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...
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:
More interesting reading can be found at :
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:
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:
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?
Ἄνθρωπος ἐὼν μήποτε φάσηις ὅ,τι γίνεται αὔριον, μηδ᾿ ἄνδρα ἰδὼν ὄλβιον, ὅσον χρόνον ἔσσεται· ὠκεῖα γὰρ οὐδὲ τανυπτερύγου μυίας οὕτως ἁ μετάστασις
"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:
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)
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:
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) :
“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
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:
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:
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:
The ancient Greek kithara was quite literally, the ‘guitar’ of Classical antiquity – indeed, it is actually from the word “kithara” which we d...