Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ancient Greek Musical Inscriptions

The blocks found here are from the southern outer wall of the Athenian treasury, in Delphi. They are incised with musical inscriptions, hymns to Apollo. These inscriptions are the oldest written notation of a melody. Between the verses, written in the Ionic alphabet, notes have been inscribed for both the choral and instrumental scores. The music for the instruments (cithara, lyre, flute) was written in combinations of characters and punctuation. 

The hymns were composed by Athenaios and Limenios and carved into the wall of the treasury in 128 B.C. Without division into stanzas or repetition of melody, the two hymns accompanied the sacrifices and religious ceremony with which Apollo was honoured by the procession of the Pythais, i.e. the Athenian official ambassadors and pilgrims to Delphi. The hymns were sung by a large choir accompanied by lyres and flutes. 

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