dagme

BOOK REVIEW: Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments 

IN some ways, the title Documents of Ancient Greek Music (DAGM) is slightly misleading, since some two-thirds of these documents are ‘Roman’. Pedantry aside, while many of these 61 documents are by date Roman, they are all composed in Greek, both the text and the notation (which is based on the Greek alphabet). 

While it may come as a surprise to some that so much written music has survived from the ancient world, many of the surviving passages are quite fragmentary. However, some complete melodies survive, such as the songs of Mesomedes (court composer to Hadrian), or the famous song inscribed on the Seikilos epitaph.

DAGM discusses each composition in chronological order, ranging from the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE, highlighting the source of the melody in more detail (papyrus, inscription, or manuscript). That DAGM was written by two of the leading scholars in the field is obvious in many ways, one of which is the meticulous nature with which the sources are presented, each including a detailed discussion of issues concerning pitch-accent, rhythm, and provenance. A critical apparatus is provided for both the text and the notation.

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Book review by James Lloyd on AHE