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Stinging Auloi

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Aristophanes, Acharnians 860-71

image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

When Dikaiopolis calls the auletai accompanying the Theban who comes to trade with him wasps (Ach. 864), he responds in part to a buzz-like sound produced by their auloi. Contributing to the instruments’ buzzing may have been dissonance caused by so many pipes played at once, the pipes’ material (bone), and a playing technique that placed emphasis on the lowest notes. The instruments’ music is out of place because the scene is in iambic trimeters, which were almost always performed without accompaniment. Dikaiopolis also calls the auletai wasps because their arrival reminds him of the Spartan army, which regularly marched, fought, and performed rituals to the accompaniment of multiple auloi.

Affiliations: 1: Washington University in St. LouisUSA


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