Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seikilos epitaph

Nancy Ewart calls our attention at Chez Namastenancy to a marvelous recording of what has been called the "oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition" in the world (see Wiki, "Seikilos epitaph)."

Key of D, 6/8 time, pan-diatonic scale? You've got to be joking, I thought, but the Phrygian mode is clear from the inscription on the tombstone--if you play only the white keys in D you get the Phrygian mode--and the marks above the alphabetical signs for the notes indicate whether the duration of the each syllable is doubled or tripled, producing a clear rhythmic notation.

The song is only partially notated, limited by the size of the tombstone, but the YouTube version with an imagined accompaniment on lyre and flute as linked to on Nancy's website is gorgeous.


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