30 melodies or fragments of melodies come down to us
A couple are passed down through the medieval tradition
Five are preserved on stone inscriptions
The rest, however, survive on the waste paper of antiquity -- papyrus
Among the many extraordinary treasures that have been dug from the sands of Egypt are the musical papyri: scraps of papyrus (the ancient equivalent of paper) containing musical notation.
Most are very fragmentary, preserving only a few notes here, a couple of phrases there
P. Yale CtYBR inv. 4510
the sort of musical notation sometimes used
by professional singers in antiquity
the notation is represented by an ancient Greek alphabet
ancient musicians had two separate systems of musical notation, the one meant for voice, and the other for instruments
P. Mich. 1205r
This Roman era papyrus contains the sort of musical notation used by instrumental musicians in antiquity.
The papyrus is a fragment from what was probably a collection of melodies for performance, perhaps intended for the ancient aulos, a woodwind not unlike a modern oboe; or, less likely, the ancient kithara, the performance version of a lyre.
P. Mich. 1205r,
Papirus on internet
In order to have a musical system, scales were discovered, and from these foundations the musical systems of all nations have sprung.
The scales differed greatly.
Chinese pentatonic system
The Chinese, for instance, had a scale known to us as the pentatonic, or five-toned scale, which sounded very much like this:
The music, the soul and the whole universe were governed by the same mathematical order and proportion
An elaborate set of these correspondences is given by the late Greek theorist Aristides Quintilianus.
Man, the microcosm, shares in this harmony: everything from the gestation period of the human embryo and bodily proportions to the smallest details of human behavioris governedby analogy with, or dependence upon, celestial (musical) harmony.
Music to heal the soul
Also the ”human” music could alter the disposition of the hearers
Theories about the moral and emotional effect of different musical modes, rhytms, instruments
Music to purifying the soul
The Pythagoreans use ”medicine to purify the body, music to purifying the soul”
Pythagoras used to sing to his disciples, accompaining himself on the lyre, to bring them in a serene mood.
For example, special melodies were usedat night to calm their minds and to ensure peaceful sleep and good (and prophetic) dreams
others were used in the morning to bring alertness.
In one case, a young man was about to burn down the house of an unfaithful girlfriend.
Pythagoras realized that he was being agitated excessively by the music played nearby, and so he told the musician to play in a different mode, which immediately calmed the young man.
Some musical patterns would shape a boy’s caracter, or bring out a man’s latent trait
Some rythms expressed agression
He addressed his essay to the Council of the Aeropagus: he was seriuosly proposing some sort of state control over music as a public health measure
The right melody is an aid
”to bringing our soul circuit,
when it has got out of tune (!),
into order and armony with itself”
Used instrumental music to cure hysterics
steady, dignified, without frills (preferred by the Pithagoreans and Aristotle)
Phrigian - aulos
The dancing overcomes the wild internal jerkings of the soul and creates order and calm (Plato)
Aulos could cure: panic, epilepsy, sciatica, snakebites
The performance made the ”painful places” palpitate, as dancing in response to the music, and the pain had gone away
The hymn Pean was associated with the purification from injourios element
When Sparta suffered from a plague, Thaletas delivered the city from the pestilence by means of his music
The performance of 720 peans released the women of Locri from madness
A long tradition
For the Church Fathers Pythagorean beliefs were acceptable as long as biblical parallels could be found for them
The great revival of Neo-Platonism among fifteenth-century humanists led to some imaginative restatements of Pythagorean cosmic belief by such men as Giorgio Anselmi of Parma (Dialoghi, 1434) and Marsilio Ficino
The Modal Glyph
First consider the Heptagram, the star of seven points connected by red arrows. Around these points are the letters C-B, which represent notes in a C-major scale (CDEFGAB)
Note, planet, day, mode
Each note is corresponds to a day of the week and to the corresponding planet
each planet (note, day) corresponds to a mode (scale)
each mode (note, day, planets) corresponds to one or more astrological symbols
The signs are also associated with parts of the body
The planets have powers , and are connected to the 4 elemets (fire, earth, water, air)
the qualities or powers of the planets -- warm, moist, etc. - are given by Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos
Eight mode: fixed stars
In later times an eighth mode was added:
the Hypomixolydian, corresponds to the Fixed Stars
Muses and modes
Each mode is under the patronage of a Muse: Clio, Calliope, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Urania
The ninth Muse, Thalia is assigned the Terrestrial Sphere and governs Silence
"Thalia remains silent, like the Earth."
Each mode have a different pattern
Each mode has a different Form, or pattern of tones and semitones, which determines the character of the mode and is of central importance in applying music to therapeia (cure and care) for the soul
The therapeia of the soul is based to is based on the influence that the modes have on the four humors:
the subtle fluids that influence our psychical and bodily state, and which must be in harmony for proper mental, spiritual, and bodily health.
Their state of balance determines one's temperament
Ramis de Pareja
The mode-humor correspondences are given in
Ramis de Pareja, 1482. Musica Practica. Bologna.
A selection is translated in Godwin, Joscelyn, 1993. The Harmony of the Spheres: A Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition in Music. Rochester: Inner Traditions.
Music in a particular mode amplifies or weakens a humor
Phlegmatic humor - water, cool and moist
Dorian imparts the fiery Solar power and thereby dries the watery Phlegm, which diminishes its tendency to lethargy
Hypodorian, in contrast, imparts the watery Lunar power, which reinforces the Phlegmatic tendency, encouraging sleep
The guardians associated with the Dorian mode are Demeter (Virgo) and Aphrodite (Taurus), but Hypodorian has only Hestia (Capricorn).
Dorian scale, resembling the scale of D minor
Hypo-dorian scale, resembling the A minor scale
Fire (warm, dry)
Choleric humor, exuberance, and passion
Phrygian invokes the power of Mars, which is warm and dry, and therefore magnifies the Choleric effects
The guardians associated with Phyrigian are Hephaistos (Libra) and Athena (Aries), but Hypophrygian has only Hermes (Cancer, the Gate of the Moon), which corresponds to its planet the Planet Mercury
Phrygian scale, resembling the scale of E minor
Hypo-phrygian mode, resembling the B minor scale
Air (moist, warm)
influence the Sanguine humor, which imparts good cheer, optimism, friendliness, and a tendency to laughter, love, and song. Astral body.
The Lydian mode invokes the power of Jupiter (moist, warm), which reinforces the Sanguine humor resulting in Jovial happiness
Hypolydian draws down the power of Venus, the results are Erotic sadness
The guardians associated with Lydian are Ares (Scorpio) and Poseidon (Pisces)
those with Hypolydian are Zeus (Leo) and Apollo (Gemini).
Lydian mode, resembling the scale of F sharp minor
Hypo-lydian scale, resembling the C sharp minor scale
Earth (dry, cool)
Melancholic humor, which is the most complex humor in its effects; it is associated with the physical body
Because of its earthy nature, the Melancholic humor imparts solidity, firmness, and steadfastness, but also therefore a certain indolence and tenacity
Mixolydian invokes the power of Saturn (dry, cool), which magnifies the effect of the humor, leading to Saturnine melancholy. This may lead to paralyzing depression, but, if well tempered, it may produce introspection, artistic genius, good memory, a love of scholarship, and the inclination to retire from the world and devote oneself to spiritual matters
Melancholia and genius
Melancholia has been recognized as the dominant humor in many people of exceptional ability, for it provides the sensibilities required to experience deeply, and thereby to transcend the ordinary
The guardians associated with Mixolydian are Artemis (Sagittarius) and Hera (Aquarius)
Mixo-lydian mode, resembling the G minor scale
The Hypomixolydian mode is associated with the Celestial Sphere, which tempers the Melancholic humor
It represents the heavenly repose achieved when one has ascended the planetary spheres; it is the mode of Celestial bliss
"More than any other, this mode has an innate beauty and loveliness; it is free from all qualities and suitable for every use" (Ramis, op. cit.).
since Hypomixolydian is the eighth mode, it has no specific associated signs or guardians, for it corresponds to all the Fixed Stars and to the Thirteen Olympians