It seems that my post on LibreOffice is never going to happen, with so many great projects floating around the web. This time it is a musical reconstruction of how Homer’s Odyssey might have sound when sung in the late 8th century BCE. Just that.
Some time ago I wrote a couple of lines on the oldest preserved Greek melody, the brief but beautiful epitaph of Seikilos. In that text I mentioned the difficulties of reconstructing ancient music, and the unconscious mistake we make when we do not realise that music was not only everywhere but that, actually, in many of the literary works we have preserved today music played a central rôle that we are missing completely.
It is for this reason that a initiative like this from Georg Danek of the University of Vienna and Stefan Hagel of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is so fascinating. They have developed in the last years a technique for singing Homeric epic based on how similar poems were sung in other epic traditions, and adjusted, of course, to the metrics preserved on Greek lyrics.
The fragment of this record is a recreation of lines 267-366 of book 8 of the Odyssey, when Demodokos sings about the loves of Ares and Aphrodite. The instrument that accompanies the recitation is the phormix, a four strings lyre. Of course, you can never expect this song to be the way Homer, or whoever is hidden behind that name, played and sang. It is the way scholars try to approach, after very hard work, the way it sounded. I really like these reconstructions not only because of their beauty, but because they are also a reminder of how much is missing from the past, and how aware we should be of that when we interpret it… saying it is lost and there is nothing we can do is never the answer.
If you want to learn more you ca find much more information, and much better explained, at http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/sh/index.htm.