Music of Ancient Greece

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Arts, History Documentary hosted by Delphine Fouquou, published by Arte in 2021 - French narration

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A fascinating research trip on the traces of ancient sound worlds around the Mediterranean.

Recently, a papyrus was discovered in the Louvre Museum basement. It is a barely readable text, topped with tiny strange characters. The research lead by the archeomusicologist Annie Belis revealed that it is a very ancient score of Greek music, and more specifically of a tragedy, the Medea. A grammatical specificity of the text enabled to identify the composer, Carcinus, an author mentioned by Aristotle in his Poetics, in which the philosophe and preceptor of Alexander the Great quotes a few verses of this tragedy.

Discovering little by little Carcinus' life, whose name is carved on a wall of the Parthenon, it is a whole world opening to us: the one of Greek musicians honoured as Gods and who were travelling along the Mediterranean Sea to take part in competitions modelled on the Olympic Games. But how to decrypt the music of the Medea? A medieval manuscript describing the ancient Greek musical notation system, the Tables of Alypius, will turn out to be a true "Rosetta Stone".

In the last 30 years, one branch of antiquity research has developed enormously thanks to new digital technologies and interdisciplinary approaches: music archaeology. The goal is to discover the music of antiquity. From the legendary sites of Greece to the temples of Dendera in Egypt, from the mysterious Delphi to Pompeii: the remains of ancient instruments such as the harp, tambourine, aulos and cornu have been found at numerous important historical sites. They are as diverse as they are impressively documented, for example through mosaics, ceramics and statues, on which surprisingly often scenes of music-making are depicted. Some sources also provide information about the function of music in the high cultures of Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire.

Even in ancient times, music accompanied people in many situations in life, from birth to death, whether in war or religious rituals, for political purposes or just for entertainment. The documentation is based, for example, on ancient Greek scores. Their notation system could be deciphered with the help of a text, at least parts of which have been handed down thanks to the copyists of the Middle Ages: Alypios' "Introduction to Music", found near Ephesus in Turkey and also called "the oldest song in the world", or the hymns to Apollon discovered on the walls of Delphi. And last but not least, the papyrus that reappeared in the Louvre depot a few years ago. It depicts part of an aria from the tragedy "Medea".

But to hear the Medea as it was heard by the Greeks 2400 years ago, it still has to be played on period instruments. From the Greek cities of Anatolia to the Ptolemies' Egypt, from the mythical site of Delphi to the discoveries made in Pompeii, relive this voyage along the Mediterranean coast, where archaeological excavations have unearthed a few ancient scores and many instruments' remains. Unfortunately the passing of time has made them brittle. It is now impossible to make them produce any sound or vibrate.

But thanks to new technologies developed at IRCAM and the Cite de la Musique, it is now possible to virtually reconstruct and hear sounds that have been lost for two millennia. For the time of a concert in the prestigious ancient theater of Arles, the audience too can delve into a world of sound that was thought to have disappeared forever: the music of ancient Greece. A Film by Bernard George ; A Co-Production by ARTE France, O2B Films, Minimal Films, Cosmote TV and CNRS Images

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Video Codec: h264 CABAC Main@L3.1
Video Bitrate: 2128 Kbps
Video Resolution: 1280x720
Display Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 25.0 FPS
Audio Codec: AAC-LC
Audio Bitrate: 125 kb/s VBR 48KHz
Audio Streams: 2
Audio Languages: French
RunTime Per Part: 53 min
Number Of Parts: 1
Part Size: 856 MB
Source: WEB
Capper: DocFreak08

[edit] 1080p version

  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 21 (~1945Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC (Apple)
  • Audio Bitrate: q91 VBR 48KHz (126/214Kbps avg/peak)
  • Audio Channels: 2 (mainly French with English narration)
  • Audio Gain: 3dB
  • Run-Time: 57 mins
  • Number Of Parts: 1
  • Part Size: 842 MB
  • Source: HDTV (1080i/h264 3472Kbps VBR 1.63GB)
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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