Science & Tech

Bringing back the ancient muses

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Scholar gives a voice to ancient music silent for millennia

The epic verse of Homer, the love poems of Sappho, the tragedies of Sophocles, and the comedies of Aristophanes – all were accompanied by music. Yet that music – its melody, harmony, and rhythm – has been almost completely lost to us. Almost, but not quite. A number of clues remain, and one scholar believes that he can fit them together and resurrect a music that actually can be played and sung. His name is Dimitrios Yatromanolakis and he is conducting his research as a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. “Almost any ancient Greek text we read today contains a reference to music. How can we understand this culture unless we understand its music?” Yatromanolakis asks. The reason the puzzle of ancient Greek music has remained unsolved for so long, Yatromanolakis believes, is that the necessary interdisciplinary approach has not yet been brought to bear on it. Up until now, the few scholars who have studied ancient Greek music have either been musicologists who lacked classical training and could not adequately interpret the ancient texts, or else classical scholars whose understanding of music left something to be desired.