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Music and the MusesThe Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City$
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Penelope Murray and Peter Wilson

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199242399

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199242399.001.0001

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Athenian Strings

Athenian Strings

(p.269) 10 Athenian Strings
Music and the Muses

Peter Wilson

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates the role of stringed instruments in the musical culture of democratic Athens. Moving beyond the broad ideological distinction between lyre (traditional, élite, ‘Apollonian’) and aulos (new, vulgar, ‘Dionysiac’), it shows how the kithara became democratised during the course of the 5th century. The immense prestige of kithara-events (both instrumental playing, and singing to the kithara) at public festivals, where increasingly professionalised musicians performed before mass Athenian audiences, transformed perceptions of the instrument. At the same time its music was appropriated by practitioners of New Music. This is demonstrated by a discussion of Timotheus' Persians, a kitharodic nome, which presents itself as inclusive and new, yet at the same time embodying the finest traditions of Athenian conservative culture.

Keywords:   stringed instruments, lyre, aulos, kithara, New Music, Timotheus

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