Cover and artwork by Anne Glynnis Fawkes

[HIDDEN TRACK! Venus by The Shocking Blue, played by ancient orchestra with lyrics adapted to Inanna, Astarte and Aphrodite Ourania/Wanassa]

[YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Mortisa Chasiklou. This is an instrumental version of an old Greek rembetiko song by Markos Bambakaris, rendered with "moog-zouki orchestra". The original was about a girl who was born in the hashish dens of Piraeus].


On this page are sample MP3s from a new CD which contains six new impressions of ancient Hellenic music, excerpts from Clouds, two tracks from Libation Bearers, and all the audio examples for my paper "Hearing Greek Microtones". Though it offers a retrospective of early— sometimes crude—experiments, its main purpose is to present more recent and polished efforts. These were developed for a concert-lecture entitled "Realizations in Ancient Greek Music: Beyond the Fragments" for the 2006 meeting of the International Study Group on Music Archaeology at the Ethnology Museum in Berlin. A paper detailing the methods, and several of the tracks, will be published in volume 6 of the DAI's Serie Studien zur Musikarch_ologie.

Each track exemplifies a different interplay of extant evidence and artistic license. By artistic license I do not mean free invention, nor merely invention informed by scholarly supposition—although there is a measure of both. Rather, I have tried to include in the realizations extraneous material—both musical and conceptual—which cooperates or contrasts suggestively with the ancient elements in each piece. Ancient and modern materials or ideas are freely combined where similar contextual details are mutually illuminating in some way. The presentation will include demonstrations of computer software normally used for popular music production, including MIDI sequencing, digital sampling and playback, and looping. Also presented will be a “virtual lyre” I have developed to reproduce precise microtonal measurements preserved in ancient sources; here ancient musical instinct may be resurrected more purely, without the intrusion of the modern aesthetic. The sound palette includes ancient fragments, microtones, samples of reconstructed instruments, ethnomusicological collections, and rhythmic gestures ‘transcribed’ precisely from modern Greek folk music. By placing known ancient material in diachronic dialogue with contemporary music, and/or synchronic dialogue with other ancient sources, one can produce music which, when not authentic, is both musically effective and has an appealing historical dimension of its own. The goal has been to fill the gap between certainty and ignorance with material which is not entirely arbitrary, but sympathetic to, and sometimes cognate with, an authentically ancient nucleus.


Tuning an Egyptian boat harp
(reconstructed by Robert Brown)
Photo: Anne Kilmer 1997








The Cyprosyrian Girl:
Hits of the Ancient Hellenes

This CD is an affectionate goof on—and sincere contribution to—the recent spate of ancient Greek music 'recreations', (re)fueled by P_hlmann and West's Documents of Ancient Greek Music (Oxford 2001). Please email me if you would like to buy a copy.

1) Mesomedes of Crete: Hymn to Nemesis. Early second century A.D. Mesomedes was a court composer to Hadrian. In my realization I have tried to evoke the military bands inspired throughout the Near East by the Neo-Assyrian machine (see "A Feast of Music"), like the Lydian ensemble, described by Herodotus, which accompanied Alyattes' march against Smyrna, and consisting of harps, bass and treble pipes (auloi), and panpipes. I have added drums because this seems to have been an Assyrian practice. The crowd in the background is itself a piece of music archaeology, coming from G. Lawson's classic "Sounds of the Roman World". It might be imagined as the local, angry Greek audience whom Alyattes deported en masse after destroying Smyrna. Nemesis herself hovers above Herodotus' moralizing account of the rise and fall of Lydia.

2) The Cyprosyrian Girl. This is largely a cover, performed on ancient instruments, of the rembetiko classic Frankosyriani by Markos Bambakaris. Rembetiko was born from the fusion of Athenian working-class music and that of Ionian Greeks expelled by the Turks in 1922 after the Greco-Turkish War. The situation is paralleled in antiquity by the Persian conquest of Ionia, which spurred an Ionian exodus and consequently an Ionian fashion in Athens, the most conspicuous leader of which was Anacreon. Similarly, at the end of the Late Bronze Age, Mycenaeans seem to have emigrated in large numbers to Cyprus, where they eventually took on characteristics of the indigenous population. My realization takes that situation as its background, and transposes the place names of Bambakaris to 12th century Cyprus, Cilicia and Ugarit. The distortion on the voice is an allusion to the poor quality of Bambakaris' original recording in the 1920s The greeting of the singer by a female admirer is a typical feature of early rembetiko recordings; the jew's harp (cosi detto) is also not unknown.

3) Lysander of Sikyon 1. Lysander is mentioned in ancient sources as the pioneer of virtuosic solo kithara playing. He seems to have used a range of showy techniques, including overtones and microtonal shadings. I recently took a sandouri improvisation from the brilliant collection Aiolis Lesbos; made a "MIDI score" of it by using waveform-editing to identify the precise attacks of each note; inserted corresponding MIDI notes in the Protools sequencer; compressed this material from a four-octave range to a seventh, eliminating accidentals and 'rotating' the scale to put the most frequent notes on scale degree four (= mes_); used the resulting MIDI data to 'drive' a digital sample of a reconstructed kithara which was tuned via the Virtual Lyre to the diatonic of Archytas. It has thus the living gestures of traditional Greek folk music, with authentically ancient intervals. The connection with Lesbos is also nice, given the importance of the island and its kitharodes in the Archaic period.

4) Sappho: Hymn to Aphrodite. No melody survives for this famous poem. But the ancient rhythm is preserved in the words' long and short syllables (though I have regularized the indeterminate positions in the first part of this 'Aeolic' structure). I then sing the accents according to the tendencies observable in many of the musical fragments. The pitchset I used forms part of the Mixolydian harmonia (as recorded by Aristides Quintilianus), to acknowledge to tradition reported in a fragment of Aristoxenus, that Sappho was its 'first inventor' (I mean, what the hell right?). The whole thing is set to a Rai or Bollywood accompaniment, suggesting either the Near Eastern dimension of ancient Greek music and/or its Indo-European heritage (LOL).

5) Athenaios: Paian. Second century B.C.E. Inscribed on Athenian treasury at Delphi. This remarkable piece begins in an archaizing style which harks back to the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., as known from Aristoxenus' discussion (in Pseudo Plutarch De musica) of the traditional libation music which was associated by fourth century musicians with the legendary aulete Olympus. There follows a section of the fully developed Hellenistic art music which grew from innovations of the late fifth century (the so-called New Music). In this track I have aimed for a reasonable degree of historical plausibility. The lyre tunings in the opening sections incorporate the enharmonic of Archytas.

6) Lysander of Sikyon 2. Same technique as #3, but this time with the mixolydian recorded in Aristides Quintilianus. A.Q. presents this in terms of quarter-tones, but some of these I have adjusted to lesser resonant relations (for the concept, see "Hearing Greek Microtones"). This follows the observation made by Winnington-Ingram ("The Intervals of Greek Music") in relation to Aristoxenus, i.e. that A's tone fractions actually conceal such relations as 5:4, 6:5, 7:6 etc. as known already to Archytas.

7) Euripides Orestes Fragment (Dance Remix) Part One

8) Euripides Orestes Fragment (Dance Remix) Part Two

The aulos melody of track 7 is one of the earliest extant fragments. I have set it to a sort of trip-hop beat. This piece I used as a prelude to the Choephori, and to accompany a phallic procession sequence in Clouds.While the melody is probably to be taken as enharmonic, I have opted for the chromatic version as having been made popular by Paniagua and Atrium Musicae. Track 8 is an extended improvisation on the theme, which I used as an Outro for both productions.