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Tibia and Tuba at the Crossroads of Funerary and Nuptial Imagery

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image of Greek and Roman Musical Studies

References to music in poetry often play a genre-defining role. This is the case in Propertius 2.7 and Ovid Heroides 12, which employ the tibia and tuba in the topos of a mournful wedding. While the pipes belong to the motivic repertoire of elegy, where they usually occur in plaintive contexts, the introduction of the funeral trumpet to an elegiac motif is an innovation, reflecting traditional uses of the instrument during burial rituals. The wedding tibia is also represented in its authentic performative context, but the joyous character of its tunes is rendered more sorrowful than funeral music, and thus in keeping with conventional portrayals of the instrument in elegy. On the other hand, the representation of the tuba in this motif stands in opposition to other literary depictions, which usually place the clamorous sound and military, rather than funerary, uses of the instrument in the foreground. In consequence of this thematic innovation, the funeral trumpet not only becomes part of a mournful wedding topos but also a ‘genre-appropriate’ instrument in elegy.

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