Melody and word accent relationships in ancient musical documents: the Pitch Height Rule

TitleMelody and word accent relationships in ancient musical documents: the Pitch Height Rule
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsCosgrove, CH, Meyer, MC
JournalThe Journal of Hellenic Studies

It has long been known from the extant ancient Greek musical documents that some composers correlated melodic contour with word accents. Up to now, the evidence of this compositional technique has been judged impressionistically. In this article a statistical method of interpretation through computer simulation is set forth and applied to the musical texts, focusing on the convention of correlating a word's accent with the highest pitch level in the melody for that word: the Pitch Height Rule. The results provide a sounder basis for judging evidence for the operation of this convention in specific pieces and a sharper delineation of its use in the history of ancient Greek music. The ‘rule’ was used by at least some composers from the late second century BC through the second century AD, but there is no certainty that it was used before or after this period. In some cases where previous scholars have discovered the rule's operation, statistical analysis casts doubt. Of special interest is the showing that one piece long judged as offering no evidence of the use of the rule probably displays an inversion or parody of the rule for rhetorical-musical effect. []


Site information

© 2007-2012 MOISA: International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and Its Cultural Heritage

Site designed by Geoff Piersol and maintained by Stefan Hagel
All rights reserved.