Music in the Odes of Horace

TitleMusic in the Odes of Horace
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsLyons, S
Ancient AuthorsQuintus Horatius Flaccus (PHI 0893)
Number of Pages208 pp.
PublisherAris and Phillips

Challenging the perception of the Odes as purely literary works and drawing on extensive evidence in Horace and other ancient sources, Lyons argues that Horace's objective was to produce a unique type of performance art, a Latin re-interpretation of Greek lyric song to entertain the Roman elite. In post-Carolingian manuscripts, there are several instances of musical notation for the Odes. Some was to help students articulate their Latin, but other notation records performance works. Lyons shows that the arrangement for the Ode to Phyllis in the Montpellier manuscript and Guido d'Arezzo's do-re-mi mnemonic share a common ancestor. The long-hidden St Petersburg codex is a virtual songbook with sixteen melodies reflecting secular as well as monastic traditions. These and other manuscripts provide persuasive evidence that Horace was sung for entertainment as well as teaching.

While there is no provable link between early medieval performance and Horace's own practice, Lyons argues that the Horace of the Odes was a musical innovator, songwriter and entertainer, as well as a literary craftsman, and sang much of his lyric poetry to the accompaniment of his own lyre. []


BMCR 2010.06.24 Nina Mindt; Hermathena 2010 189: 124-127 Timothy J. Moore

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