute to the great philosophers of ancient Greece, performed on an inspirationally authentic replica tortoise shell lyre, hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros Ancient & Modern Music Instruments, with an actual tortoise shell for the resonator and actual goat horns for the arms of this magnificent musical instrument of the ancient Greek gods!

Many of these compositions for solo lyre are in Plato’s personal favourite of the ancient Greek Modes – the ancient Greek Dorian Mode (equivalent intervals as E-E on the white notes of the piano and confusingly misnamed the ‘Phrygian’ mode by medieval scholars). According to Plato in his discussion of the ancient Greek Modes in “The Republic”, only the Dorian Mode has true moral worth, able to inspire bravery and indeed, what he considered to be the most ‘manly’ of the musical modes:

“Following the order of time, we come next to the passage in the Republic (p. 398), where Socrates is endeavouring to determine the kinds of music to be admitted for the use of his future 'guardians,' in accordance with the general principles which are to govern their education. First among these principles is the condemnation of all undue expression of grief. 'What modes of music (harmoniai),' he asks, are plaintive (thrênôdeis)?' 'The Mixo-lydian,' Glaucon replies, 'and the Syntono-lydian, and such-like.' These accordingly Socrates excludes. 'But again, drunkenness and slothfulness are no less forbidden to the guardians; which of the modes are soft and convivial (malakai te kai sympotikai)?' 'Ionian,' says Glaucon, 'and Lydian, those which are called slack (chalarai).' 'Which then remain?' 'Seemingly Dorian and Phrygian.' 'I do not know the modes,'says Socrates, 'but leave me one that will imitate the tones and accents of a brave man enduring danger or distress, fighting with constancy [Pg 8] against fortune: and also one fitted for the work of peace, for prayer heard by the gods, for the successful persuasion or exhortation of men, and generally for the sober enjoyment of ease and prosperity.' Two such modes, one for Courage and one for Temperance, are declared by Glaucon to be found in the Dorian and the Phrygian.” (Henry Frowde, “The Modes of Ancient Greek Music”, p.7-8)

From my own experience of composing new music for solo lyre in the original ancient Greek Modes, the ancient Greek Dorian Mode does indeed have a noble quality to it, but also, I find it to be intensely introspective – perfect for expressing my evocation of some of the concepts of ancient Greek philosophy through the magic of music!

This intensity is enhanced further in these recordings, by the use of the just intonation of antiquity. In just intonation, only whole number ratios are used to precisely divide up the musical scale, resulting in much more pure, symmetrical sounding musical intervals (in contrast to the slightly ‘shimmery’, out of phase beat wave effect created by the use of irrational number ratios for musical intervals heard in modern equal temperament.

According to an article on Greece in “The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians”, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian E-E: Dorian A-A: Hypodorian D-D: Phrygian G-G: Hypophrygian C-C: Lydian F-F: Hypolydian

For more about what Plato & Aristotle had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm

THE TRACKS

  1. The Age of Pericles – a spontaneous improvisation in the poignant, yearning ancient Greek Phrygian Mode, perfect for expressing an evocation of the lost world of the “Golden Age” of Athenian culture, which flourished under the leadership of Pericles (495-429 B.C.), a brilliant general, orator, patron of the arts and politician—”the first citizen” of democratic Athens, according to the historian Thucydides.

The Age of Pericles (461-429 BCE) denotes the period of history in which enabled the necessary conditions for Athens to rise as an academic and artistic superstructure which gave birth to Western Philosophy, in turn acting as the foundations of all we claim to know within our postmodern society and all its previous developments. Some have come to know this era as “The Golden Age” because in such a short period of time, advancements in all fields of practice flourished by merely by questioning the foundations in which knowledge was built from and if error was identified, correcting it by re-establishing the foundations in which its conception originated. The first track sets the mood of the album by strumming the foundations in which made this album possible.

  1. Plato’s Symposium – this improvisation is in the warm, contented and raucous sounding ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode - perfect for evoking images of an ancient Greek drinking party!

Plato’s Symposium was the after affects of a drinking party in which an account (ultimately of many other accounts) is presented about the meanings attached to romantic love (eros). Each would present their own educated ideologies and all was going well until Alcibiades crashes the party, drunk and declaring his undying love for Socrates, who did not reciprocate the feelings. This masterpiece is paid homage to in this spirited song which reflects the joys, disappointments and often time, chaotic nature of love.

  1. The Garden of Epicurus - this improvisation is in the dreamy sounding ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode - perfect for evoking images of the flowers and birdsong once seen and heard in the garden of this famous Philosopher. Epicurus' hedonistic and materialistic philosophy flourished and grew amidst the privately owned groves of this Garden. The Garden itself - apart from the city of Athens, a private space, which became a symbol for the detachment and hedonism of the Epicurean school.

Epicurus found meaning in everyday interaction. Experience the good things! What are truly those good things? Well that is what we need to ask ourselves. To him, forming a philosophically driven family based community and focused primarily on our relationships and intellectual development, we could obtain happiness in this life.

"The Garden of Epicurus" is a song attributed to the Epicurean Gardens in which Epicurus administered his school of philosophical investigations which revolved around developing strong relationships within close communities, materialism, and an ascetic form of hedonism which promotes satisfying all of our needs utilizing the bare minimum needed to fulfil those needs. He is famous for his tetrapharmakos which stood as his ingredients to make a happy and peaceful life: 1) don't fear God, 2) don't worry about death, 3) what is good is easy to get, and 4) what is terrible is easy to endure.

This track explores the serenity that likely would have been felt within his beautiful gardens of both physical and mental natures.

  1. Rhetoric of the Sophists – this improvisation features a repetitive and reoccurring motif, to represent the concept of an unyielding dogmatic view, with decorative runs to imitate the purely rhetorical ‘arguments’ so typical of the Sophists, which were used to support their dogmas (theories of truth founded on unchallengeable, basic beliefs i.e. dogmas, such as the existence of the gods etc)

The Sophists were ancient teachers who travelled seeking students who would study under them for financial compensation. Most of their teachings revolved around rhetoric: the art of forming and presenting sound and convincing arguments.

This track musically explores their approach, finding and repeating patterns which are in turn re-framed to fit into polar oppositions. The Sophists were often teachers for wealthy individuals on trial who had intentions to evade punishment by learning how to rearrange the facts by re-positioning the evidence to support alternative conclusions.

  1. The Life of Pyrrho - Pyrrho appears to have lived from around 365–360 BCE until around 275–270 BCE. Little can be vouched first hand from the life of Pyrrho as he followed in the Socratic tradition: a life dedicated to the dialectical approach, not invested into articulating one's thoughts into letters on a page. Much of what we know about him comes from the writings of Sextus Empiricus, a later Roman philosopher. Anecdotes include questioning whether the hole in the well was real while he carelessly played about it, provoking angry dogs, ignore precipices, etc...

Despite these rumours, he brought back from India, likely influences from teachings of the Buddha, a skeptical account on all matters. For one to attain ateraxia: a state of tranquil innermost peace, they first must consider every mode of belief to be incapable of imprinting any knowledge claim, incapable of producing an accurate account of how things truly exist. Every statement of truth can be proven nonsense, absurd, and/or infinite regress. From our limited perceptions, we do not currently possess the functionality to make truth statements which are not relative to our own shared experiences, a priori to experience itself.

This track explores many ways of looking at things without clinging to any particular thing. Although his views conflicted with any sort of epistemological inquires to be possible without first asserting something to be true without us knowing it to be true to begin with, there is no measure but the individual processing that measure. The result is to suspend judgement in all matters and from this pursuit, one will reach a state of ateraxia and transcend their sufferings, for those sufferings are but a result of an unfounded belief in some sort of existence and/or judgement about the things in which we experience.

The improvisation is in the introspective, questioning ancient Greek Dorian Mode, with unsettled melodic phrases which attempt to represent this train of thought - not committing to either one specific direction or another during the process of philosophical evaluation.

  1. The Paradox of Parmenides – an improvisation in the intensely introspective ancient Greek Dorian Mode, in my attempt to express the profound view of the apparently timeless nature of the universe, expounded by Parmenides and reinforced by the famous paradoxical arguments of his student Zeno:

“Zeno of Elea was an ancient philosopher who lived before Socrates and Plato. Zeno's teacher was named Parmenides, who believed and taught that the universe is one, and that its contents are unlimited. Parmenides, at the age of sixty five, is said to have met a young Socrates in Athens. Throughout history there have been many philosophers who have believed in the limitlessness of space, however, Parmenides uniquely taught that time is infinite, without beginning, end, or middle.

Parmenides believed everything must exist, which meant to him that change was an optical illusion of some kind. Since both past and future already exist, he argued that the passing of time must be unreal. And so Parmenides denied change, saying it was appearance only, and interestingly out of the same principle taught that existence or being is ultimately a oneness. Existence could not be created and was indestructible. He may have been the first western philosopher to describe the universe as a permanent single whole, rather than a product of many parts.... Zeno most notably responded by vigorously defending his teacher Parmenides with ingenious arguments about space and time. Zeno's most popular paradox was meant to show that change is impossible, because space is infinitely divisible. To explain, imagine we take an orange and hold it about waist high from a hard floor. Now we drop the orange. Unless we are in outer space, the orange will fall and smack the ground, coming to rest in contact with the floor. But why is the orange able to move through space if space is infinitely divisible...” (Parmendies and Zeno)

To distinguish Parmenides philosophical view of the nature of the universe from ancient Greek philosophical skepticism, there is a crucial difference – skepticism must remain separate from all modes of thought which assert knowledge of any types of truth statements. Parmenides was declaring to know the underlying nature of the universe: that it is one, uniform, unchanging, and imperishable. To a large extent built upon Pythagorean philosophy, Parmenides asserts the way of truth and the way of deceit. These are opinions in which present suppositions for us to consider right and wrong - whereas within skepticism there is little to no identification with what they are saying. A skeptical philosophy attempts to avoid any claims to truth. The questioning of the ultimate value of the natural sciences is nothing new to philosophical inquiries, from the ancient world to post modernity.

Socrates had many skeptical qualities but still held belief in the good, just, and divine. The 'new skepticism' of our modern society was reintroduced by Descartes who concludes with "cogito ergo sum" (“I think, therefore I am"), being the only thing that he can "know". But even this ends with a truth statement, for Descartes point was to strip away his preconceptions to find what he could know to be true (if anything). The ancient skeptics would consider a statement like this asserting more than is possible to the realm of human knowledge. Then again, the skeptics don't know anything so what do they ‘know’?

  1. The Death of Socrates – an improvisation in the intensely mournful ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode...

“The trial and execution of Socrates took place in 399 BC. Socrates was tried on two charges: corrupting the youth and impiety (in Greek, asebeia). More specifically, Socrates' accusers cited two "impious" acts: "failing to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges" and "introducing new deities". Socrates' death was the result of his asking philosophical questions. A majority of the dikasts (Athenian citizens chosen by lot to serve as jurors) voted to convict him. Consistent with common practice, the dikasts determined Socrates’ punishment with another vote. Socrates was ultimately sentenced to death by drinking a hemlock-based liquid” (“Trial of Socrates” - Wikipedia)

The death of Socrates was a horrific event in which Socrates was charged of impiety and corrupting the youth. His friend asked the Oracle who was the wisest man in the world. The Oracle replied, "Socrates". When news of this got back to Socrates, he rejected it, asserting that he indeed knew nothing and because of this, there was no way he could have been the wisest man in the world. He began to indiscriminately search for individuals who knew something and as he questioned them about their knowledge, he found that their beliefs are unfounded and rooted in the way they individually see the world, focused on the results and missing the foundational details.

This irritated some officials in which he publicly discredited and they charged him. At the trial he publicly stated his case and by majority vote was found guilty. His punishment was deemed death but Socrates also had friends in high places who arranged an escape plan in exile. But Socrates refuses, declaring that if the city he chose to spend most of his time in desires to punish him even with death, he must comply considering it was the city he invested his life into and has grown to love so much. Thus, Socrates passes as his goblet of hemlock takes fulfils its intended purpose.

This track attempts to show respect to the world's greatest philosopher who was murdered by the very people he was trying to help. Does this history echo in different situations throughout society?

CREDITS

Special thanks to Luthieros Ancient & Modern Music Instruments for recreating the wonderfully exotic, ancient timbre of the tortoise shell lyre of ancient Greece. The model of tortoise shell lyre featured in this recording is their “Kylix King of Lyre of Pan” – made for me as part of my ongoing collaboration with Luthieros in their inspirational “Lyre 2.0 Project” – dedicated to reintroducing the beautiful lyres of antiquity back into our much aesthetically poorer, bland modern musical world.

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    The Golden Age of Pericles

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    Plato's Symposium

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    The Garden of Epicurus

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    Rhetoric of the Sophists

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    The Life of Pyrrho

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    The Paradox of Parmenides

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    The Death of Socrates

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A Well Tuned Lyre - the Just Intonation of Antiquity

Michael Levy

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A Well Tuned Lyre - the Just Intonation of Antiquity

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Ancient Greek music performed on solo lyre, in the just intonation of antiquity...

This album features both new, original compositions for solo lyre & in my efforts to strive to reach nearer to the timeless perfection of the Music of the Spheres, “A Well Tuned Lyre” also features the development of some of my previous arrangements for lyre of the actual music of ancient Greece as heard in my album “The Ancient Greek Lyre” - transformed in this new compilation, by the use of the pure just intonation tuning system of antiquity...

MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

According to the ancient Greeks, as found in the writings of both Pythagorous & Plato, music literally reflected the harmony of the Universe – to them, the mathematical proportions of musical intervals were Universal Truths, as the Laws of Geometry – these truths are in philosophical terms, “Apriori” – even if there was no time or space & no creator of the Universe, the mathematical proportions of musical intervals would still be timelessly the same, just as the angles of a triangle would always, timelessly, add up to 180 degrees.

For the ancient Greeks, the harmony of the Universe to which the proportions of the musical intervals so reflected, was the concept of the Seven Celestial Spheres:

“The celestial spheres, or celestial orbs, were the fundamental entities of the cosmological models developed by Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus and others. In these celestial models the stars and planets are carried around by being embedded in rotating spheres made of an ethereal transparent fifth element (quintessence), like jewels set in orbs. Since the fixed stars did not change their positions relative to each other, it was argued that they must be on the surface of a single starry sphere”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_spheres

The concept of the “Music of the Spheres” is also referred to as “Musica Universalis” :

“ Music of the Spheres incorporates the metaphysical principle that mathematical relationships express qualities or ‘tones' of energy which manifest in numbers, visual angles, shapes and sounds – all connected within a pattern of proportion. Pythagoras first identified that the pitch of a musical note is in proportion to the length of the string that produces it, and that intervals between harmonious sound frequencies form simple numerical ratios.[1] In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum (orbital resonance) based on their orbital revolution,[2] and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear.[3] Subsequently, Plato described astronomy and music as "twinned" studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_universalis

This concept of the “Music of the Spheres” is further discussed in depth in the following fascinating article by Stephanie Chase:

“Pythagoras and his followers believed that a universal philosophy could be founded in numbers. They differentiated three types of music: the music of instruments, the music of the human body and soul, and the music of the spheres, which was the music of the cosmos.

The phrase “music of the spheres” refers to the intertwined relationship between the structures of music and those of the physical world, and a conscious awareness of mystical or spiritual qualities being transmitted through composed sound. According to Pliny, Pythagoras devised a literal “music of the spheres” by using musical intervals to describe the distances between the moon and the known planets. In his Timaeus, Plato took up the idea of a universal philosophy thorough numbers and their musical associations and devised a series that he termed the World Soul: 1, 2, 3, 9, 8, and 27. By using these as musical ratios (1:2, 2:3, 3:9, etc.) he created a series of musical notes that gave a default mathematical ratio for the half-step"

http://www.musicofthespheres.org/Whatismots.htm

A WELL TUNED LYRE

Building on the principles of the timeless proportions of musical intervals reflecting the harmony of the Universe, the Pythagorean's also took the concept of the Universal proportions of musical intervals to also reflect the proportions & principles of Justice, like a “well tuned lyre”:

“The Pythagorean's (among whom Plato must be counted) perceived a fundamental relationship between proportion and the principle of justice, in which "each part of the whole receives its proper due." They believed that the essential nature of justice could be understood through the study of continuous geometrical proportion (analogia) and through the study of the mathematical ratios of the musical scale, in which the two extremes of the musical scale are bridged through various types of mathematical proportion. Central to the Greek concept of proportion is the idea of finding "means" or types of mediation between extremes. In tuning theory, the Pythagoreans identified the arithmetic, geometric, and harmonic means which underlie the musical scale, as well as the perfect consonances of music, which are mathematical ratios: the octave (1:2), the perfect fifth (2:3), and the perfect fourth (3:4). The Pythagoreans likened a just and well-ordered society to a well-tuned lyre. While each note retains its individuality, all are proportionally linked together in a larger whole to form a musical scale, and all are interdependent in terms of their reliance on one another. (See Plato, Republic 443 D–444)”

(http://science.jrank.org/pages/10928/Pythagoreanism-Number-Cosmos-Harmony.html)

THE JUST INTONATION OF ANTIQUITY

Contrasting with the modern use of equal temperament, in antiquity, the universal proportions of musical intervals were in a ratio known as “just intonation” - a well-tuned lyre was tuned with crystal purity in just intonation, not the slightly out of tune modern equal temperament, to which the modern listener is so sadly accustomed to in the present era!

In just intonation, the pitch ratios between each semitone are very slightly different between each semitone, depending on the starting note of the scale.

The modern tuning system of equal temperament was devised to enable music to be performed in any of the 12 keys of the chromatic scale whilst artificially keeping an equal ratio of pitch between each of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale - which sadly has sacrificed the essential purity of tone, which can only be heard in the just intonation once used in antiquity. The annoying impurity of modern equal temperament can best be heard by the trained ear, when listening to the “woowoowoo” sounding beat waves generated by these artificially imposed equal temperament musical ratios, whenever a triad is played on a piano.

Below is a quote from Wikipedia, further explaining the basic difference between just intonation & equal temperament:

"In music, just intonation is any musical tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by ratios of whole numbers. Any interval tuned in this way is called a just interval; in other words, the two notes are members of the same harmonic series.

Justly tuned intervals are usually written either as ratios, with a colon (for example, 3:2), or as fractions, with a solidus (3 ⁄ 2). Colons indicate that division is not done, so it is the preferred usage in music: In practice, two tones, one at 300 Hertz (cycles per second), and the other at 200 hertz is a perfect fifth (3:2).

Just intonation can be contrasted and compared with equal temperament, which dominates western orchestras and default MIDI tuning. Equal temperament starts by arranging all notes at multiples of the same basic interval, but the intervals themselves are altered slightly, relative to just intonation. Each interval possesses its own degree of alteration. The process results in a tuning system where all intervals will have exactly the same character in any key."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation

I tune my lyre to just intonation by the method of Divisive Tuning. Although described in the writings of Pythagoras in his experiments at dividing a musical monochord, the divisive tuning system predates Pythagoras by thousands of years and may have evolved along with the origin of the long-necked lute in ancient Babylonia some 5000 years ago, according to John Wheeler:

"The long-necked lute (according to Curt Sachs) was invented in Babylonia, and indeed thanks to that fact divisive tuning was invented there also. Cyclical tuning was also known there (and that got documented long after his death by the famous theory and hymn tablets from Babylon and Ugarit), but there is this curious fact: the Babylonians used divisive tuning as the basis for their symbolic correlation of the pillar degrees of the octave (e.g., C-F-G-C') with the four seasons, while the Chinese used cyclical tuning as the basis for the symbolic correlation of the same. This (wrote Sachs) is consistent as Babylon was the "home" of the lute and China the "home" of the harp (even though Babylon knew of harps and lyres too and China, if memory serves, also knew the lute from very early times). Divisive tuning is the "natural" tuning of the lute, as cyclical tuning is the "natural" tuning of the harp and lyre, according to Sachs. By that he meant that it's easiest and most natural to tune, and then to play, folk instruments of those genres that way - as I can vouch as a working musician"

All the pieces in “A Well Tuned Lyre” use this sadly forgotten tuning system of just intonation – to try and evoke once more, the purity of the ancient Greek ideal of “The Music of the Celestial Spheres”...

THE ANCIENT GREEK MODES

All the tracks in this album feature the use of the original ancient Greek Modes. The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names!

According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian E-E: Dorian A-A: Hypodorian D-D: Phrygian G-G: Hypophrygian C-C: Lydian F-F: Hypolydian

For what Plato & Aristotle had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm

More interesting reading can be found at:

http://www.midicode.com/tunings/greek.shtml

THE TRACKS

  1. Music of the Celestial Spheres (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity) This piece is in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode – one of the favourite modes of the ancient Greeks, one of the qualities of this Mode, was thought to increase powers of concentration...

  2. Vapours of Delphi (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity) This piece is in the evocative ancient Greek Phrygian mode – in this piece, I try to convey the ancient mystery of the Vapours of Delphi:

“When the ancient Greeks and Romans had a question of great import, they travelled to the navel (omphalos) of the world, which they believed to be at Delphi, on the steep slopes of Mount Parnassus in Greece .

Mount Parnassus was Apollo’s mountain — the mountain of wisdom and music, the place where Apollo had given Orpheus his lyre and taught him to play it, a place that other artistic places (such as Montparnasse in Paris) still try to evoke today.

They climbed up the Sacred Way, past about 3,000 statues and various temples and shrines, until they reached the Temple of Apollo. Because Apollo could see the future, he would have the answer to any question, here at his temple.

And he gave his answer through a woman, the Pythia. She would sit above a chasm in the rock through which the god sent vapours (pneuma) that put the woman in a trance. Thus possessed, the Pythia would babble, and priests were at hand to transcribe her words into beautiful hexameter which they gave to the individual who had asked a question”

http://andreaskluth.org/2010/08/25/the-vapors-of-delphi/

  1. A Well Tuned Lyre (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

This piece is a heterophonic development of an earlier composition of mine, originally called “Apollo’s Lyre” (track 1 of my album of the same title, composed in the ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode. This is one of my personal favourite compositions. In this new arrangement, the tone is dramatically improved by my new hand-made lyre & the purity of the use of just intonation brings this piece one step closer, to the Music of the Spheres!

  1. Lament of Simonides (Ancient Greek Musical Fragment Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

This lovely melody, also written in the ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode, can possibly be attributed to the ancient Greek poet & musician, Simonedes of Ceos. Simonides of Ceos (ca. 556 BC-469 BC) was one of the 9 great Greek lyric poets. He was born at Loulis on Kea. During his youth he taught poetry and music, and composed paeans for the festivals of Apollo. He was included, along with Sappho and Pindar, in the canonical list of nine lyric poets by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. Further details can be found at:

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Bios/SimonidesOfCeos.html

The lyrics:

Ἄνθρωπος ἐὼν μήποτε φάσηις ὅ,τι γίνεται αὔριον, μηδ᾿ ἄνδρα ἰδὼν ὄλβιον, ὅσον χρόνον ἔσσεται· ὠκεῖα γὰρ οὐδὲ τανυπτερύγου μυίας οὕτως ἁ μετάστασις

In English:

"You are a human, therefore seek not to foretell what tomorrow may bring, nor how long ones happiness may last. For not even the flutter of the fly's wing is as fast as change"

  1. Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Kolon Exasimon, Anonymi Bellermann 97- Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

This beautiful melody, written in the haunting ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode was preserved in several Byzantine manuscripts - Conspectus Codicum:

  1. Venetus Marcianus appl. cl. VI, saec. XIII-XIV
  2. Neapolitanus graecus III. C4, saec. XV
  3. Florentius Ricc. 41, saec. XVI

  4. Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Poem. Mor 1, 11f. Migne 37, 523 - Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity).

This brief fragment of ancient Greek melody, in the mournful ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode, was preserved in several Byzantine manuscripts - Athanasius Kircher (+1680), Musurgia Universalis 1650. Schema Musicae Antiquae. "Bibl. S.Salvatore, Messina, Silicia", "Bibliothecam Graecis Manuscriptus", 17th century.

  1. Epitaph of Seikilos (1st Century CE - Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

Engraved on an ancient Burial Stele at Tralles, Asia Minor, this beautiful melody was discovered and published by Ramsay, 1883. Musical signs deciphered by Wessley, 1891. The stone itself, long preserved in the collection of Young at Doudja, disappeared after the burning of Smyrna (September 1923). It is now in the Copenhagen Museum, Inv. No. 14897:

This song, written in the ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode, is so far, the oldest complete piece of music ever found - unlike the other precious shards of ancient Greek music which have survived; this piece is unique, as it survived in its entirety. The ancient Greek burial stele on which it was found bore the following epitaph:

"I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance". The timeless words of the song are:

"Hoson zes, phainou Meden holos su lupou; Pros oligon esti to zen To telos ho chronos apaitei"

Translation -

"While you live, shine, Have no grief at all, For life exists for a short while - And time demands it's toll."

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    Music of the Celestial Spheres (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    Vapours of Delphi (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    A Well Tuned Lyre (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    Lament of Simonides (Ancient Greek Music Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Kolon Exasimon, Anonymi Bellermann 97- Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    Ancient Greek Musical Fragment (Poem. Mor 1, 11f. Migne 37, 523 - Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    Epitaph of Seikilos (Ancient Greek Music Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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    The First Delphic Hymn to Apollo (Ancient Greek Music Arranged for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)

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Apollo's Lyre

Michael Levy

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Apollo's Lyre

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Apollo was the Ancient Greek god of music, and above all, a Master of the Lyre. In this album, both the the Lyres & Musical Modes of Antiquity can be heard, once again...

According to ancient Greek tradition, Apollo was the god of music, and above all, a master of the lyre. Here is the fascinating background to this ancient Greek mythology...

“Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. The story is told in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. His mother, Maia, had been secretly impregnated by Zeus. Maia wrapped the infant in blankets but Hermes escaped while she was asleep. Hermes ran to Thessaly, where Apollo was grazing his cattle. The infant Hermes stole a number of his cows and took them to a cave in the woods near Pylos, covering their tracks. In the cave, he found a tortoise and killed it, then removed the insides. He used one of the cow's intestines and the tortoise shell and made the first lyre. Apollo complained to Maia that her son had stolen his cattle, but Hermes had already replaced himself in the blankets she had wrapped him in, so Maia refused to believe Apollo's claim. Zeus intervened and, claiming to have seen the events, sided with Apollo. Hermes then began to play music on the lyre he had invented. Apollo, a god of music, fell in love with the instrument and offered to allow exchange of the cattle for the lyre. Hence, Apollo became a master of the lyre” (quoted from Wikipedia).

The concept of this album is to restore the sound once more, the Lyres of Apollo – both the large wooden lyre, known in ancient Greece as the Kithara, once favoured by the professional musicians of ancient Greece, and the skin-membrane lyre, known in ancient Greece as the Lyra – the lyre made from a tortoise shell resonator, over which was stretched a soundboard of taut leather.

THE ANCIENT GREEK MODES

The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names!

According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian E-E: Dorian A-A: Hypodorian D-D: Phrygian G-G: Hypophrygian C-C: Lydian F-F: Hypolydian

For what Plato & Aristotle themselves had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm

THE REPERTOIRE

The repertoire in this unique album consists of a selection of original compositions based on ancient Greek scales. The album also features improvisations on an mystical Middle Eastern scale, Ancient Hebrew scales and an Ancient Egyptian scale...

1) “Apollo’s Lyre” – an original composition for replica Kithara-style lyre, in the Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode.

2) ”Ode To Orpheus” – an original composition on replica skin-membrane lyre, in the Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode.

3) “Hymn To Zeus” – an original composition on replica Kithara-style lyre, in the Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.

4) “Magic of the Ancients” – an improvisation on a mystical Middle Eastern scale:

EFG#ABCD#E

This scale and its variants are known as “Hijaz” modes.

5) “Ode To Athena” – an original composition for replica skin-membrane lyre in the Ancient Greek in the Hypodorian mode.

6) “The Holy Tabernacle” – an improvisation on the Ancient Hebrew “Ahava Raba” mode:

EFG#ABCDE

The ancient 3000 year old Hebrew “Kinnor” was almost identical to the later Greek Kithara – coincidence or tantilizing evidence of an ancient cross-cultural musical exchange of ideas? A fascinating possibility!

This lyre was the “harp” of King David, and it was later played by the Levitcal Ensemble in the Temple of Jerusalem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir...

7) “The Wisdom of Solomon” – an improvisation on the Ancient Hebrew “Misheberakh” scale:

EF#GAA#BC#DE

This same scale can be heard in an example of ancient Greek music, called “Tecmessa’s Lament” – coincidence, or yet more possible evidence of an ancient cross-cultural exchange of musical ideas?

Below is a modern orchestral arrangement of this unique ancient Greek melody:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rw0D-cCXYY

8) “Hymn To Horus” - this piece for solo kithara-style lyre, is based on a traditional Egyptian folk song. It is in the Natural Minor mode – which is very common in the Middle East, both now and in ancient times. During the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, over 3000 years ago, wooden lyres very similar to the later Kithara lyre of Ancient Greece were introduced to Egypt for the first time, most likely from the ancient Canaanites.

9) “Hymn To Hathor” – an improvisation on replica Kithara-style lyre, based on an ancient Egyptian minor pentatonic scale:

CEF#GB

The late Professor Hans Hickmann of the Museum of Cairo, deciphered this pentatonic scale from ancient Egyptian tomb illustrations, which represented an ancient system of musical notation called "Chironomy"; this is a system of hand gestures which were used, to denote both the pitch and ornamentation of a melody.

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    Apollo's Lyre (Composition In The Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode)

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    Ode To Orpheus (Composition In The Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)

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    Hymn To Zeus (Composition In The Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)

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    Magic of the Ancients (Composition In The Mystical Middle Eastern Hijaz Mode)

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    Ode To Athena (Composition In The Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)

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    The Wisdom of Solomon (Composition In The Hebrew Misheberakh Mode)

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    The Holy Tabernacle (Composition In The Hebrew Ahava Raba Mode)

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    Hymn To Horus (Based on a Traditional Egyptian Folk Melody)

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    Hymn To Hathor (Improvisation on an Ancient Egyptian Minor Pentatonic Scale)

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The Lyre of Apollo: The Chelys Lyre of Ancient Greece

Michael Levy

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The Lyre of Apollo: The Chelys Lyre of Ancient Greece

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The enchanting, ancient timbre of the Chelys - the tortoise shell form of lyre of ancient Greece...

This album is the culmination of an exciting collaboration between myself and Lutherios Ancient & Modern Music Instruments for their inspirational "Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the beautiful lyre of antiquity back into our much aesthetically poorer, bland modern world. Their vision is one I share and which continues to inspire me - maybe, some day soon, the beautiful lyre of antiquity will once again resonate the 21st century and beyond, with its haunting, ancient beauty.

"Lutherios" is comprised of of members of the Koumartzis family of specialist musical instrument makers who are based in Thessaloniki, Greece. Their "Lyre 2.0" project recently featured in an article in "Lifo Magazine" - one of the most widely read cultural magazines in Greece.

The lyre featured in this album is their handcrafted 'Lyre of Apollo III" model, a chelys form of lyre. The literal translation of the ancient Greek word "chelys" literally means "tortoise shell lyre", the lyre made with a tortoise shell resonator over which a soundboard of taut leather was stretched. However, as well as an actual tortoise shell, the term 'chelys' could also refer to a lyre with a resonator made of wood, but carved into the general form of a tortoise. Indeed, the latter would have produced a much richer tone, as wood is a far lighter and resonant material to construct a musical instrument from than a much denser tortoise shell, in addition to its irregular thickness. The 'Lyre of Apollo III' was therefore constructed in accordance the latter form of chelys.

The definitive proof that the resonator of the ancient Greek chelys was also sometimes made out of wood carved in the form of the tortoise shell can be found in this fascinating original ancient text by Philostratus the Elder, in his writings, "Imagines":

"All the wood required for the lyre is of boxwood, firm and free from knots – there is no ivory anywhere about the lyre, for men did not yet know wither the elephant or the use they were to make of its tusks. The tortoise-shell is black, but its portrayal is accurate and true to nature in that the surface is covered with irregular circles which touch each other and have yellow eyes..."

The word 'chelys' was said to have been invented by Hermes. Hermes, the messenger of the Olympian gods, is the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, daughter of Atlas and one of the Pleiades. According to the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (475) he was attracted by sounds of music while walking on the banks of the Nile, and found they emanating from the shell of a tortoise across which were stretched tendons which the wind had set in vibration. The story is recounted here, in a passage from 'Encyclopedia Mythica', which goes on to describe how the chelys became forever associated with Apollo, the ancient Greek god of music:

"According to legend, Hermes was born in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. Zeus had impregnated Maia at the dead of night while all other gods slept. When dawn broke amazingly he was born. Maia wrapped him in swaddling bands, then resting herself, fell fast asleep. Hermes, however, squirmed free and ran off to Thessaly. This is where Apollo, his brother, grazed his cattle. Hermes stole a number of the herd and drove them back to Greece. He hid them in a small grotto near to the city of Pylos and covered their tracks. Before returning to the cave he caught a tortoise, killed it and removed its entrails. Using the intestines from a cow stolen from Apollo and the hollow tortoise shell, he made the first lyre. When he reached the cave he wrapped himself back into the swaddling bands. When Apollo realised he had been robbed he protested to Maia that it had been Hermes who had taken his cattle. Maia looked to Hermes and said it could not be, as he is still wrapped in swaddling bands. Zeus the all powerful intervened saying he had been watching and Hermes should return the cattle to Apollo. As the argument went on, Hermes began to play his lyre. The sweet music enchanted Apollo, and he offered Hermes to keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre. Apollo later became the grand master of the instrument, and it also became one of his symbols"

MY EXPERIENCE OF PLAYING "THE LYRE OF APOLLO"

Inspirationally authentic - this was my first observation! In particular, the unique, exotic timbre of this lyre is mainly thanks to the much more authentically 'bench-shaped' bridge - much wider at the top and flatter than the standard guitar-style "A-shaped' bridges which feature on my other lyres.

The shape of the lyre bridge is really significant in the creation of the unique tone of the lyre, for whereas the modern guitar-style 'A-shaped' bridge is designed to be buzz-free, creating a pure, harp-like tone almost all detailed illustrations of ancient lyres seem to show the flatter, bench-shaped bridge, which creates a completely different tone!

The wider top of these 'bench-shaped' bridges creates a subtle but very pleasant 'buzz' to the overall timbre - rather like that of a sitar, or a much more subtle version of the begena, a lyre still played today in Ethiopia, where the inherent buzz of the archaic flatter lyre bridge has become the primary feature of the particular tone of this bass register 10-string lyre.

Every detail of this beautiful lyre has been designed with authenticity in mind, even down to the incredibly useful and aesthetically pleasing braided 'telamon' - the strap traditionally used to play the lyre with two hands simultaneously, which contrary to the prevailing prejudice for a belief in the 'urban myth' of the monotony of monophony in the ancient world, this is exactly how these beautiful instruments were indeed designed to be played in antiquity, as illustrated in countless actual ancient depictions of lyre players. All of these beautiful lyres, lovingly hand-crafted by Luthieros are indeed, divine artifacts, reintroduced into the modern world...

THE TRACKS

The tracks in this album feature a new composition for the first track, two examples of the actual surviving music of ancient Greece and adapted arrangements for “The Lyre of Apollo III” of eight of my existing compositions featured in some of my other albums for solo lyre – here, transformed by the exotic, ancient timbre of my beautiful chelys form lyre.

Throughout all of these tracks, the unique character of the original ancient Greek musical modes can be heard, further enhanced by the use of the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity:

1) The Golden Lyre of Erato – a new composition commissioned for this album, in the intense ancient Greek Hypodorian mode.

2) The Dark Lyre of Orpheus – adapted from my single “Orpheus’s Lyre: Lament For Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity”, this original composition is in the poignant sounding ancient Greek Phrygian mode, and attempts to evoke the tragic legend of how Orpheus, son of Apollo, lost his lover, Eurydice twice, first due to her tragic death by a the bite of a serpent, then again in his quest to rescue her from the Underworld, when just before they had ascended, he looked behind, only to have Eurydice snatched back to the dark realms of Hades forever…

3) Skolion of Seikilos – the famous first century ancient Greek drinking song in the warming ancient Greek Hypophrygian mode, preserved in its complete form for 2000 years on an ancient Greek burial stele. This piece features in different arrangements on several of my other albums, including “The Ancient Greek Lyre” & “A Well Tuned Lyre – The Just Intonation of Antiquity”.

4) Ancient Greek Music Fragment (Bellermann Fragment) – a magical ancient Greek music fragment in the dreamy sounding ancient Greek Hypolydian mode, this piece also features in my albums “The Ancient Greek Lyre” & “A Well Tuned Lyre – The Just Intonation of Antiquity”.

5) Apollo's Lyre – this original composition in the warm ancient Greek Hypophrygian mode, first featured as the opening track to my album, “Apollo’s Lyre”. In this album, and my similar albums “The Ancient Greek Lyre” and “The Ancient Greek Modes”, I attempted to recreate the sound of the ancient Greek Kithara – the larger wooden lyre favoured by the professional musicians of ancient Greece.

6) Ode to Ancient Athens – this original composition in the poignant ancient Greek Phrygian mode originally was entitled “Ode to Ancient Rome” which featured as track 1 on my album “Ode to Ancient Rome”.

7) Acheron (River of Sorrow) – this original composition in the mournful and intense ancient Greek Hypodorian mode, first featured in my album “The Ancient Roman Lyre” under its original Roman-themed Latin title of “Tristitia (Sorrow)”.

8) Hymn To Zeus – this original composition in the mighty and intense ancient Greek Dorian mode, first featured in my album “Apollo’s Lyre”.

9) Ode to Aphrodite – this original composition, in the intense ancient Greek Hypodorian mode, first featured in my album “The Ancient Greek Lyre”.

10) Contemplation of the Philosopher – this original composition, in the intense and introspective ancient Greek Dorian mode, first featured in my album “The Ancient Roman Lyre”, under the Roman-themed Latin name of “Contemplationis (Contemplation)”

11) The Sanctuary of Apollo – this original composition, in the warm-sounding ancient Greek Hypophrygian mode, first featured in my album “The Ancient Greek Modes”.

12) Ancient Visions – this original composition, in the poignant ancient Greek Phrygian mode, first featured in my album “Ancient Visions – New Compositions for an Ancient Lyre”.

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    The Golden Lyre of Erato

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    The Dark Lyre of Orpheus

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    Skolion of Seikilos (Ancient Greek Drinking Song)

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    Ancient Greek Music Fragment (Bellermann Fragment)

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    Apollo's Lyre

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    Ode to Ancient Athens

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    Acheron (River of Sorrow)

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    Hymn to Zeus

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    Ode to Aphrodite

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    Contemplation of the Philosopher

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    The Sanctuary of Apollo

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    Ancient Visions

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The Ancient Greek Modes

Michael Levy

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The Ancient Greek Modes

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The Haunting Refrains of the Ancient Greek Modes, as described by Plato & Aristotle, performed on a Replica of the Kithara Lyre of Ancient Greece...

INTRODUCTION

The concept of this album, is to recreate the both the sounds of the musical modes once used in Ancient Greece (as described in the writings of Plato & Aristotle) & to restore the lost sounds of the ancient Greek Kithara - the large wooden lyre once favoured by the professional musicians of Ancient Greece...

THE ANCIENT GREEK MODES

The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names!

According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian E-E: Dorian A-A: Hypodorian D-D: Phrygian G-G: Hypophrygian C-C: Lydian F-F: Hypolydian

For what Plato & Aristotle themselves had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm

More details can on the original Ancient Greek Modes can also be found here:

http://www.midicode.com/tunings/greek.shtml

THE REPERTOIRE

The seven original compositions arranged for replica lyre which form the repertoire of this album, are each written in one of the seven Ancient Greek Modes.

The lyre-playing techniques heard in this album, are authentically based on lyre-playing styles which have remarkably survived from Antiquity & which still can be heard today in the amazing lyres still played throughout the continent of Africa, where unlike the rest of the Western world, a precious remnant of the cross-cultural influences from the around ancient world have miraculously survived. For full details, please see the “Historical Details” section of my official website:

http://www.ancientlyre.com

THE LYRE PLAYING TECHNIQUES USED IN THIS ALBUM

Some of these lyre-playing techniques include the “block & strum” method, still practiced today by the Krar Lyre players of Eritrea in East Africa – this technique allows the player to strum rhythm & basic chords on the lyre, similar to an acoustic guitar. This technique entails blocking strings with the left hand which are not required and leaving open only the strings which form the required intervals, which then can be strummed with a plectrum in the left hand.

Ancient illustrations of Kithara players seem to infer that this technique was also prominent in Ancient Greece – many illustrations clearly depict the left of the lyre player blocking/dampening the strings with the left hand whilst strumming the open strings with a plectrum in their right hand.

I also demonstrate all the possible styles available on the Kithara. These include the use of tremolo (based on the style of Egyptian Simsimiyya Lyre Players still heard today), alternating between harp-like finger plucked tones played with the left hand, and guitar-like plectrum-plucked tones with the right hand, using basic finger-plucked intervals/chords with the left hand to form a basic harmonic background for the melodic line being played with the plectrum in the right hand (the surviving fragments of Ancient Greek music clearly imply a basic harmonic tonality to these ancient melodies (as opposed to simple folk melodies which can simply be accompanied by a drone).

To hear my arrangements for solo lyre, of some of these actual surviving melodies from Ancient Greece, please listen to my other albums, “An Ancient Lyre” & “The Ancient Greek Lyre” (also available from www.cdbaby.com & iTunes).

THE 7 TRACKS

1) “Spirit of the Kithara” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)

2) “Dancers of Dionysus” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode)

3) “Hymn To Poseidon” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)

4) “Procession of the Olympians” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Lydian Mode)

5) “The Sanctuary of Apollo” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode)

6) “The Oracles of Delphi” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Mixolydian Mode)

7) “Glory of the Parthenon” (Composition For Lyre in the Ancient Greek Phrygian Mode)

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    “Spirit Of The Kithara” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)

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    “Dancers Of Dionysus” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Hypolydian Mode)

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    “Hymn To Poseidon” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)

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    "Procession of the Olympians” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Lydian Mode)

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    “The Sanctuary Of Apollo” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode)

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    “The Oracle Of Delphi” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Mixolydian Mode)

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    “Glory Of The Parthenon” (Composition For Lyre In The Ancient Greek Phrygian Mode)

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Kithara of the Golden Age

Michael Levy

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Kithara of the Golden Age

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The enchanting sound of the kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece; the lyre of the professional musicians of Classical antiquity...

KITHARA OF THE GOLDEN AGE

The kithara was the highly advanced, large wooden lyre favoured by only the true professional musicians of ancient Greece, which reached its pinnacle of perfection during the “Golden Age” of Classical Antiquity, circa 5th century BCE. Both this album and my earlier release , "The Ancient Greek Kithara of Classical Antiquity" features the wonderfully recreated Kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece - hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros:

www.en.luthieros.com

Since late 2014, I have been collaborating with Luthieros in their inspirational "Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the wonderful lyres of antiquity back into the modern world, to make these beautiful instruments accessible to each and every modern musician.

This new series of recordings hopefully demonstrate why the kithara was so venerated in antiquity, as the instrument of the professional musician - perfect for both accompanying the human voice and for as an incredibly versatile solo instrument.

In particular, I attempt to demonstrate the wonderfully reconstructed 2500 year old vibrato mechanism, for which there is an almost overwhelming body of visual evidence to support this theory.

THE OVERWHELMING BODY OF VISUAL EVIDENCE FOR THE VIBRATO MECHANISM

All original illustrations of the ancient Greek kithara clearly show what appear to be 2 tiers of inverted ‘U’ shaped curved springs beneath the yoke to which the strings are attached, with the top of the arms carved almost wafer thin, (often with projections which could certainly be interpreted as actual articulated hinges), which almost certainly was to allow for lateral movement of the yoke and the attached strings, complete with 2 vertical levers either side of the yoke, which if light lateral pressure was applied, would certainly have an eerie vocal vibrato effect. The mechanism could also be operated by pushing in either of the discs protruding either side of the yoke.

Although there is no explicit reference to the vibrato mechanism seen in virtually all illustrations of the ancient Greek kithara, there are indeed subtle hints to its existence in some surviving examples of descriptive ancient Greek texts, as John Franklin, an associate professor in the Classics department of the University of Vermont had to say, during the course of a conversation with specialist ancient musical instrument luthier, Peter Pringle (www.peterpringle.com) :

“Preliminarily I would say that the concept (articulation) is very convincing. In fact it could make sense of several pieces of evidence I've wondered about for a long time. First, the term καμπή, which means literally ‘bend', but is used of modulating. The term is used by Aristophanes for instance of boys who in their lessons were introducing bends in the style of Phrynis, a famous concert kitharode in the 440's BCE. The boys of course must be using tortoise shell lyres; but it would make sense if they were trying to reproduce what they saw the “rock stars” doing, and I suppose one could might also bend the frame (arms, yoke) of the amateur lyre in a rough imitation of your system.

It would also help account for why all our ancient micro-tonal theory is expressed in terms of stringed instruments, because obvious with practice one can shoot for fine intonations. On the other hand, a Dutch early music performer who read my paper on Greek micro-tones told me that he has been experimenting successfully with using the higher overtones on the strings to establish the necessary intervals between one string and the next (that is, without requiring physical bends).”

Other academic articles which describe the feasibility of interpreting the complex structures seen on all illustrations of the ancient Greek kithara include a paper by Pavel Kurfurst, “The Ancient Greek Kithara”(1992) : web.archive.org/web/20151211214505/http:/digilib.phil.muni.cz/bitstream/handle/11222.digilib/112395/H_Musicologica_25-1990-1_2.pdf

“The ancient Greek kithara makers devised a number of systems for enabling the crossbar and weights to move in relation to the arms of the instrument. Judging from the dating of the iconograms in which type of kithara is shown, all of these systems seem to have been in use at the same time. But first let us turn to a description of how the instrument and its individual parts functioned.

The crossbar and the weights, attached at the joints to the ends of the kithara arms, were able to rock out in both directions from the vertical axis of the instrument. Whenever this happened, the crossbar, which passed through the weights in such a way that it could move, shifted a few millimetres towards the body of the instrument. This resulted in a temporary shortening of the strings (or rather a decrease in their tension), and had the effect of lowering their pitch.

Depending on how far the weights were rocked out, the pitch of the strings could be lowered smoothly by almost three tones, which meant that the player could employ endless number of tones ranging from the highest to the lowest pitched strings. The stability of the basic tuning of the kithara strings, i.e. when the weights were more or less perpendicular to the crossbar, was ensured by the continuous pull of the strings in the direction of the longer axis of the instrument as well as by the operation of the symmetrical spring mechanism linking the individual weights with their arms.

The main function of the spring mechanism was to maintain this stability and to speed up the return of the weights to their original position after they had been rocked out”

This is how Kurfurst theorized how the vibrato mechanism could be set in motion:

“Basically there were two means of achieving this, each qualitatively different. In the first — the commoner, to judge by the iconograms — the player used his chin, nose or cheekbone to push against the disc fixed to the end of the crossbar, in this way moving it and the weights away from himself.

At the same time, he kept the instrument in the same position relative to his body. At first the kinetic inertia of the relatively heavy weights would be too great for the force being exerted by the player, but once this had been overcome it would itself contribute to the smooth and relatively slow movement of the crossbar. When playing the instrument in this way, the kitharistes hat two possibilities. He could either shift the crossbar to certain points, thus producing precise tones (within the compass of the THE ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA), or achieve a glissando effect by continuing to move the crossbar smoothly. At the same time, the spring mechanism and the continuous pull of the strings would act to return the crossbar to its position of rest. With the second method of playing the kithara, a tremolo could be created, with either very slight variations in pitch or larger vibrations covering a range up to approximately three tones.

The speed of vibration of the tremolo would have been proportional to the range it covered: the less the variation of pitch, the more rapid the tremolo and vice versa. When using this method, the kitharistes would set the weights oscillating by moving the whole instrument at right angles to his body, in this way making use of the inertia of the weights, which would have a tendency to remain in their initial position.

After they had been set in motion, the weights and crossbar would be kept moving by impulses from the impact of the spring mechanism, as well as by occasional movements of the body of the kithara by the player. Of course it would also have been possible to play the instrument without making use of the movable mechanism; in this case, it would have been played like the lyre, barbiton or phorminx (which, in terms of its construction, was the kithara's closest relative).”

In this section of his paper, Kurfurst theorised that the vibrato mechanism could be operated by the momentum of the player maybe throwing the kithara forward. I would tend to disagree, due to my own practical experience of actually playing one – due to the strong downward pull of the combined tension of the strings (even with low tension gut, this would still be well over 100 Lbs), in order to let inertia displace the yoke and set into operation the spring vibrato mechanism, the discs either side of the yoke would have to be very heavy and made of metal: speaking as a practical musician rather than a musicologist, this would render the beautiful light and resonant construction of the kithara so top-heavy that the instrument would be virtually unplayable!

Also, if metal discs were used, then these would have survived the ravages of time, and many such discs would have been found in ancient Greek grave goods, where it is likely that revered musical instruments such as the kithara may well have been placed (surviving examples of the fragments of ancient Greek tortoise shell lyres have been found as grave goods, for example the remains of the Elgin lyre preserved in the British Museum) – no such curious metallic discs have ever been found.

EVIDENCE OF COMPLEX ARTICULATED PROTO-KITHARAS

  1. THE ANCIENT GREEK PHORMINX

Popular during the time of Homer (circa 8th - 6th centuries BCE), the phorminx was an earlier form of kithara, illustrations of which clearly with striking visual evidence of articulated arms, which looked like they moved on hinges. Also, many examples of the ancient Greek phorminx are shown with eyes painted around the sound-holes – maybe to give the impression that the instrument was almost human in the way it could create its haunting vocal vibrato effect?

  1. THE ANCIENT MINOAN LYRES

Going even further back in time, to the ancient Minoan civilization, circa 1500 BCE, there are illustrations of lyres with curious circular structures at the bottom of each arm, which certainly could be interpreted as flexible, articulated joints. As the specialist ancient musical instrument luthier Peter Pringle (www.peterpringle.com) pointed out:

“There is a "picture of a seven stringed lyre painted onto the famous limestone sarcophagus known as the "Hagia Triada", now in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. This instrument is Minoan, and is 1000 years older than the Golden Age kithara we are familiar with.

Notice the unusual construction of the two pillars of this instrument with their large ring-shaped, curiously jointed, configurations. Remind you of anything? To my eyes, this instrument is obviously articulated, just like the kithara of 500 B.C.

I have looked over the writings of archaeologists and musicologists who have examined this marvellous artifact, and not one of them has suggested that the ‘O’ rings have any purpose whatsoever beyond simple decoration.

Archaeologist C. R. Long, who wrote an extensive treatise on the sarcophagus in the 1970’s, says in regard to this lyre, 'Size is a matter of space available rather than proportion in Minoan/Mycenean art. We cannot tell how large the Minoan lyre was…..The player holds it in his left arm, assisted by a sling around his wrist and around the outer arms of the instrument so that his left hand fingers are free to pluck or damp'

EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARTICULATED ANCIENT GREEK LYRES?

The circumstantial body of evidence for articulated ancient Greek lyres is so extensive and whose prototypes dates back so far into the ancient Greek archaeological record, that to me, applying the philosophical method of Occam's Razor here, given the available overwhelming circumstantial archaeological evidence we have in the form of countless, detailed ancient illustrations, the simplest explanation for these complex structures seen on these ancient Greek lyres, is that the ancient Greeks had developed an intricate vibrato mechanism based upon the idea of articulating the arms of their lyres, refined over a period of at least a thousand years, before reaching its most advanced form, in the glorious kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece.

To say that these structures seen on all of these images of ancient Greek kitharas and proto-kitharas are 'purely decorative' is like imagining an archaeologist of the distant future, in a world where the common wheel had been replaced by an instant transport system of teleportation, arguing that the 'curious circular structures' seen in a pictures of late 19th century bicycles were for decoration...

From the point of view of epistemology (the philosophical theories on how we are able to gain knowledge), in order to gain knowledge about any facts, we must already have a certain amount of experience of similar facts in order to interpret the new facts - with no experience of hearing or seeing an ancient Greek or Roman kithara performed for over 2000 years, we are in a very similar position to our 'future archaeologist scenario' in his inability to interpret the fact that the 'curious circular structures' seen on late 19th century bicycles were, in fact, the things we currently call 'wheels'!

THE LUTHERIOS RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA

The Luthieros kithara is also beautifully hand-made, by their master Luthier, Anastasios Koumartzis. The real beauty of the Luthieros replica kithara, is affordability – thanks to the dedication of the Luthieros team in their mission to enable any modern musician to learn to play the beautiful lyres of antiquity, it is now possible for any curious musician in the modern world, to own a hand-made, working replica of the kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece, for about the same price as a regular Fender electric guitar! Below is the wonderfully reconstructed working replica of the ancient Greek kithara, hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros, complete with its fully operational vibrato mechanism.

The vibrato mechanism can be operated either by light lateral movement of either of the vertical wooden levers at each end of the yoke, or a more subtle vibrato can be achieved by pushing the discs either side of the yoke. The adjustable metallic structures beneath the 2 vertical levers, (the ‘weights’ described in Kurfurst ‘s paper) resting directly above each of the springs balances and supports the full tension of the downward pull of the strings to equally match the upward force of the springs. Rather than relying on adjustable weights, (the system theorised in the paper by Kurfurst), the balancing mechanism on the Luthieros kithara can be adjusted with a simple screw thread. When the system is perfectly balanced, it only takes light finger pressure on either of the vertical levers to create a haunting vocal vibrato effect!

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    Meditations of Polyhymnia

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    Hymn to Persephone

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    Demeter's Grief for Persephone

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    Song of Selene

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    Paean to Ares

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    Ode to Achyls

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    The Sack of Troy

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