Music of Ancient Greece in Lyric Poetry

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Music of Ancient Greece in Lyric Poetry


Ancient Greek music remains one of the least chapters that got illuminated in the history of Greek Culture. Some studies reveal that music role in ancient Greece was more complicated than that of the nowadays music. Any person that likes to listen to enjoyable music today will always hear some old echoes of the new modern music, which the Greeks in ancient times termed as lyric poetry. However, the Greek tastes changed radically. This is after the epic age where poems were telling about extraordinary notable deeds. They started writing more short poems, which were telling about feasts and weddings. Lyric poetry is an ancient form of art, which is more significant than the romantic verses. Lyric poetry can be described as the most intense personal of all the art forms. In this paper, the lyric poetry rise gets reviewed. Music and its role in the poetry are also discussed. This is where we see the Greeks opened their eyes wide and turned the oral poetry into some fine arts. This is where they started performing their poetry, and most of the time such performances were accompanied by some instruments, mainly the lyre. This paper also discusses some prominent poets, including Sappho Archilochus, and Alkaios.

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Lyric can be termed as a verse or poem, performance of which can be accompanied by an instrument. A lyre was usually used in the ancient times. It is believed to express intense emotion of a person. Lyric poetry usually expresses feelings and thoughts of the poet; this type of poetry can be sometime contrasted with the narrative poetry and verse drama. The kinds of lyric that are considered the most notable were the elegies, odes and sonnets. In ancient Greece, they made an early distinction between the song that did express the sentiments of a single poet and the poetry, which was chanted by a choir (choral lyrics). Music became an integral part of Greeks` everyday routine. Music was highly regarded and became a commodity during private and public festivals. This was due to the believed fact that music was a highly complicated form of art and cultural expression.

Music in ancient Greece was sometimes inseparable from poetry and dancing. It was considered as entirely monadic. The reason behind this is the lack of harmony, which is commonly understood. Music was considered to be an essential element of the Greek life. Our knowledge of the ancient Greek music comes from three sources. The Greeks were familiar with many kinds of instruments. However, only three of them were favored for composition and performance. These included kithara, lyre and aulos, a double reed instrument.

Music and its Role in Lyric Poetry

The pre classical music age began in the 800 BCE. During this time, the Greeks were forced to open their eyes to the bigger world that was around them. This made the illiteracy, oral poetry and nostalgia for the already known heroes of yore to yield to the lyric poetry. It also led to writing and to the great love of innovation per set. Lyric poetry was spreading in the seventh century BCE rather across Greece quickly. This was especially among the significant Ionian populations. Despite having experiments with different modes, lyric poets and artists also used a lyre accompaniment when singing their songs. This was stringed equipment that was plucked with one hand. Homer did not have an evidence of it in any of his texts, thus he gave it the used name ‘lyric poetry’. The used lyre did not have the functions of a modern guitar. Lyric poetry finds a particularly appealing analog in modern rock music. Homer wrote two voluminous tales and short lyric poems. There is a resemblance between this and transition from singing opera to having rock and roll in today’s world. Lyre was an instrument, which influenced the shift to poetry in the pre-classical Greece. The modern guitar has led this same way to the revolution of rock and roll. These two arts do reflect their changing times. As the Greek community expanded, a class of merchants emerged there. This required the lyric poet to be termed and varied to suite the finest tempers of the nouveaux riches. Their moods showed that love was the center of everything, like in the modern world. This love could either be love lost and love found, love of joy and love of pain. The lyric poetry usually swells with excesses of the erotic yearning. This is because more than one of its existing poets was famous of antiquity excessive behavior, which included drunken escapades. This is usual for a modern day rock star. This history shows that to lose even one type of music that accompanied this genre can be a terrible loss. This is due to the fact that most of the initial power of an artist still comes through the words of Greek lyric poetry. This happens even without any sound track.

The annals of time make it clear that everything in today’s diversity in lyric based music and the modern day lyrics lies beneath the ruins and hills of ancient Greece. The Greek poets and dramatists believed that they were composing music that would accompany them for several centuries. This means that poetry and music started their journey since that time. One person who impacted greatly to this is Euripides. He set the format and positioning of the traditional chorus. These choruses evolved into the envoi in Renaissance ballads and the refrain in modern music. The dawning of the Renaissance era was eventually met with some people who were eager to unlock and free their hearts. They also wanted to free their minds and give themselves over to the pleasures of life. Their songs were meant to be always accompanied by some basic instruments, which included drum, flute and lute. They often salvaged them from older lyrics and tunes.

The early Christian church mode drew upon the famous ancient Greek modes. First, the Greek scale was used by the Gnostics in their incantations. This led to the fact that Byzantium not only adopted the Greek modes, but also adopted the verses of ancient poetry to praise the God of the new religion. Hymns of today’s Greek Orthodox Church saved unchanged the Byzantine tradition of the early church. This describes the relationship between the ancient Orphic hymns and the whole range of the Greek poetry, which were both Lyrical and Dramatic. The huge legacy of the ancient Greek writings on the musical theories later served as models for theoretical treaties. This helped to shape the course of the Western and Middle Eastern music theory. The ancient authors dealt with every aspect of musical art. This includes writing on theory, the role of music and musical education in the society (by Plato and Aristotle) and practical aspects of musical performances (Aristoxenus). Others include the acoustic performances (Pythagoras, Euclid and Ptolemeos). The national system, on which the western music theory is based today, was created by Pythagoras, a mathematician and philosopher. He was the first to define the musical intervals in mathematical terms. That is why he created the first system of music notation. The organized system of the Western harmony as seen in the classical music is the evolution of the Middle Ages music. This is an organization that derives from the medieval theorist’s knowledge of the ancient Greek music.

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Individualism in Music Poetry

Music poetry first appeared in ancient Greece and it was introduced by Archilochus, Alkaios and Sappho. These are the poets who accompanied their poetry with the lyre music, leading to designation of lyric poetry. The western lyric poetry was initiated in ancient Greece. The most recognized earliest poetry in the Greek land, which got textual evidence, was considered to be an epic poetry. This was a genre that consisted of exceptionally large scale works that grew out of the oral traditions. The originality of this was lost in the pre-history. This means that the Lliad and Odyssey were at the root, and the oral poems were original. They were passed from one bard to another bard for many centuries. They changed them and made an improvement to them before they eventually reached their admired codified form used by Homer. The heroism tradition of the epic poetry was considered communal. This made sure it did preserve unique, most defining and compelling stories of the Greeks, which made them intensely opposed to the barbarians. In contrast to this, tradition of the lyric poetry was considered to be individual. Hesiod is termed as one of the greatest and influential contributors to the lyric poetry. He holds a stronger mediate position in history progression. He presented the ancient common myths and his own interpretation of the myths. He also wrote the stories that people believed to be his. This laid some solid groundwork, required for the poets who followed him. The most famous and known Greek lyric poets were Archilochus, Alkaios and Sappho. They were the first to create their own piece of work.


He was considered to be the founder of the genre. Most epic poems celebrated the cunning, valor and many other heroic virtues that are traditional heroic. He expressed different and clear thoughts. In one of his greatest poems, he dismisses the known fact that he left behind his armor when he ran fast to protect his endangered life. This was considered to be a coward act of having self preservation that Homer could never celebrate. In some of his favourite poems, he showed he could be considered as cruel as every common solider while others could be soft. He usually expressed his own feelings, likes and dislikes even though they would go against convention.

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She goes beyond Aechilochus and Alkaios in having the sophistication and sensuality in her verses; she uses her personal experience, love celebration and her own mode of language usage. She overturns Homeric values in one of her poems. This is because she was appraising love as more influential than any other military pursuits. This shows the availability of individualism that Greek traditions are likely to manifest. Most Christians feared the Greek poet pagan celebration, which was full of individual sensuality and individuality. Greek did not always use lyric poems that were performed by poets, but also some musicians who performed their lyrics and their own music. This led to the fact the Sappho invented the plectrum, so that she could increase her performance ability. There is a necessary connection between the coveted individualism of the music lyric poet and theory of art when performing the chosen song. The pattern that can be used in poetry language is considered to be intellectual and inherently conceptual basic. This is considered to be the finest basic power of the school literary arts and reduce its limitation. The language was an aesthetic mean of presenting the poet`s primarily thoughts. This was disregarding the concrete descriptive images of the writer. The perfect integration of music and words into a song often presents thoughts and feelings which seem to be integrated as a whole. This is something that the majority of the other forms of art can accomplish fleetingly only. Any performance of a song that adds other forms of art is for sheer presence in physical presence. This was usually found in theatres and spoken poetry. The performer’s body and the person are always made to function as this artistic medium. This means that whenever a poet musician performed his own songs, he brought his feelings and thoughts to an aesthetic life usually through the standard medium of his own person. The body`s mind and soul are combined in some organically unified and justified presentation of the creators` own experience.

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The tradition of poets who were musicians did not emerge up again in a better form in the west. This was not until a truly fascinating time of the twelve century renaissance. This happened in the form of a troubadour. Some of the good examples of these genres include some works done by Bernard de Born, Bernard de Ventadorn, Arnaut Daniel, William IX and others. Peter Abelard, the famous philosopher, and logician Alyson wrote some secular brilliant songs in the troubadour’s style. However, only some religious songs which he had written ater survived util our times later. This tradition also had some branded heretical music. This hence made the so-called Albigensian crusade decimated by the ancient Greek plays, which were considered to be dramatic. This was a group of people who usually made a comment on the real action of the play. This lyric does not tell a story as a narrative or epic poetry does. The best known lyric is sonnet. A poem, like an ode or a sonnet, usually expresses thoughts and feelings of the poet. The term “lyrics” is nowadays used to refer to the words in a song.

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In ancient Greece, the performance of lyric poetry was usually accompanied by a musical instrument called a lyre. They made an early distinction between the song that did express the sentiments of a single poet and the poetry, which was chanted by a choir (choral lyrics). Music became an integral part of the Greeks` everyday routine. Lyric poets also used a lyre accompaniment when singing their songs. It functioned like a modern guitar. Modern poetry has also moved in the same direction. Lyre was an instrument, which influenced the shift to poetry in pre-classical Greece. The history shows us that the loss of even one type of music that accompanied this genre is a terrible loss. This is due to the artists, the initial power of which still comes through the Greek lyric poetry. The Greek poetry could lead to the development of music in the ancient Greece.