Greek Music

Greek Music, music primarily of ancient Greek civilization. Only a few examples of ancient Greek music have survived. Music, however, was extremely important to the ancient Greeks, and all the major Greek philosophers theorized about the origin, nature, and function of music. Most of the music seems to have been monophonic, that is, composed of one unharmonized melodic line. Melodies and rhythms in vocal music were related to the rhythms and speech inflections of the text; instrumental music may have been similarly related to dance movement. The peak of musical activity came during the classical age (450-325 BC), when annual festivals and contests of vocal and instrumental music were held.

The principal instruments were two forms of lyre, the lyra and the kithara; and a double oboe, the aulos. They were all used as solo instruments and to accompany singing and recitation. Stringed instruments were used in religious ceremonies associated with the cult of Apollo, and wind instruments were used in the cult of Dionysus and in drama.

The ancient Greek philosophers ascribed a divine origin and a continuing religious significance to music. They believed that music represented in microcosm the order and harmony of the universe and that by studying the acoustical properties of musical intervals they would come closer to understanding the cosmos. The ancient Greeks also believed that music had power over human emotions and behavior and that when written in the various modes, music would cause predictable reactions.

Modern Greek music also has a rich tradition of folk music and, more recently, art music. These traditions combine influences from both East and West. Much folk music of Greece is monophonic and based on the Byzantine or ancient Greek modes. During the first half of the 20th century, folk music styles known as amanédhes and rebétika combined Greek and Byzantine traditions with Eastern influences and gained wide popularity. These styles were revived during the 1970s. Many features of rebétika are found in modern bouzouki music (a bouzouki is a Greek stringed instrument). In art music, most early Greek composers (late 19th century to early 20th century) wrote in the style of the European composers, but during the 1950s and 1960s, several Greek composers of classical music became famous, most notably Yannis Xenakis.



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