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‘East Faces of Early Greek Music'

John Franklin

One of the most exciting and fastest developing frontiers of classical scholarship is the cultural interface between Greece and her neighbors to the East. While it is now clear that ‘orientalism’ was an ongoing dimension of Greek culture, rather than an historical phase (Morris 1992), the cultural exchanges of the Late Bronze and early Iron ages are of special import for the study of Archaic epic and lyric poetry. The pioneering studies of Burkert 1992 and West 1997, while drawing many specific and more or less convincing cultural and ‘literary’ parallels, offered rather scattershot explanations of the mechanisms of ‘transfer’ (mercenaries, traders, ‘itinerant charismatics’, etc.). More recent scholarship has called for greater specificity as to chronology, geography, and cultural contexts (e.g. papers in Collins et al., 2008). Musical evidence holds out special promise here, both because much early poetry was fundamentally musical, and because of the relatively abundant material, which includes detailed iconography, literary traditions relating to earlier times, and sometimes documentary sources from the Near East itself. In this paper I shall offer a concise and well-illustrated (via Powerpoint) survey of recent work on various ‘theaters’ of musical interface, tying them into Greek literary/genre history as far as possible. Topics will include the Mycenaean-era kinship of the Greek and Mesopotamian lyre-tuning traditions; divinized lyres and divine communication; regional survival of the Bronze Age lyre tradition, with special attention to the Mycenaean diaspora; hybrid symposium music as reflected in the Cypro-Phoenician paterai (c.900–600); and the Greco-Lydian musical movement of the seventh-sixth centuries.

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Ancient Greek and Roman Music: Current Approaches and New Perspectives

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