Listen to a Hot New Track… Written by Ancient Greeks


Have you ever wondered what the music of the ancient Greeks sounded like? Well scholars are now recreating it.

Oxford University’s Armand D’Angour has been studying clues left behind from the olden days. Clues from ancient Greece that is. In his quest to understand the music of the time period he looks at old texts, such as the ones by Homer and Sappho. Writings like these were originally performed as music, and clues to what that music sounded like lie in aspects such as the length of syllables.

D’angour explains that these pieces were accompanied by the “lyre, reed-pipes, and percussion instruments” from 750 to 400 BC, and from this he can deduce general pitch and timbre. Precise mathematical tuning was used in this music and the songs are relatively similar in sound to folk music of India or the Middle East.

Vocal notation above vowels was recently discovered in ancient Greek documents. These ancient accents were used to mark a letter’s change in pitch.

Letter A at the top of the scale, for instance, represents a musical note a fifth higher than N halfway down the alphabet. Absolute pitch can be worked out from the vocal ranges required to sing the surviving tunes.

io9 has posted audio of a piece of music found on stone inscriptions from ancient Greece. The piece is performed by Dr. David Creese of the University of Newcastle.


Image by Magh, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

5 Responses

  1. Bandit

    The ancestors of the person who wrote that song are contacting their attorneys right now to find out how much they are owed in licensing fees.


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