Alphabetical Contribution of Greek into Ancient Music

  January 03, 2021   Read time 1 min
Alphabetical Contribution of Greek into Ancient Music
Greeks were pioneers in many fields of human culture including music. They literally recorded the musical melodies and sounds through a system assembled by Greek Alphabet. This alphabetical system allowed Greeks to meaningful discuss the music within a theoretical framework.

As the Greeks used all the four and twenty letters of their alphabet for musical characters, or symbols of sound ; and as their most extensive system or scale did not exceed two octaves, or fifteen sounds, it should seem as if their simple alphabet was more than sufficient to express them ; for their music being at first only a notation of their poetry, the rhythm, or air, must have been determined by the metre of the verses, without the assistance of signs of proportion peculiar to music. But supposing it was necessary for them to have different characters to express the different feet of the verse, it is certain that vocal music was in no want of them; and instrumental being chiefly vocal music played by instruments, had likewise no need of them, when the words were written, or the player knew them by heart. However, in order to multiply these characters, the letters of their alphabet were sometimes written in capitals, and sometimes small ; some were entire, some mutilated, some doubled, and some lengthened ; and besides these distinctions in the form of the letters, they had others of situation, sometimes turning them to the right, sometimes to the left ; sometimes inverting, and sometimes placing them horizontally ; for instance, the letter Gamma, by these expedients, served to express seven different sounds. Some of the letters were also barred, or accented, in order to change their symbolical import; and these still not sufficing, they made the common grave and acute accents serve as specific musical notes.