Sunday, 27 May 2018

Marialilia Cavallaro gives a working paper on 'Music and the Gods. The Harmony of Bow and Lyre in the Imagery on Apollo'

The reference to the fragment 51 (DK) of Heraclitus, in the title of this paper, aims to start a reflection on the opposition between music and war and, more broadly, on the opposition between soul and body, humans and gods, politics and religion.
At the basis of the argument there are two considerations on the role of the mousikē technē in the ancient Greek societies: 1) musical rituals always preceded the establishment of the divine cults performed during the Greek period; 2) proceeding towards the classical age, it becomes even more evident that the performances of musical rituals within the cults were related to their growing social importance rather than to their pertinence to some religious competences of the gods.
This second aspect appears even more controversial in the case of Apollo, since we are used to think of his figure as mainly associated with the musical arts, although the god had a primary characterization as archer/warrior An historical analysis on the developments of the divine figure of Apollo, based on literary and archaeological sources, allows to reconstruct the opposition between his archaic competences as archer and the image of the god as mousikōs, that was spread in the Greek imagery from the end of the 6th century B.C. Beyond the apparent contradictions of the representations of Apollo, the bow and the lyre seem to find harmony under the wing of his human, or social, affinities, that well suit with the social use of the musical practices.
Moving forward with this reflection, the way in which the imagery on the god was conceived in the literature also complies with the image of Apollo spread by contemporary festivals, and it is particularly interesting the case of the Spartan Gymnopaidiai. The anthropological analysis of the musical rituals performed at the Gymnopaidiai, at the end of the paper, brought the discussion to its beginning, pointing out both the actual absence of strict connections between Greek gods and musical rituals, and the socio-political role of the mousikē technē in the construction of social memories. A unique instance of an entirely civic Greek festival, with the musical features of all its rituals, the Gymnopaidiai expressed, in the most exemplar way, all the socio-political potential that was assigned to the religion. Conversely, they also reveal how well-known the religious aspects of politics were.

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