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Roman Music

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A Thought on Our Bookstore...

The Consul speakethWe're going to eventually have a new bookstore system — I already have it on reenactor.Net, but it's not mobile, so when I have time, it will come here. Anyway, what that means is that I am not going to add a lot more of these books manually. And alas, IF you have the ad-blocker program installed, you won't see many of them, as amazon's code for books and widgets (which we are going away from and using straight links), uses "iframes" and as such, ad-blocker just strips them out.

Sorry to be so rude, but we try to make this site and information as great as we can for our visitors. We have a few ads and we try to make them unobtrusive, but when you use ad-blocker, it hurts the site. We don't make the crazy money you'd expect, so this pittance is needed to keep the site going. Anyway, it detracts from the site... We post a lot of books and things that we think our visitors will find interesting and it not only strips out the ads, it strips out the books. Not cool. If you have ad-blocker, please hit the little "stop sign" button and tell it to allow ads on We don't want to have to add code to block browsers with this software :-o

Here, we've found some interesting musical selections BASED on Roman and ancient music (or what people think it might sound like). Alas, no real notational music has come down through the ages and so any attempt at Roman music is just a guess. These offerings, are however, good to listen to and will give one the flavour of ancient times.

Synaulia - Music from Ancient Rome, Vol. 1: Wind Instruments

This CD is a wonderful collection of music for wind instruments from ancient Rome's imperial period played on accurate replicas of various Roman instruments. This is a great buy for anyone interested in ancient music or the study of ancient Rome.

There are unfortunately few direct sources on the composition of Roman music. Most of the work in this CD is a recreation of what the music would probably have sounded like based on the range of the instruments, various classical sources, and anthropological studies of present Mediterranean cultures. Some people (on Amazon) get really butt-hurt that the music is not the direct product of Roman sheet music. 2000 years... it's not around anymore. Anyway, although there may be certain inaccuracies in the recomposition of such music, the number of different scholars who participated in producing this work from various disciplines, probably makes such inaccuracies rather slim. Furthermore, since there is no direct source for such music nor is it likely that we will ever uncover any, it's better to have this than nothing at all. The music is primarily brass and percussion but it also has string accompaniments for certain pieces. The music is charming and makes one feel as if they are reclining on their sofas, eating dates, and drinking wine in praise of Baccus. The package makes this CD worth every penny as it has a very detailed synopsis of all the instruments, the works themselves, and the work that was involved in this music: the pamphlet is also filled with photographs and drawings of the instruments as well as various Roman frescoes from Pompey depicting Roman social life and the instruments in question.

This is a great contribution to the study of antiquity and a valuable tool for teachers of ancient music, antiquity, or anthropology. This also a great buy for anyone who has broad interests in music and its development. For what you get with this CD it's a steal.

Music from Ancient Rome, Vol. 2: String Instruments Book

This CD is an exploration of ancient Roman music utilizing what is known by scholars and putting this knowledge into a performance practice. The CD is presented in the form of a booklet (with a nice cover taken from one of the frescos in the Villa of Mysteries) of 33 pages that provides an excellent introduction to origins of music and the instruments that are being played in these recordings. The booklet is nicely illustrated with photographs of the instruments played in these recordings and depictions of them in ancient sculpture and paintings.

The music played on this CD does not come from any ancient compositions but have been composed based on what is known of ancient Roman music and performance. The man behind this CD and an earlier one based on wind instruments (two tracks of which were used in the film Gladiator) is Walter Maioli. He is described as an artist-researcher and has given concert performances of ancient music. This music on the CD is described in detail in the booklet and what instrument(s) are being played. There are purely instrumental tracks and some that include chanting by one or more performers. The first track, Invocation to Mercury, includes a text from book 5 of Ovid's Fasti and one of the love poems is the basis of the Erato track. While stringed instruments are dominate in this collection, drums and cymbals are also plays in some of the compositions, notably in the first and fourteenth tracks. There is a variety to the music: some for multiple instruments, some demonstrating the playing of string instruments and those with chanting providing with an overall sense of what ancient music sounded like. So while this CD is a scholarly attempt to re-create ancient music it is also entertaining to hear. You can use your imagination to be transported back in time, reclining on a couch following dinner in a richly decorated trinclinium. I recommend this disc to anyone interested in ancient music and its recreation.

There are unfortunately few direct sources on the composition of Roman music. Most of the work in this CD is a recreation of what the music would have sounded like based on the range of the instruments, various classical sources, and anthropological studies of present Mediterranean cultures. Although there may be certain inaccuracies in the recomposition of such music, the number of different scholars who participated in producing this work from various disciplines probably makes such inaccuracies rather slim. The music is primarily strings but also has percussion and brass accompaniments for certain pieces.

Music From Ancient Rome

Is your fondest wish to time- travel to the glorious days of Scipio Africanus, Gaius Marius and the ancient Rome of Caesar? I cannot recommend this work enough. Not only is the CD package amazingly beautiful but the tracks soar with forgotten vibrance. The authentic instrumentation alone is worth the purchase. Load the CD, light a olive-oil lamp, watch the shadows on the wall and return to the glory that was Rome!

The music is wonderful. The one problem is that the liner notes (and there are a lot of them) are in German. The text appears to have notes about how the project was researched, the instruments used and some notes about the compositions.

Merit's Inspiration: Relaxing Music of Ancient Egypt

Merits Inspiration is a compilation of musical notions engendered by the exploration of Ancient Egyptian musical instruments and musical theory. Merit is the ancient Egyptian goddess of music and as a follower of Aset (Isis) and as an artist, I felt especially inspired by her throughout the production of these melodies and rhythms.

The Ancient Egyptian Sages instituted tight controls on theater and music because the indulgence in inappropriate entertainments was known to cause mental agitation and undesirable behaviors. The famous Greek Philosopher and student of the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries, Pythagoras, wrote that the Ancient Egyptians placed particular attention to the study of music. Another famous Greek Philosopher and student of the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries, Plato, states that they thought it was beneficial to the youths. Strabo confirms that music was taught to youths along with reading and writing, however, it was understood that music meant for entertainment alone was harmful to the mind, making it agitated and difficult to control oneself, and thus was strictly controlled by the state and the priests and priestesses. Like the sages of India, who instituted Nada Yoga, or the spiritual path of music, the Ancient Egyptians held that music was of Divine origin and as such was a sacred endeavor. The Greek writer, Athenaeus, informs us that the Greeks and barbarians from other countries learned music from the Ancient Egyptians. Music was so important in Ancient Egypt that professional musicians were contracted and kept on salaries at the temples. Music was considered important because it has the special power to carry the mind to either elevated (spiritual) states or (worldly) states. When there is overindulgence in music for entertainment and escapism (tendency to desire to escape from daily routine or reality by indulging in fantasy, daydreaming, or entertainment) the mind is filled with worldly impressions, cravings, lusting, and uncontrolled urges. In this state of mind, the capacity for right thinking and feeling are distorted or incapacitated. The advent of audio and visual recording technology and their combinations in movies and music videos, is more powerful because the visual element, coupled with music, and the ability to repeat with intensity of volume, acts to intoxicate the mind with illusory and fantasy thoughts. The body is also affected in this process. The vibrations of the music and the feelings contained in it through the lyrics and sentiment of the performer evokes the production of certain bio-chemical processes in the mind and body. This capacity of music is evident in movies, musicals, converts, audio recordings, etc., in their capacity to change a persons mood. Any and all messages given to the mind affect it and therefore great care should be taken to fill the mind with the right kinds of messages in the form of ideas and feelings.

The Egyptians rated music highly, and Plato considered their music superior to the Greek, both for melody and energy. But harmony and rhythm were always subordinate to the words, and the subject matter was paramount. There were two sorts of Harmonies known to the old Egyptians, which the Greeks designated as Dorian and Phrygian the former, grave, slow and tranquil, the latter, a dithyrambic form, probably employed in these chants (Laments of Isis and Nephthys), which was forceful, appealing and energetic.

The Egyptians based their music on seven diatonics, which Demetrius of Phalerus attributes to the seven vowels; others say seven senses, or seven planets. Dion Cassius corroborates him.

This production made use of five musical instruments, of the many, which were used in Ancient Egypt, the voice, the hands (clapping), the Tar hand drum, and the three stringed long lute, known as Nefer. To the Ancient Egyptians, the intent behind music was the overriding factor. All music, dancing and festivities should be dedicated to the Divine. On this teaching, the ancient Egyptian Sages believed, depended the prosperity of the nation. In modern times we can see how the use of music and the performing arts has led to the degradation of society in the form of arts which are designed to engender passion and agitation in peoples minds in an effort to stimulate sales, fortune and fame for those who produce it. This is for the most part done without regard to the ill effects of music on the mind.

These selections and their sequence were prepared with great care and feeling towards elevating the listeners mind. Based on the chants of Kemetic Religion and mysticism and on traditional musical forms, they were designed to engender serenity and harmony and spiritual upliftment.

According to Plato, a Greek initiate of the Egyptian Mysteries, Ancient Egyptian Music recognized the use of two modes of feeling. The first mode was known to the ancient Greeks as the Dorian Mode. It is Slow, meditative and devotional and it was used for processions, rituals and religious ceremonies. The second mode was known to the ancient Greeks as Phrygian. It is Lively, exciting and devotional. Thus, all music was dedicated to the Divine and not to frivolous entertainments since music was known to have the power to lead a persons mind into worldliness, egoism and mental agitation or to harmony, peace and spiritual enlightenment by bringing a person closer to their higher self, the spirit. In Ancient Egyptian Musical theory, the Intent behind the music was all important and the vocal aspect was foremost in importance and the instrumental accompaniment, harmony and rhythm were secondary. The singing of hymns was seen as an effective means to communicate with and propitiate the Divine. The Ancient Egyptian word for music is to sing. Therefore, singing to the Divine was understood as the highest and only purpose of music and unlike the case with ancient Greek music, the ancient Egyptian musicians did not record notation so the exact melodies used are not known. However, much is known about the theory of Ancient Egyptian music and there is some evidence that the voice itself was the determiner of the melody. This coupled with what is known about the modes provides an approximation to work with in order to recreate at least in part the feeling of Ancient Egyptian music. Central to the music is the religion and the language. The Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) language was called Medu Neter or Divine Speech or Speech is Divine. This means that the language was Divinely inspired and that when its words are used they have special powers. This concept was known as Hekau by the Ancient Egyptians. In modern times it is known by the Hindus as Mantras, Words of Power. They have the power to invoke positive vibrations and to transform the mind of those who utter them sufficiently, with understanding and feeling. May the blessings of Merit be on all who listen to this music!

Ancient Music for the Irish Harp

Derek Bell, premier exponent of the Irish Harp, celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Belfast Harpers? Festival with a selection of music played at the festival. For good measure he adds a couple of South American tunes.

Another winner by Derek Bell - this is an excellent recording. There is quite a bit of variety in the selections, and he uses various types of harps as well. From a musical standpoint, these pieces are captivating. Wonderful arrangements and great playing. If you enjoy the sound of the harp you will love this very special collection of anicent Irish music. The sound is truly captivating.

Musique de la Grece Antique Ancient Greek Music

Although a few short fragments of ancient Greek music have been transcribed into modern notation and published, it is difficult to imagine how they were performed. Most of the recovered fragments now in print, are discontinuous, with gaps since the ancient papyrus they were written on is mostly scraps. This recording is highly imaginative and even speculative, but it is an interesting interpretation of the ancient fragments. I don't agree with all of the performances, which seem sometimes a bit too fanciful and hard to imagine as authentic. The music sounds VERY different from any western music — almost alien, and it opens up a whole new world of listening experience. In brief, the recording brings to life many tantalizing glimpses into a long-lost tradition of Greek music, the oldest notated music in the world (pre-BCE) and older than notated medieval music by over a thousand years.

This music is almost like hearing ghosts — in a way the listener does hear ghosts, for the music has been saved from oblivion, and experts do not know everything about it. As much as possible, traditional instruments have been reconstructed based on pictures found on documents like vases and paintings. Sometimes you hear only a little fragment of something, about a minute. It's intriguing to think about who may have sung/played this music. The notes explain some of the technical details; musicologists will find that interesting. Other than the shortage of helpful notes, this is very interesting music. A worthwhile experiment for sure.

Ancient Echoes - Music from the time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple

The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE) invites people from different faiths to celebrate their various religious roots with the gift of song. The Ancient Echoes CD features recreations of music from the time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple, which makes it the perfect gift for people of all denominations. Composed after years of intense study, Ancient Echoes draws from Jewish and Christian sources and Islamic influences to create a collection of spiritual and emotive choral and instrumental pieces.

This album is the best evocation yet of Middle Eastern music at the end of antiquity. Most of it deals with the folk music (liturgical and otherwise) of the ancient synagogues. SAVAE also takes certain Beatitudes from the Aramaic New Testament (Peshitta) version and one song text taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls and sets them to ancient folk melodies. The ensemble's artistry then transforms these humble and often tonally bizarre tunes into beautiful, accessible and fascinating art songs.

SAVAE takes a landmark step toward recreating ancient music of the Holy Land — including original prayers of Jesus, sung in his native Aramaic language, sacred Levitical music from Jerusalem's Second Temple, and Essene chant from the Dead Sea Scrolls. A vibrant culture that was enriched by contact with distant lands connected along caravan routes is recaptured here, as SAVAE's voices ring out above the driving pulse of Middle Eastern rhythms to harmonize with ancient instruments. In this musical remembrance, Judaic and Christian scripture offer the listener renewed inspiration.

Movie Soundtracks to Thrill

Okay, so these aren't authentic and a lot of the puffy, pretencious people will turn up their noses at these offerings. No one is forcing you to buy them. These movies do good work in bringing interest back to this time period. Sadly, it's like they have a sour-grapes hatred of these movies. Just remember that they're entertainment, not real. There is nothing wrong with entertainment. Anyway, this is the music from the movies.

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