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The Sound of Music

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The Semantics of Noise in Early Greek Hexameter

image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

This paper examines the vocabulary of sound in the Theogony, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, and the Homeric Hymn to Hermes and focuses in particular on the words employed therein to describe superlative forms of music, terms that in different contexts denote clamorous or unpleasant sounds. By drawing attention to the sonic texture of musical performance in this way, each portrayal suggests that music is not ontologically distinct from noise, but emerges from the coalescence of discrete sounds that are not musical in and of themselves. Music and noise thus exist not in a hierarchical relation, but on the same spectrum. And this dynamic is reflected in the very language used to depict these performances, which combines re-workings of Homeric formulae with new or unusual acoustic terminology. Thus music, including lyrical language itself, may become perceptible as such from the skillful organization of sounds into intelligible and distinctive patterns.

Affiliations: 1: Wake Forest University latherak@wfu.edu

10.1163/22129758-12341296
/content/journals/10.1163/22129758-12341296
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/content/journals/10.1163/22129758-12341296
2017-08-10
2017-11-24

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