Ancient Greek music reconstructed from preserved notations, lyrical patterns


I heard this exact tune before on a TED talk (this one: which dates from 2012 so I’m not sure exactly how this is news.

Fascinating though and I really like the music.

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I call BS. NO written notation is 100% accurate.


Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
      Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
      Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone

(Keats, of course)

But more to the point, isn’t there a BoingBoing policy on linking to the Daily Fail? Death to fascism and all that?

The Daily Fail is maintaining its famous journalism standards. If you go to the academic’s own page (, right there at the top in red letters you see:

Nice piece in Daily Mail Online, but the sub-editor sensationalises my point about being able to reconstruct Greek music: I don’t claim the ‘recordings are 100% accurate’, just that we know how to interpret the music accurately from the notation (thanks mainly to Alypius).

I also love that his webpage at Jesus College includes the line: “In 2004 I was commissioned to compose a Pindaric Ode to Athens which was recited at the Athens Olympic Games, and in 2010 to compose an Ode in Horatian Sapphics for the Roman Society’s Centenary.”

Classics FTW!


It’s nice that this was picked up, but it’s not exactly new.

Here’s a recording from 2000:

This same piece was referred to in M.L. West’s Ancient Greek Music (1994), which is – I might add – an excellent text on the subject.

You have plans to go there and falsify his claim? If you need a hand I know a little Koine, but not Classical Greek.

No, I’m just saying (as did he) that the 100% claim is the reporter’s, NOT that of any sane researcher.

The news here is that we’ve figured out how to read the ancient notation at all, not that it’s a perfect notation or that our understanding of it is perfect. We can extract a plausible performance. How much that resembles the actual performances of the time – well, think about the huge variation in performances of a modern tune even when supposedly performing directly from exactly the same sheet music.

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100% accurate? I know no reputable musicologist that would claim we can produce any performance that’s 100% accurate from even a century and half ago.

Of course, it’s the daily mail.

Darn. I was hoping for a time machine. You’re right about a grain of salt, and these researchers might be exaggerating their claims.

EDIT: Woops. Daily Mail might be exaggerating.

…Ellie Zolfagharifard is the coolest name I’m ever likely to see.

I liked the doritos/xbox1 ad better than the greek music video it played before.

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