The album “Musique de la Grèce Antique” has been published some decades ago but still stimulates curiosity and interest. The album results from the pioneering researches of Gregorio Paniaguaand his ensemble, the Atrium Musicae of Madrid. Even if musicological studies have since then progressed, the original spirit of this recording is still worthy of consideration.
While we can admire many extraordinary literary and architectural examples of ancient Greek culture, as for ancient music we have only scattered fragments that miraculously survived on papyrus and later documents.
The album gathers for the first time the rare Greek musical fragments, including the only one that dates back to imperial Rome (four damaged bars belonging to a work of Terence).
The album offers an overview of the music practiced in Greece on the most disparate occasions, being (the music) an essential part of everyone’s daily life. Luckily, musical theory has not suffered the same destiny, for we have received numerous treaties (in Greek, Latin or Arabic).
Greek music used two systems of notation: the instrumental notation, composed of fifteen different signs which probably derived from an archaic alphabet, and the vocal notation, which was formed, by contrast, by the twenty-four letters of the Ionic alphabet.
The rhythm, which was rarely written (as in the Seikilos epitaph), is inferable from the texts themselves. With this album, we do not want just to make a compilation of what has been preserved of Greek music; we do not attempt to dissect a cold, distant archaeological document.
Rather, this album embodies the deeply-painful feeling deriving from the awareness of an irremediable loss. I rebuilt the ancient instruments as well as I could: lyres, auloi, kitharas and even a hydraulic organ. One finds them in hundreds of illustrations – which represent additional evidence of the pivotal role played by music in Greek society – in very different documents (vases, sculptures, bas-reliefs and paintings) which display scenes of everyday life. The study of the theory and of all that concerns Greek music has led us to the conclusion that in order to recognise the real value of music (in ancient Greece), it is not convenient to treat it as an archaeological object which can be reconstructed with greater or lesser accuracy: on the contrary, we need to infuse new life in it through our spirit.
(Inspired by the liner notes of the CD by G. Paniagua 1979)