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Athenaeus’ Delphic Paean

DAGM 20.1 Athenaeus Paean 1 by Sylvain Perrot CC licensed.jpg
DAGM 20.2 Athenaeus Paean 2 by Sylvain Perrot CC licensed.jpg

Athenaeus' Delphic Paean (DAGM 20) , 128/7 BC.
Delphi Archaeological Museum — Photo by Sylvain Perrot.

This substantial piece of choral music was inscribed on an external wall of the Athenian Treasury at Delphi and was first performed in 128/7 BC by professional musicians known as Athenian Technitai.


Delphi Theatre and the Athenian treasury, where the Paean was originally inscribed.
Photo Wikicommons

In the article, I also show how this complex piece reflects the modulation system developed by the New Musicians, including their characteristic use of ‘exharmonic’ notes and chromatic ‘bends’ (kampai) that turned Phrygian mesē  M G3 into the ‘chromatic’ note par excellence, O F#3, as predicted in Lynch 2018. These bends occur especially frequently in Section 2, transcribed below.

As I show in a forthcoming academic article, this piece employs different keys that belong to the Phrygian family, centred on the Phrygian 'intermediate note' mésē  M G3

Figure 11B_edited.jpg

This piece also features notable examples of word painting and extended melismas designed to enhance the expressive power of the lyrics. In contrast with its melodic complexity, the rhythm of this piece is uniformly paeonic (5/8). The growing preference for melodic complexity over rhythmical variety is mentioned in the Ps.-Plutarchan treatise De Musica  (1138b4–c1).

This article and and its predecessor—'Unlocking the Riddles of Greek Melodies I: Dorian Keys to the Revolution of the New Music'—are dedicated with gratefulness to the memory of Andrew Barker, and will appear in the next issue of Greek and Roman Musical Studies  (10.2).

To celebrate their upcoming appearance, this page offers for the first time a full unedited recording of the performance of Athenaeus' Paean that took place at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 2017 (The Revolution of the New Music'). 

Unlocking the Riddles... Classical I .png

Please bear in mind that this was our first performance and that we had a grand total of  *two* rehearsals before the concert... Enjoy!

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