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 Authentic ancient music

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Authentic ancient music   Thu 27 Aug 2015, 10:16

We really don't know for certain exactly what musical arrangements and styles our ancestors grooved to. Though we know a lot about the instruments that produced the sounds we know next to nothing about sequences, chords, scales and "empfindung" that pushed our forebears' euphonia buttons. In the days before musical notation, or at least a notation form that lends itself readily to modern interpretation, nothing much was left to allow us to know just how consistent musical pieces or choral works could even be - the folk tradition of more recent times would suggest that variation must have been the theme of the day.

However, having said all that, this has not stopped some stalwart musical archaeologists from delving into the extant otic artefacts in recent years and attempting to reconstruct from the fragments what once must have been. The Italian ensemble Synaulia (a Greek word used in ancient Rome to describe a musical group composed of wind instruments) have produced some great examples since their formation in the early 1990s, for example, of ancient Roman music. The following example "Synphoniaci" is an attempt to recreate what might have been heard accompanying a Roman Triumph in the late Republic and early Empire.



Any other good musical archaeology out there which could be assembled here?
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Thu 27 Aug 2015, 19:33

Hmmm ... not very catchy, is it?

For a Triumph? I get that a Triumph was supposed to be a religious occasion, but it was also a civic and military celebration, so while I accept the mournful tones of the lyre and the sistrum, I'm a bit surprised by the absence of drums and of the Roman brass section ... where are all the tubas, buccinas, cornus and vituus.

And what I wonder did the elite listen to during their exquisite dinner parties, or just to relax in private after a busy day in the forum? Surely if one had the money one could get a young castrato slave who was both a virtuoso on the harp as well as having a voice like a nightingale. Anything, my dear Clavdivs, rather than that dirge.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Thu 27 Aug 2015, 23:05

Isn't the Hurrian notation from Ugarit (decyphered by John Elliott Gardner inter alia) from about 1400 BCE usually regarded as the earliest known surviving music?
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Fri 28 Aug 2015, 08:47

Not my ancestors or yours, but I read that Maori have one of the longest musical histories of all.  They are now known for their harmony and beautiful singing, but when the first English settlers arrived they thought their music tuneless and just using semitones.  Apparently there were microtones in their music, so the variation was slight, but there.  This says something of them: Here

In recent years a man of Scandinavian extraction has become the foremost authority on traditional Maori music and their instruments.  They were most fond of flute-style,  but had percussion instruments and others.  I think you will be able to hear some of this.  There is another youtube featuring him but it goes for almost an hour so I don't expect any of us want to spend that sort of time on it. 
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Fri 28 Aug 2015, 12:25

One hears similar claims for sean-nós singing in the Atlantic coast communities in Ireland with some confidently stating that this traditional style has remained relatively unchanged for 5,000 years or more - predating even the Gaelic language by millennia! However as with folk music in general it is accepted that individuals have huge freedom to adapt and improvise at all times so while the general style might be said to have enjoyed some continuity no dependable claim to consistency in any other sense can be made without musical notation to back it up.

From what I have read in your links Nunns seems to be more intent on preserving instruments and musical pieces which are both running a real danger of becoming extinct than in demonstrating any particular antiquity with either. In archaeological terms he's more in line with those who fight hard to ensure that skills and traditions common to people only a generation or two ago don't disappear altogether. Synaulia above are more like those who find a sliver of flint and deduce an entire civilization. Both approaches are good though, and increasingly essential.

btw - I found the triumphal music of Synaulia quite uplifting and not dirge-like at all. Must be the years of exposure to drones, chanters, slides and bladders.

Here's a guy who for 40 years or more has been doing for Breton music what Nunns has been for the Maori equivalent. He was huge in Ireland back in the day too.



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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Fri 28 Aug 2015, 21:59

Ah yes - though I prefer


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpRE3NvBH4g

I suppose that David Munrow raised the awareness of medieval music, and he said that he drew much of his performing technique from South American folk music (after spotting a crumhorn on Thurston Dart's wall when at university piqued his interest in old music and its instruments)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlbRxEXQik0

Used to play this one on sopranino / soprano / alto / tenor recorders. Somewhere I should still have the quad-tracked recording I made many years ago.


Last edited by Gilgamesh of Uruk on Fri 28 Aug 2015, 22:20; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Fri 28 Aug 2015, 22:16

In the second verse of that song Gil, it sounds like he's saying "And she's a great big booby bird".
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Fri 28 Aug 2015, 22:22

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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Fri 28 Aug 2015, 22:31

So not far off then.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sat 29 Aug 2015, 20:54

The German group Musica Romana seem to be highly thought of (and whilst I'm not qualified to comment on authenticity I like it!). Here are a couple of tracks from their album Pugnate, which seeks to recreate the sort of music heard at the Games; a bit more upbeat that Nordmann's offering.

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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sun 30 Aug 2015, 18:53

It is written that ancient greek ships did not use a drumbeat - as in Charlton Heston, the  rowing slave  to make a rowing rhythm  but a double pipe flutist did something. Exactly what, I am unsure,  but a rhythmic beat is surely suggested and that must therefore have been used in other music of the time.
Since the paeons to Apollo at Delphi were worded in Delphic iambs they were surely sung in similar bars - and since the Delphic Games centered on music and poetry, it surely had many moods. 

Imagine today, rushing about a hall draped in a Union flag for getting a bronze in sonnets. After a drug test, that is.


Last edited by Priscilla on Sun 30 Aug 2015, 18:57; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Computer needing an upgrade - or chucking out)
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sun 30 Aug 2015, 19:09

Priscilla wrote:
It is written that ancient greek ships did not use a drumbeat - as in Charlton Heston, the  rowing slave  to make a rowing rhythm  but a double pipe flutist did something. Exactly what, I am unsure,  but a rhythmic beat is surely suggested and that must therefore have been used in other music of the time.

Apparently oarsmen in the Roman Navy used to sing to keep time. "Row, row, row your cataphract liburnian"?!
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sun 30 Aug 2015, 23:27

As in 'Yo Ho Heave Ho, Cicero?' How vulgar.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Tue 01 Sep 2015, 09:22

There is a problem with the aural mechanics of using solely a drummer - as any marching band even today is aware of, especially when it is absolutely crucial that everyone perform a particular action at exactly the same time. However getting everyone to play a known tune (or sing in time) gets around some of the difficulties imposed by the fact that the sound of a solitary drumbeat reaches some ears slightly quicker than others and - if the rhythm is unchanged over a long period of time - that the brain actually begins to ignore the sound, the owner's mind becoming susceptible to wandering as a result. Lack of concentration when almost 200 people need to be performing the same critical action with split-second timing could be catastrophic.

Far better to play a tune loudly and even better to play one that lends itself to participation by the men. In a row of individuals 40 deep the ability to synchronise voice and action increases when each person requires only to synch with an immediate neighbour. A song lends itself to this requirement. Also, in a system like a trireme where all 170 rowers were not necessarily required all the time to be rowing then a system of coded aural instructions imparted through musical cues also makes a lot of sense. The Spartans, we know, used the auletes' skills to keep phalanxes marching, jogging and even charging in time.

The aulos was no dainty flute either. Even scaled-down ones used in musical entertainments were formidable instruments that often required to be strapped to the auletes' heads. Those used on board triremes etc were probably even bigger again as they would have had to compete with distortions and disruptive resonance from the elements at sea.



But as to what they might have played - well, that's anyone's guess. The ASTRA project on the old GÉANT network managed to digitally reproduce the aulos sound but we simply haven't a clue as to what exactly was played on it except that the tunes must have lent themselves to mechanical rhythms within the scope presented by human arm and leg functions.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sat 03 Oct 2015, 15:59

On the subject of songs sung in the Roman Navy, I have just acquired a copy of Raffaele D'Amato's new book Republican Roman Warships 509-27 BC. It includes the text of the so-called Celeuma, a rowing song, attributed to Saint Colomban (AD543-615) but "probably derived from a very ancient one". Sadly the tune is lost, but I imagine something very simple but rhythmical:

Heia, viri, nostrum reboans echo sonet heia!
Arbiter effusi late maris ore sereno
Placatum stravit pelagus posuitque procellam,
Edomitque vago sederunt pondere fluctus.
Heia, viri, nostrum reboans echo sonet heia!
Annisu parili tremat ictibus acta carina
Nunc dabit arridens pelago concordia caeli
Ventorum motu praegnanti currere velo.
Heia, viri, nostrum reboans echo sonet heia!
Aequora prora secet delphinis aemula saltu
Atque gemat largum, promat seseque lacertis,
Pone trahens canum deducat et orbita sulcum.
Heia, viri, nostrum reboans echo sonet heia!
Aequoreos volvens fluctus ratis audiat heia!
Convulsum remis spumet mare. Nos tamen heia!
Vocibus adsiduis litus reduci sonet heia!

(Heia men, echo resounding send back our heia!
Placid lies the wide-spread floor of the sea: the tempest,
Calmed by the serene face of the ocean's arbiter, slumbers;
Under their sliding weight, conquered, the waves are quiet.
Heia men, echo resounding send back our heia!
Beat with your equal oar stroke, steadily shake the keelson!
Soon the smiling agreement of the sky with the sea shall allow us to run
Under our bellying sail, with the wind's swift motion.
Heia men, echo resounding send back our heia!
So that our emulous prow may cut the waves like a dolphin,
Row till the timbers groan and the ship leap under your muscles,
Backward our whitened path flows in a lengthening furrow.
Heia men, echo resounding send back our heia!
Sweeping the waves play the Phorci: sing we, however, heia!
Stirred by our strokes the sea foams; we still heia!
Voices unwearying, echo along the shore, sing heia!)
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sat 03 Oct 2015, 18:46

Any shanty that ends with "Sonet Heia!" is great in my book. Thanks so much for transcribing it in its entirety!

The Risør Shanty Kor here in Norway claim that some of their repertoire (an extensive one too) dates back to Viking times. But they also claim to be the oldest Shanty Choir in the world, which may attract some doubters from certain quarters (not least our own Gilgamesh, I imagine).
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Sun 04 Oct 2015, 16:00

This is a Viking song in the sense that its tune and lyrics (in Danish) date back to the very early medieval period, in fact it is thought it might indeed actually pre-date the period of Viking activity in origin but would have been well known to people during that time, primarily as a lullaby. Here is a snippet of Drømde mik en drøm i natt (I dreamed a dream last night)
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Mon 05 Oct 2015, 12:03

A composition by Francesco Landini from the 14th century;

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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Mon 05 Oct 2015, 12:15

The Byzantine abbess, Kassia, wrote this in the 9th century. Some of Kassia's works are still used in Orthodox liturgy today.


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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Wed 02 Mar 2016, 13:45

L'Homme Arme composed by Guillaume Du Fay and quite possibly performed at The Feast of the Pheasants;




Du Fay is on the left (as we look at it) of the picture at the beginning and end.


Burgundian cavalry;

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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Wed 02 Mar 2016, 15:32

Surely a little risky to claim Dufay "composed" that? It's about the most borrowed piece ever - around 40 Mass settings plus lots of others (perhaps "La Folia" is the other best claimant) and normally attributed to that most prolific of composers, Anon. You'd be on firmer ground with the "Lamentatio Sacrae Matris / O tres piteulx". Dufay and Binchois both worked more in the "formes fixe" common to C14th and C15th.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Wed 02 Mar 2016, 17:33

Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Surely a little risky to claim Dufay "composed" that? It's about the most borrowed piece ever - around 40 Mass settings plus lots of others
Here's one of the best recent interpretations:
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Wed 02 Mar 2016, 22:30

The practice of the time was to use a known (usually secular) tune as the tenor "cantus firmus" (tenor because it "holds" the tune, btw). Much like Henry VIII's "composition" of "Taunder Nacken" (a well known pre-existing Flemish tune) did, though it was more than a little passe by then:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4s7xnMRi04

The original tune is the red part - the florid blue and green accompaniment is probably Henry's own.


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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Wed 02 Mar 2016, 22:39

Triceratops wrote:
L'Homme Arme composed by Guillaume Du Fay and quite possibly performed at The Feast of the Pheasants;




Du Fay is on the left (as we look at it) of the picture at the beginning and end
The other culprit being Gilles de Binche aka Binchois.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Thu 03 Mar 2016, 07:04

Anglo-Norman wrote:
Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Surely a little risky to claim Dufay "composed" that? It's about the most borrowed piece ever - around 40 Mass settings plus lots of others.



Here's one of the best recent interpretations:




Thank you for posting that link, Anglo-Norman. I had never heard this before; it is real shiver-down-the-spine stuff.
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PostSubject: Re: Authentic ancient music   Thu 03 Mar 2016, 10:35

Somewhere on the interwebby tubes one can find a 1,000 male voice choir singing this. Bloody impressive.
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