History Podcasts

Aulos Timeline

Aulos Timeline

  • c. 5000 BCE

    The first aulos musical instruments are carved from bone.

  • 2700 BCE - 2300 BCE

    The first depiction in art of the aulos musical instrument appears in Cycladic sculpture.

  • c. 400 BCE

    Theban musicians invent a more sophisticated aulos with metal keys.


The ancient Greek aulos, often mistranslated as "flute", was a double-piped reed instrument. Archeological finds indicate that it could be either single-reeded, like a clarinet, but more usually double-reeded, like an oboe. Unlike the lyre, which could be mastered by any aristocrat with sufficient leisure to practice it, the aulos was an instrument chiefly associated with professional musicians, often slaves. Female aulos-players were a fixture of Greek drinking parties, and often doubled as prostitutes.

The aulos accompanied a wide range of Greek activities: it was present at sacrifices, dramas and even wrestling matches, for the broad jump, the discus throw, sailor's dances on triremes. Plato associates it with the ecstatic cults of Dionysus and the Korybantes. In his writings, Plato banned the aulos from his Republic but reintroduced it in "Laws".

In mythology, Marsyas the satyr or "papa selenus" was supposed to have invented the aulos, or else picked it up after Athena had thrown it away because it caused her cheeks to puff out and ruined her beauty. In any case, he challenged Apollo to a musical contest, where the winner would be able to "do whatever he wanted" to the loser - Marsyas's expectation, typical of a satyr was that this would be sexual in nature. But Apollo and his lyre beat Marsyas and his aulos. And since the pure lord of Delphi's mind worked in different ways than Marsyas's, he celebrated his victory by stringing his opponent up from a tree and flaying him alive. King Midas got donkey's ears for judging Marsyas as the better player. Marsyas' blood and the tears of the Muses formed the river Marsyas in Asia Minor.

This tale was a warning against committing the sin of "hubris", or overweening pride, in that Marsyas thought he might win against a god. Strange and brutal as it is, this myth reflects a great many cultural tensions that the Greeks expressed in the opposition they often drew between the lyre and aulos: freedom vs. servility and tyranny, leisured amateurs vs. professionals, moderation (sophrosyne) vs. excess, etc. Some of this is a result of 19th century AD "classical interpretation", ie. Apollo versus Dionysus, or "Reason" (represented by the kithara) opposed to "Madness" (represented by the Aulos). In the temple to Apollo at Delphi, there was also a shrine to Dionysus, and his Maenads are shown playing the Aulos, on drinking cups, but Dionysus is sometimes shown holding a kithara or lyre. So a modern interpretation can be a little more complicated than just simple duality.

Main Article

Greek Music

A relatively young civilization, the Greeks drew much from Mesopotamian and Egyptian culture. Indeed, by the time the Greeks emerged on the stage of history, these elder civilizations had invented all the major instrument families, including strings (plucked and bowed), flutes, reeds, brass, and drums. From the dawn of civilization (and probably much earlier), music played two major roles in human society: ceremony (social, religious, and/or civic) and entertainment. 3

Ancient Greek music was based on a set of eight Greek modes texture was homophonic (see Musical Texture). The most popular Greek instruments were the lyre (a harp-like instrument) and aulos (an oboe-like instrument). 2,3

Greek philosophers generally viewed music as a reflection of the underlying harmony of the universe some even argued that performances could influence human health or behaviour. Philosophers also analyzed music from a technical standpoint, thus founding Western music theory. The foremost Greek music theorist was Pythagoras , who discovered that pitches can be described in terms of string length ratios. 2,3

To illustrate this concept, consider a simple plucked string instrument with two identical strings.

The length of a vibrating string can be shortened by pressing one's finger against it (which raises the pitch). Now suppose that these strings are tuned to the note of C, and one wishes to perform the C major scale on the lower string. In order to play the first note (C), one simply plucks the string. In order to play the second note (D), one must shorten the string with one's finger.

As Pythagoras discovered, the length of the shortened string is a precise fraction of the full string. The same can be said of the remaining notes of the scale.

Theory was the most lasting Greek contribution to Western music. Ancient Greek theory included a range of fundamental concepts (e.g. notes, intervals, consonance/dissonance), as well as the mathematically defined scale described above. While the Romans added little to this body of theory, they did preserve it for composers of the Middle Ages. I2-7

Roman Music

Ancient Greek culture, including music, was eagerly absorbed by the Romans. As in other forms of art, the Romans adjusted and developed upon Greek music to suit their own tastes. No revolutionary transformation ensued, however Roman music remained monophonic and mode-based, and the clear descendent of Greek music. 3

During the Early Christian period (ca. 200-500), Roman art forms were adapted to Christian purposes (see Early Christian Art). In the field of music, portions of scripture were set to traditional Roman melodies (which were themselves descended from Greek melodies). These compositions are known as Early Christian chant . I3,3

Initially, Early Christian chant flourished in a variety of regional styles. All were eventually superseded, however, by the style that emerged in Rome. From the medieval period onward, the Roman style is known as Gregorian chant . I13,2,3

Oboe - History

Double-reed wind instruments have been used since antiquity the earliest images depicting such instruments are from Mesopotamia from about 3,000 BC.

In the Greek and Roman civilizations double-reed instruments were the most highly regarded of all instruments. Playing the aulos or tibia was associated with high social standing and the musicians enjoyed great popularity and many privileges.

Portrayals of aulos players in Ancient Greece traditionally depict a musician blowing two instruments this proves that the aulos was a double instrument. Different types of aulos were played on different occasions – as was the Roman tibia – for example on the battlefield, during the preparations for a banquet, at festivities and in the theater, where it accompanied the chorus.

The shawm – the minstrels’ instrument

It can no longer be ascertained for certain whether modern oboes are direct descendants of the Greek and Roman double-reed instruments or whether they were lost during the migration of peoples in Europe and returned there later by way of Byzantium and Asia.

In the Europe of the early middle ages, however, an instrument was in use that consisted of a single tube and was known as the calamus (calamus is the Latin word for reed). It is from this word that the English name shawm was derived (as was the German Schalmei and the French chalemie and chalumeau). The term shawm was not restricted to any one single instrument but described an instrument type which was played with a single or double reed.

The Renaissance shawm family included not only crumhorns, dolcians and bagpipes but also the bombarde or pommer groups, which are regarded as the direct precursors of modern double-reed instruments.

In keeping with Renaissance custom, the bombarde family consisted of instruments of every pitch, from the treble shawm (third octave above middle C) to the great bass shawm (contraoctave). The treble shawm was the oldest member of the bombarde family, and, like all bombardes, had a wind-cap which was taken into the mouth for blowing. The double-reed was inside this wind-cap and was not touched by the musician who consequently had no possibility of influencing the sound, which was relatively static.

Renaissance shawms were played mainly by itinerant minstrels, who did not specialize in any one instrument but could play several different ones.

From the shawm to the hautboy

During the 17th century the treble shawm evolved into the hoboy or hautboy (known in France as the hautbois), which was tuned to C. This early oboe no longer had a wind-cap and the musician’s lips made direct contact with the double-reed, which meant he was able to inject more life into the instrument’s sound. The tube, which was made of boxwood and on the shawm had been a single piece, now consisted of three parts, the upper and lower joints and the bell. In addition, three keys were added (although these were reduced to two a short time later). The bell was bordered by a contraction rim.

These innovations originated in France and were probably due in no small measure to the instrument-making families of Hotteterre (the name had been a byword for innovative instrument-making since the 16th century) and Philidor. Like all baroque woodwinds the hautboy’s timbre differed throughout its range because intermediate notes which were played with cross-fingerings sounded more veiled.

In the late 17th century the hautboy was accepted into the orchestra. Jean Baptiste Lully, court composer to the "Sun King" Louis XIV presumably used it in his ballet L’Amour Malade in 1657. Robert Cambert included the instrument in his opera Pomone in 1671. From that point on the hautboy flourished, its heyday lasting until the end of the 18th century. During this period up to thirty hautboy players were engaged in the grande écurie, the French court orchestra.

Oboe, Europe, Adi Schlinger, ca. 1730. Courtesy of Heinz Preiss (Musikinstrumentenmuseum Schloss Kremsegg, Austria, Sammlung Streitwieser)

Starting from France the hautboy rapidly gained great popularity all over Europe. Unlike the flute there were no particular national styles or schools of oboe playing initially the musicians passed the latest playing techniques and instruments around among themselves. The baroque hautboy was a special case inasmuch as it was the only instrument to be used in every context, from military to chamber music to the opera, the orchestra and sacred music.

In the orchestra hautboys were initially used mainly to double the violins, although they had asserted themselves by the Classical period and were performing functions of their own. In the opera orchestra they were given their first solo roles (obligatos) in arias. The instrument’s repertoire in chamber music originally consisted chiefly of pieces for consorts (two oboes, two tenor oboes [later replaced by horns] and two bassoons). At the beginning of the 18th century countless solo sonatas, suites with basso continuo, suites for trios (oboe, flute and violin) and concertos were produced. In the second half of the 18th century the oboe quartet (oboe with a string trio) emerged. At the same time the hautboy was gradually losing its place as the lead instrument in military ensembles to the clarinet.

In the 18th century the hautboy underwent continual improvements to its construction and sound. The bore was narrowed (from around an average of 5.9 mm to 4.8 mm), the reeds became narrower and shorter, the walls of the tube thinner and the tone holes smaller. A direct result of these measures was an increase in range: whereas the instrument’s range was given as C4 to D6 at the turn of the 18th century it increased during the next hundred years to G6. The sound of the new classical hautboy was narrower and more focused than that of its predecessors and its volume corresponded to that of the violin or the flute.

The most renowned oboe makers of the time were Christophe Delusse and the duo Thomas Lot and Charles Bizey in France, David Denner, Wilhelm Oberländer and Carl Golde in Germany and Thomas Stanesby and Caleb Gedney in England. In the second half of the 18th century the instruments made by Augustin Grenser and Jakob Grundmann in Dresden became accepted as standard all over Europe.

The 19th century – a mechanical revolution

In 1781 Grundmann added a third key to the oboe, and from that point on German instrument makers began adding more and more keys. The aim was to provide a tone hole which could be closed by a key for every half tone so that cross-fingerings would no longer be necessary. This trend was followed in France, albeit with some misgivings, since many musicians felt that the quality of the sound suffered from a surfeit of keys.

In around 1825 oboes with fifteen tone holes and ten keys were being made in both Germany and France. Despite this the instruments had a fundamental difference, since the differing sound esthetics governing oboe-making had led to the emergence of two distinct types which later became known as the “French” oboe and the “German” oboe.

In France the trend was toward narrower tubing, thinner walls and thinner reeds, whereas in Germany a wider bore was retained along with the characteristics of the classic oboe – thick-walled tubing, a contraction rim round the inside of the bell, the barrel (baluster) and rings on the upper joint with the simple mechanism featuring long-levered keys mounted on wooden blocks. Stephan Koch (1772–1828) and Joseph Sellner (1787–1843) developed an innovative version in 1820 in Vienna which combined features of both models: a classic appearance with a bore that was extremely narrow by the standards of the time.

Both the French oboe and the Viennese “Sellner-Koch oboe” had a bright sound and were distinctly audible in the orchestra, whereas the German oboe retained the darker timbre of the classical era which was more conducive to tonal blending.

In France, inventive instrument makers provided the oboe with a constant stream of technical innovations, among them the speaker key (which made overblowing unnecessary), a mechanism that made a complex interaction of levers and keys possible (introduced by the Triébert family), Theobald Boehm’s ring key (operating a key by means of a ring on a rod at the same time another tone hole is closed) and Auguste Buffet’s pin springs.

Theobald Boehm (1794–1881), a trained goldsmith and flutist, developed a revolutionary keywork for the transverse flute which was received with great enthusiasm in France. Some parts of this system were subsequently adapted for use on the other woodwind instruments, although a radically altered Boehm oboe failed to gain acceptance on account of its novel sound (as did a Boehm bassoon).

Modern oboes

From the 1860s onward the instrument maker Frédéric Triébert (1813–1878) developed oboes together with the oboist Apollon M. R. Barret (ca. 1804–1879) which are direct antecedents of today’s instruments. Triébert’s système 6 with its extremely narrow bore and speaker key was patented in 1872. Ten years later the oboe professor Georges Gillet pronounced it the official model at the Conservatoire de Paris. After the Second World War this conservatoire model, modified only slightly, became the international standard.

The Viennese oboe played in Austria today is a development on a model made in the 1840s by the instrument maker Carl Golde (1803–1873) in Dresden. Its body still has the classic form, with the flared bell, the barrel (baluster) on the upper joint and the widening at the tenon joints. The tubing is shorter and more conical than that of the French oboe. The keywork, which follows the pattern of the German mechanism, was improved and extended during the 20th century.

Although the oboe was used almost exclusively in the orchestra in the 19th century, 20th century composers rediscovered the instrument’s potential as a solo instrument. This was due in no small measure to the outstanding oboists Leon Goossens (1897–1988), who established a number of techniques which facilitated playing (diaphragm breathing, relaxed embouchure) and Heinz Holliger (born 1939), who has propagated countless new playing techniques.

Music of Ancient Times

This blog post is about the first music ever played or sung on Earth. It investigates a vast expanse of time from about 50,000 years ago up until the fall of the Roman Empire, which occurred about 1,500 years ago. That’s 48,000 years of human music-making. Sadly, most musical details of this time are cloaked in the impenetrable darkness that exists between pre-history and our earliest efforts to write. Consequently, this part of music history—the very beginning—is the least well-understood, the most poorly documented, and the most speculative. What little we do know is interesting, though—especially since any proper study of music history begins by studying things that people found in caves and dug from the ground. Indeed, before we begin studying music history, let’s briefly inspect music archaeology.

Music Archaeology

The oldest piece of evidence that attests to human music-making is a 42,000-year-old flute made from the wing of a vulture.

It was found in Hohle Fels, a cave in southern Germany. The cave also contained flute fragments made from mammoth bone and the very first example of figurative art—a woman shaped figurine known as the Venus of Hohle Fels.

Check out this short clip of archaeologist Wulf Hein demonstrating a melody on a replica of the ancient flute:

Another interesting archaeological find is the so-called Standard of Ur. It was dug up in the 1950s from an ancient Sumerian cemetery dating from around 2600 BCE. It’s a wooden box depicting people at a banquet. Displayed on the box are several animals, many soldiers, a king, and—most notably for our purposes—a musician playing a lyre.

A lyre is a harp-like instrument that was common during antiquity. It had somewhere in the neighborhood of seven strings and was plucked with the fingers or played with a plectrum.

Also found in the the cemetery were actual musical instruments. One such instrument, the Queen’s Lyre, was found in the grave of Queen Pu-abi. The Queen’s Lyre, and the other harps found in the dig, are thought to be the world’s oldest surviving stringed instruments.

A reconstruction of one of the lyres dug up from the ancient city of Ur

The animal represented on the Queen’s Lyre’s, a bull, had religious significance to the Sumerians. (The Sumerians were one of the first cultures on Earth they lived about 4, 000 years ago in what today is the country of Iraq.) Evidence suggests that music was used by the Sumerians, and all other ancients known to us, to heighten the sense of awe during worship ceremonies.

Cave paintings, metal rattles, bone flutes, and cemetery lyres are all very interesting. But they belong to the realm of archaeology, which is not the focus of this blog post. In order to really study music in depth, we need to enter the realm of history.

Musical History

The historical record begins with the birth of writing about 5,000 years ago. From this point, individuals are given voices, stories are told, and even a little music can be heard.

The accepted year for the establishment of writing is 3200 BCE, the accepted location of this development is Mesopotamia. Here, writing evolved over many years through representational systems of pictograms and phonograms—markings that use pictures. Eventually, the symbols were capable of reproducing utterances that could be deciphered by another human being.

Writing was invented principally for the purpose of record keeping. Clay tablets, known as cuneiform, were marked up using a wedge-shaped stylus and left to dry—thus preserving the writing.

The first written evidence for music are pictograms featured on cuneiform tablets that display harp-shaped characters.

The earliest composer whose name is known to us is Enheduanna. She was an Akkadian priestess who lived around the year 2300 BCE. Some of the lyrics to her moon-god hymns exist, but none of the music exists. Enheduanna predated humanity’s effort to capture sound with writing. The earliest known music—a melody in notation—was found on a clay tablet dating from between 1450 and 1250 BCE.

It was discovered in modern-day Syria amongst the ruins of the ancient city of Ugarit.

The tablet, part of a collection of similar cuneiform artifacts, is written in the Sumerian dialect known as Hurrian and contains a hymn to Nikkal—the wife of a moon god.

The music and the tablets are referred to as the Hurrian Songs or as the Hurrian cult hymns.

In the 1970s, a team of archaeologists and musicologist, lead by Anne Kilner from the University of California, deciphered one of the tablet’s melodies and published a short booklet and audio recording called Sounds from Silence.

Kilner and her team discovered that the tablet contains important details for the music such as the intervals between the notes, the pitch set to be used for the melody, and stipulations for performance. The tablet suggests that the music is to be a single voice accompanied by a lyre.

(The above video is for solo lyre only. This is because the vocal part of the music was not decipherable.)

The problem with studying the Hurrian Songs from a historical perspective is that not all historians agree with Kilner’s interpretation.

A History of Western Music by Peter Burkholder, Donald Grout, and Claude Palisca, which is the standard university text for this subject, gives short shrift to the Hurrian Songs mentioning only that ”scholars have proposed possible transcriptions for the music but the notation is too poorly understood to be read with confidence.”

On the other hand, Musicologist Richard Taruskin seems to lend credence to Kilner’s research when he describes, in detail, the Hurrian Songs in The Oxford History of Western Music.

In any case, the point is that none of the music from ancient times can be interpreted with full accuracy. It’s the music of the medieval period—two thousand years in the future from the Hurrian hymns—that starts being more than superficially decipherable to historians.

Before we wade any deeper into ancient music, it might be helpful to consider the kinds of evidence musicologists are working with here. A History of Western Music suggests four categories:

  1. Drawings and other graphic depictions of musicians, instruments, and performances
  2. Physical remains of instruments themselves,
  3. Writings about music and musicians in literature and in record books and,
  4. Notated music (the rarest and most sought after).

It might also be helpful to consider the order of events that lead to the formation of ancient civilization. A simplified version of the story goes like this: Humans in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) learned to grow a surplus of food somewhere about the year 8000 BCE (that’s ten thousand years ago).

As a result, they stayed in one place, developed cities, and fostered culture such as art, music, and literature.

Although civilization formed independently in other parts of the world, such as in Mesoamerica and in China, the civilization that sprang out of Mesopotamia gave birth to the form of music studied in this class—known as Western music.

Through a very long series of conquests, shifting kingdoms, dynastic successions, and assimilation, civilization spread throughout the Mediterranean region. Some notable examples of these civilizations include the Egyptians (3150 BCE), the Greeks (800 BCE), and the Romans (500 BCE). The dates given are estimates of the beginnings of these civilizations.

Of course, there was plenty of time overlap between the three. For example, ancient Egypt lasted until about 300 BCE, many years after the founding of ancient Greece and within a couple centuries of the founding of ancient Rome.

All three of these ancient civilizations were overlapping in their times of inception, duration of existence, and times of downfall. The general time trend for the cultural center of the Mediterranean universe, however, is clear enough: It’s Egypt then Greece then Rome. All three of which being preceded by Mesopotamian cultures such as the Sumerians and the Akkadians—who were the first of the firsts.

Out of these four civilizations, it’s the Greeks that we know the most about. So, it’s to the Greeks we shall now turn.

Music in Ancient Greece

The civilization of Ancient Greece was innovative musically for several reasons.

It saw the evolution of new instruments such as the aulos (a reed instrument, like a modern-day clarinet but with a double pipe body and finger holes) it saw scholars develop mathematical theory to explain musical intervals and the movements of the heavens and, it saw a robust repertoire of music designed to accompany poetry.

In fact, poetry and music are one and the same in Greek thought. Because of this, both of these art forms are labeled with the catch-all term mousike, which can also refer to dancing. The word itself comes from the muses, characters in Greek mythology who represent inspiration to artistic creation.

So, in Ancient Greece, if you were reciting poetry, you were singing if you were singing, you were reciting poetry. There’s a good chance you’d also be dancing.

Because of the marriage of music and poetry, musicologists are reasonably certain that the rhythm of the music—the parts that were played and sung—were controlled by the meter of the words. This helps musicologist decipher how the music goes.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of Greek music is the way that they considered it scientifically. Using an instrument called a monochord, the Greeks were able to measure the exact ratios of the musical intervals.

For example, If you sound a string on an instrument like a guitar or a monochord then play the same string but this time stop it at the halfway point (by pressing a finger down at the exact center of the string, thus shortening it by 50 percent), it sounds as twice as high, and so, exists in a ratio of 2 to 1.

This is a common interval and a common sound in music in general, It is known to musicians as an octave. It is a sound that exists in all cultures and in all music.

Starting with Pythagoras—the famous Greek mathematician–many of the intervals comprising the familiar pitch set, known today as the major scale, were sussed out using this monochord. (Pythagoras was thought to have lived about the year 500 BCE)

Intriguingly, those same mathematical ratios were used to explain the laws governing the movement of planets in the sky.

A theory of the universe grew up around the teaching of Pythagoras. This theory of the universe is known as the Music of the Spheres.

A related concept, known as Harmonia, evolved from the Music of the Spheres. The idea of Harmonia is that an orderly whole can be devised through even divisions–thus producing pleasant harmony.

So, the fact that there were seven tones in the pitch set today know as the major scale, and there were seven things that moved around through the sky—the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn–meant that, to the Greeks, astronomy and music were related.

The concepts of Harmonia and The Music of the Spheres suggested to the ancients that one’s ethical character, or ethos, could be influenced by music.

Famous Greek philosopher Plato (428 BCE) carries on about the matter in his great work, The Republic. He writes that with music one must seek balance, for too much music makes one weak and irritable and too little makes one warlike, uncivilized, and ignorant. He also suggested that those being trained to govern should not listen to music featuring soft and indolent melodies.

Less speculative, and more concrete, are the two treatises on music theory–one nearly complete one fragmentary—written by Aristoxenus.

Active around the year 335 BCE, Aristoxenus wrote Elements of Harmony, which is a three-volume treatment of everything known about musical systems in his time.

This includes the Music of the Spheres concept, the ideas about the proper uses of music, and the makeup and character scales.

Aristoxenus departs from Pythagoras by suggesting the use of the ear instead of the monochord to derive and tune the scale.

Aristoxenus’ other work, the fragmentary one, is a short treatise on rhythm and metrics. Not much is known about its detail or its content.

Despite the patchy musical evidence on offer in these books, Aristoxenus, and other ancient Greeks, managed to explain to us moderns that their music had a very specific texture. Historians are fairly certain that most Greek music was heterophonic.

Heterophony is a texture of music whereby a principal melody is sung and accompanied by the same melody using slight variations.

To imagine this, think of people singing Happy Birthday together. Notice in your imaginary birthday choir how not everyone is singing the melody the exact same way. Someone, usually some joker, is departing from the tune and adding his or her own alterations. This is what the texture of heterophony sounds like.

The diagram below will help you understand just what heterophony is by comparing it with three other common musical textures—monophony, a single voice melody polyphony, more than one simultaneous melody, and homophony, a melody supported by block clusters of tones.

Check out this video featuring heterophony in Indian music. Notice how the woman’s voice and the sitar perform roughly the same melody.

In ancient Greece, the poet and the aulos player would carry on together with roughly the exact same musical content–thereby executing a heterophonic texture.

Greek Pieces Preserved In Notation

As far as ancient civilizations go, we have quite a lot of musical material from the Greeks. However, there still aren’t too many pieces—certainly not enough to get any true sense of the Greek musical canon as a whole.

Imagine, for comparison, that for the whole of the twentieth century we had hardly any songs preserved. Say, we had three songs: Beat It by Michael Jackson, the Charles in Charge theme song, and Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller. This would leave historians with a pretty myopic view of the music of the twentieth century, I’d say.

Well, it’s kind of like that with Greek music there’s simply not enough of it to accurately represent form, content, or style.

Nevertheless, we do have four pieces of particular note that are reasonably intact and reasonably decipherable.

They are the Stasimon Chorus, part of the epic play called Orestes(ah res tees) written by Euripides in (408 BCE) we have two hymns written in reverence to Apollo known as the Delphic Hymns (138 BCE and 128 BCE respectively) and we have a complete melody and set of words scrawled onto a tombstone known as the Epitaph of Seikilos.

The most complete and well-understood piece of this lot is this epitaph.

It was written in the first century CE, fairly late as our story goes. Musicologists are pretty certain of how it’s supposed to sound—making it the earliest melody that we are sure about. That means that, when you listen to it, you can be reasonably certain that you are hearing something the same way it sounded two thousand years ago.

The Stasimon chorus from Euripides’ play Orestes is fragmentary. As you can see below it exists on a papyrus scroll in which the margins are missing.

Listen to a recreation of the Euripides song here:

The Delphic Hymns also exist in fragmentary form. Here they are preserved at the Delphi Archaeological Museum.

Here is ancient music expert Michael Levy talking about the Delphic Hymns and performing the first one on lyre:

Roman Music

Oddly, even though the high cultures of Ancient Rome occur after that of Ancient Greece, we know very little about Ancient Roman music.

Most scholars suggest that musical thought and traditions established under the Greeks held sway throughout the Roman period.

Musicologist do say, however, that in Ancient Rome, musical contests were popular. (Imagine something like today’s American Idol.) This suggests that music, like other aspects of Roman life, was a kind of spectacle meant to be consumed like a sport.


The best way to organize your mind around this material is with a timeline. Here are the facts, figures, and works most representative of ancient music listed in chronological order:

  • 40,000 BCE—Bone flute
  • 8000 BCE—Birth of civilization
  • 6000 BCE—Turkish wall paintings
  • 3200 BCE—Birth of writing
  • 1450-1250 BCE—Hurrian Songs
  • 800 BCE—Beginning of Greek city-states
  • 500 BCE—Pythagoras
  • 408 BCE—Stasimon Chorus from Euripides’ Orestes
  • 380 BCE—Plato writes The Republic
  • 335 BCE—Aristoxenus, The Elements of Harmony
  • 138 BCE— and 128 BCE—The Delphic Hymns
  • 100 CE—Epitaph of Seikilos

That’s it, guys—just five songs (there are two Delphic hymns).

Even taking the Hurrian songs as the beginning—which they’re not, really—that’s still two thousand years being represented by five songs. That’s like representing modern music with the Charles in Charge theme song, Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” a song I wrote in high school, and “Whip it” by Devo. What a myopic view of humanity’s musical output that list of source material would provide.

As a point of comparison, in 1917 there were thousands of songs written, published, and recorded some of these songs became huge hits and sold over a million copies.

Works Cited

Taruskin, Richard. The Oxford History of Western Music . Oxford University Press: New York, 2010.

Grout, D., Burkholder, J., & Palisca, C. A History of Western Music . New York: Norton, 2014.

Bauer, S. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.

Abraham, G. The Concise Oxford History of Music . London: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Randel, D. The Harvard concise dictionary of music and musicians. Cambridge, Mass. Belknap Press, 1999.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams . Direct by Werner Herzog. Creative Differences Productions, Inc., 2011.

First key added in the latter half of the seventeenth century

Various refinements have been added to the flute since the Renaissance period.
Early flutes did not feature keys. Flutes in the Renaissance period were of extremely simple construction, consisting of a cylindrical body with an embouchure hole (mouthpiece) and seven finger holes. They could also only produce certain semitones.
In the latter half of the seventeenth century, flutes with a conical body and a single key attached began to appear. With this mechanism, for the first time virtually all semitones could be played on the flute. Today this instrument is known as the "baroque flute."

Music in Films

Research on the evolutionary origins of music mostly started in the second half of the 19th century, and was much discussed within Music Archaeology in the 20th Century. After the appearance of the collection of articles "The Origins of Music" (Wallin, Merker, Brown, 2000) the subject was a debated topic of human evolutionary history. There are currently many hypotheses (not necessarily conflicting) about the origins of music.

Some suggest that the origin of music likely stems from naturally occurring sounds and rhythms. Human music may echo these phenomena using patterns, repetition and tonality. Even today, some cultures have certain instances of their music intending to imitate natural sounds. In some instances, this feature is related to shamanistic beliefs or practice. It may also serve entertainment (game) or practical (luring animals in hunt) functions.

Even aside from the bird song, monkeys have been witnessed to beat on hollow logs. Although this might serve some purpose of territorialism, it suggests a degree of creativity and seems to incorporate a call and response dialogue.

Explanations of the origin of music depend on how music is defined. If we assume that music is a form of intentional emotional manipulation, music as we know it was not possible until the onset of intentionality - the ability to reflect about the past and the future. Between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago humans started creating art in the form of paintings on cave walls, jewelry and so on (the "cultural explosion"). They also started to bury their dead ceremonially. If we assume that these new forms of behavior reflect the emergence of intentionality, then music as we know it must also have emerged during that period.

From a psychological viewpoint, the question of the origin of music is difficult to answer. Music evokes strong emotions and changed states of awareness. Generally, strong emotions are associated with evolution (sex and survival). But there is no clear link between music and sex, or between music and survival. Regarding sex, musicians often may use music to attract mates (as for example male birds may use their plumage to attract females), but that is just one of many functions of music and one of many ways to attract mates. Regarding survival, societies with a musical culture may be better able to survive because the music coordinates their emotions, helps important messages to be communicated within the group (in ritual), motivates them to identify with the group, and motivates them to support other group members. However it is difficult to demonstrate that effects of this kind can enhance the survival of one group in competition with other groups. Once music exists, effects of this kind may promote its development but it is unclear whether they can explain music&rsquos ultimate origin.

Another possible origin of music is motherese, the vocal-gestural communication between adults (usually mothers) and infants. This form of communication involves melodic, rhythmic and movement patterns as well as the communication of intention and meaning, and in this sense is similar to music. Motherese has two main functions: to strengthen bonding between mother and infant, and to help the infant to acquire language. Both of these functions enhance the infant&rsquos chances of survival and may therefore be subject to natural selection.

Motherese has a gestural vocabulary that is similar across cultures. The way mothers and babies raise and lower their voices and simultaneously change their expressions and move their hands is similar in Asia and Europe, for example (in spite of linguistic differences such as tone languages versus non-tone languages). The apparent universality of motherese could be explained either genetically or by universals of the human environment. A genetic explanation for the vocabulary of motherese would have to be biological and evolutionary no such explanation has yet been found. Regarding environment, motherese may stem from universals of the prenatal environment. The human fetus can hear for 20 weeks before birth &ndash considerably longer than other animals, most of which cannot hear before birth at all. The fetus can also perceive movement and orientation for 20 weeks before birth. This is presumably not an accident of evolution, but an adaptation that promotes the survival of the infant after birth by improving bonding between the infant and the mother. If the fetus learns to perceive the emotional state of the mother via the internal sounds of her body (voice, heartbeat, footsteps, digestion etc.), it can presumably adjust its postnatal demands (e.g. crying) depending on her availability and in that way enhance its own survival as a fragile being in a dangerous world. Research on the ability of the fetus to learn and remember sound patterns, and on the active two-way nature of mother-infant communication, is consistent with this theory. If this theory is true, the internal sounds of the human body and the relationship between those patterns and emotional state may be the ultimate source of the relationship between patterns of sound and movement in music and their strong emotional connotations. This theory is consistent with the universal link between music and religion and the changed states of consciousness that music can co-evoke.

Charles Darwin&rsquos idea about the importance of music for human sexual selection found a new development in Miller&rsquos idea of the role of musical display for "demonstrating fitness to mate". Based on the ideas of honest signal and the handicap principle, Miller suggested that music and dancing, as energetically costly activities, were to demonstrate the physical and psychological fitness of the singing and dancing individual to the prospective mates. Critics of this approach note how in most species where singing is used for the purposes of sexual selection through female choice, only males sing (as it is males, who are trying to impress females with different audio and visual displays), and besides, males as a rule sing alone.

Among humans both males and females are ardent singers, and making music is mostly a communal activity. Communal singing by both sexes occurs among many cooperatively breeding songbirds of Australia and Africa such as the butcherbirds, fairywrens, white-browed sparrow weaver and Turdoides species, but is absent from non-hominid mammals.


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

"Important Events in Music ." Arts and Humanities Through the Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 1, 2021). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/culture-magazines/important-events-music-0

"Important Events in Music ." Arts and Humanities Through the Eras. . Retrieved June 01, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/culture-magazines/important-events-music-0

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Clarinet history timeline

ClarinetFest 2018 In the later 19th century, advancements in manufacturing allowed the first machine-made reeds and hard rubber mouthpieces to be made. For submissions please contact:

Once the clarinet became known in composer circles, adoption of the instrument was swift. During his youth, Adolphe studied the clarinet and flute at Brussels Conservatory.

History of the bass clarinet The first record of a bass clarinet comes from France toward the end of the eighteenth century.

The oboe shares some common ancient ancestry with others in the woodwind family, most especially the bassoon. He also developed a key known as a ring key that allows the player to cover a hole larger than the finger pad. To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number. Oboe, treble woodwind instrument with a conical bore and double reed. Period: Nov 26, 1686 to Jun 4, 1843 The Clarinet: A Brief History JavaScript seems to be disabled in your browser.

Ca. Ironically, the Boehm system did not become popular in Boehm's home country.

Sept. 5, 2020. Competitions History of the Clarinet []. Advanced Professional Level String Basses, Most Popular Electric Stringed Instruments, Woodwind Maintenance and Cleaning Supplies, Fiberglass and Carbon Fiber Woodwind Cases, Brass Instrument Brushes and Cleaning Tools, Brass Instrument Maintenance and Cleaning Supplies, Instrument Stands, Stabilizers & Transport. His father's passion for creating musical instruments influenced him greatly and he began plans to improve the tone of the bass clarinet.What he came up with was a single-reed instrument … The clarinet was a revolutionary development at about 1700, built upon the chalumeau. Clarinet Learning Community at ClarinetFest® 2021. Top subscription boxes – right to your door, © 1996-2020, Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. ClarinetFest 2021 Reno rollover process now complete! The chalumeau was a shepherd's instrument intended for solo play that had a very simple design similar to today's recorder. For a comprehensive history of the association written by ICA past president and historian Alan E. Stanek, including photos and more, please click here. The Gillespie Library The chalumeau was a shepherd's instrument intended for solo play that had a very simple design similar to today's recorder. Prime members enjoy FREE Delivery and exclusive access to music, movies, TV shows, original audio series, and Kindle books. The Boehm clarinet includes 17 keys, moveable rings, needle springs, and a wooden body, hence why it is called a "woodwind" instrument. BuzzReed, [email protected] How well do you know the history of the clarinet?

A Brief History of Metal and Silver Clarinets During the first half of the Twentieth Century, hundreds of thousands of metal clarinets were produced. The lower register of the clarinet is still known as the "chalumeau register.". Webster's timelines cover bibliographic citations, patented inventions, as well as non-conventional and alternative meanings which capture ambiguities in usage.

The oboe proper was the mid-17th-century invention of two French court musicians, Jacques Hotteterre and Michel Philidor.

Calendar Haydn, Ruggi, Molter, Schumann, Brahms and Gluck were also notable composers for the clarinet. In the 3rd century B.C., the Egyptians created an instrument called the memet, a double clarinet also called a zummāra.It had a double bore, like the double-reeded Greek instrument aulos, but each bore was a single-reed instrument, much like the modern day clarinet.The zummāra’s two pipes were parallel so that with each finger the player covered two holes, … Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations, Select the department you want to search in, + No Import Fees Deposit & $11.98 Shipping to Japan.

Adolphe Sax was born on Nov. 6, 1814, in Dinant, Belgium. We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others.

Ancient Greece

One of the favorite forms of entertainment for the Ancient Greeks was the theater. It began as part of a festival to the Greek god Dionysus, but eventually became a major part of the Greek culture.

How big were the theaters?

Some of the theaters were quite large and could seat over 10,000 people. They were open-air theaters with tiered seating built in a semi-circle around the main stage. The bowl shape of the seating allowed the actors' voices to carry throughout the entire theater. Actors performed in the open area at the center of the theater, which was called the orchestra.

  • Tragedy - Greek tragedies were very serious plays with a moral lesson. They usually told the story of a mythical hero who would eventually meet his doom because of his pride.
  • Comedy - Comedies were more light-hearted than tragedies. They told stories of everyday life and often made fun of Greek celebrities and politicians.

Many plays were accompanied by music. Common instruments were the lyre (a stringed instrument) and the aulos (like a flute). There was also a group of performers near the front of the stage called the chorus that would chant or sing together during the play.

Actors, Costumes, and Masks

The actors wore costumes and masks to play different characters. The masks had different expressions on them to help the audience understand the character. Masks with large frowns were common for tragedies, while masks with big grins were used for comedies. The costumes were usually padded and exaggerated so they could be seen from the back seats. All of the actors were men. They dressed up as women when playing female characters.

Did they have any special effects?

The Greeks used a variety of special effects to enhance their plays. They had ways of creating sounds such as rain, thunder, and horses hooves. They used cranes to lift actors up so they appeared to be flying. They often used a wheeled platform called an "ekkyklema" to roll out dead heroes onto the stage.

Famous Greek Playwrights

The best playwrights of the day were famous celebrities in Ancient Greece. There were often competitions during festivals and the playwright with the best play was presented an award. The most famous Greek playwrights were Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes.

List of site sources >>>

Watch the video: Aulos αυλός from ancient Greek and Roman times music by Max Brumberg (January 2022).