Literature Modes of Ancient Greek Music

Modes of Ancient Greek Music

Modes of Ancient Greek Music
Catalog # SKU3606
Publisher TGS Publishing
Author Name D. B. Monro
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


The Modes of
Ancient Greek Music

D. B. Monro

The modes of ancient Greek music are of interest to us, not only as the forms under which the Fine Art of Music was developed by a people of extraordinary artistic capability, but also on account of the peculiar ethical influence ascribed to them by the greatest ancient philosophers. It appears from a well-known passage in the Republic of Plato, as well as from many other references, that in ancient Greece there were certain kinds or forms of music, which were known by national or tribal names-Dorian, Ionian, Phrygian, Lydian and the like...

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The word harmonia, 'harmony,' applied to these forms of music by Plato and Aristotle, means literally 'fitting' or 'adjustment,' hence the 'tuning' of a series of notes on any principle, the formation of a 'scale' or 'gamut.' Other ancient writers use the word tropos, whence the Latin modus and our mood or 'mode,' generally employed in this sense by English scholars. The word 'mode' is open to the objection that in modern music it has a meaning which assumes just what it is our present business to prove or disprove about the 'modes' of Greek music. The word 'harmony,' however, is still more misleading, and on the whole it seems best to abide by the established use of 'mode' as a translation of harmonia, trusting that the context will show when the word has its distinctively modern sense, and when it simply denotes a musical scale of some particular kind.

The rhythm of music is also recognized by both Plato and Aristotle as an important element in its moral value. On this part of the subject, however, we have much less material for a judgement. Plato goes on to the rhythms after he has done with the modes, and lays down the principle that they must not be complex or varied, but must be the rhythms of a sober and brave life. But he confesses that he cannot tell which these are (poia de poiou biou mimemata ouk echo legein), and leaves the matter for future inquiry.

2. Statement of the question.

What then are the musical forms to which Plato and Aristotle ascribe this remarkable efficacy? And what is the source of their influence on human emotion and character?

There are two obvious relations in which the scales employed in any system of music may stand to each other. They may be related as two keys of the same mode in modern music: that is to say, we may have to do with a scale consisting of a fixed succession of intervals, which may vary in pitch-may be 'transposed,' as we say, from one pitch or key to another. Or the scales may differ as the Major mode differs from the Minor, namely in the order in which the intervals follow each other. In modern music we have these two modes, and each of them may be in any one of twelve keys. It is evidently possible, also, that a name such as Dorian or Lydian might denote a particular mode taken in a particular key-that the scale so called should possess a definite pitch as well as a definite series of intervals.

According to the theory which appears now to prevail among students of Greek music, these famous names had a double application. There was a Dorian mode as well as a Dorian key, a Phrygian mode and a Phrygian key, and so on.

144 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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