Colours in music: metaphoric musical language in Greek antiquity

TitleColours in music: metaphoric musical language in Greek antiquity
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsRocconi, E
EditorHickmann, E, Eichmann, R
Book TitleMusikarchäologische Quellengruppen = Music-Archaeological Sources: finds, oral transmission, written evidence. Papers from the 3rd Symposium of the International Study Group on Music Archeology at Monastery Michaelstein, 9-16 June 2002
Series TitleStudien zur Musikarchäologie 4; Orient-Archäologie 14
Keywordsmetafore musicali, teoria musicale

According to the ancient Greeks, seeing and hearing were closely related. These two fundamental senses were used to gain knowledge and transmit memories. The visual vocabulary is often influenced by the musical one: in ancient Greek, there are many expressions concerning music which semantically originate from the sphere of colour and light, such as leukos [white], melas [black], lampos [bright], amauros [dark] or poikilia (“variety“ in colours and hence also in music). Some of these expressions, such as chroma [colour], became termini technici in the Greek theory of music: chroma [chromatic] is used for one of the three interval structures [tetrchords], called genae. It becomes apparent that this metaphorical meaning was intended for the modification of the standard mode, the diatonic scale. []

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