V. Appendix

Harmonic Considerations

The ancient Greek musical notation was based on the letters of the Greek alphabet, and so it is worthwhile to consider the seven vowels aeêiouô {AEHIOUW} from this perspective. Unfortunately, there are many uncertainties in our understanding of ancient Greek music, but contemporary scholarship suggests that the vowels correspond to the pitches: A E H I O U W D# D- C B G# G- E where "-" means that the note is flat by a quarter-tone. By adjusting the pitches for EHI slightly downward, we get a correspondence between the vowels and the Cosmic Scale constructed by the Demiurge (Timaeus 35B-36B): the vowels aeêiouô correspond to the pitches D# to E in a descending B major scale. That is: A E H I O U W D# C# B A# G# F# E mi re do ti la so fa (This is the "movable do" system, that is, do is the tonic of the major scale, B in this case.) These pitches may be used in singing the various "vowel songs" in this exercise. Needless to say, there is much uncertainty about the absolute pitch of ancient Greek music; the most important issue is the descending diatonic scale structure: TTS T TTS (T=tone, S=semitone), from mi down to mi. That is, the vowels in order represent a descending scale in the Lydian mode.
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Last updated: Tue Aug 18 19:13:42 EDT 1998