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The κύκνειον ᾆσμα

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An Approach to Its Musical Contents

image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

In Greek Literature the characteristics of swans are used as a metaphor for a variety of human values. Their colour, their bravery and their singing are the three main characteristics we usually find in Greek texts as synonyms for beauty, courage and musical dexterity. In this paper, I try to go a step further, to explore whether it is possible to discover how ancient writers imagined the κύκνειον ᾆσµα might have sounded. I analyse the type of sound the relevant texts represent as their singing and even the use of their bodies as instruments in certain texts. I then show how ancient writers illustrated the swan song, the κύκνειον ᾆσµα, in musical contexts beyond the image of swans as animals capable of singing their dirge of death.

Affiliations: 1: Universidad Rey Juan Carlos MadridSpain


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