Speakers are invited from all fields of enquiry

– philology, archaeology, musicology, computer science, zoology, musical acoustics, theatrology –

to contribute to the theme of the conference

 

T o p i c s

 

1. Description of animal voices (tonal and rhythmic aspects; audio representation)

As is known, in the 4th century BCE Aristotle gave new perspectives to science by introducing novel objects and methods of enquiry. He is especially considered as the founder of zoology. His observations on animals included studies in anatomy, generation and reproduction. In particular, Aristotle  was  interested in the sound of animal voices.

 

2. Classification of animal species by their calls

In his distinction between animal species, Aristotle took into account their cries and calls, coining a number of terms to characterize their sounds. Although some relevant terms appeared already in the Homeric epics, it is Aristotle who associated these terms with specific dispositions of the body. As a consequence, scientific enquiry enlightened the relationships between human beings and animals, particularly in the field of voice production and hearing.

 

3. Association of animal sounds with the seasons and agriculture

Animal sounds played a significant role in the ancient soundscape, in that people heard certain animals at particular times and at specific places. In Hesiod’s Works and days, the cries of birds are linked to the succession of seasons and, as a result, to agricultural phases.

 

4. Influence of human music on animals

It had been realised from early times, that animals could react to specific sounds, including those of musical instruments. The idea was expressed in myth, where dolphins, for example, react positively to the sound of the aulos, or to Amphion’s kithara playing, but it was also believed to hold true in real life: we are told by Plutarch, for example, that the sound of certain musical instruments could lure the pray during hunting. The power of man-made music on animals, perfectly illustrated in literature and the visual arts by Orpheus, was reckoned to be so important that it is to be found even in Persian miniatures illustrating the story of Alexander the Great by Nazami, where Plato is depicted playing the organ, in order to charm the wild beasts.

 

5. Animal parts in the construction of musical instruments   

The belief that there exists a magic connection between human music and the animals found its way into the making of musical instruments. As is well known, Hermes was thought of as builder of the first lyre by using a tortoise carapace for the soundbox and sheep gut for the seven strings. The two pipes of an aulos were made of the bones of donkeys, leaving everybody wondering how such a melodious instrument could have its origins in a being of such an unbecoming bray. Although it is not always possible to identify the animal species, archaeozoologists have contributed significantly to the development of this aspect of archaeo-organology.

 

6. Animals and semi-animals as musicians

Animals are occasionaly shown in iconography as musicians, playing musical instruments: cicadas harping away, and rats trumpeting tubas. The idea of animals engaging in music making can, probably, be traced to pre-Hellenic Aegean, and, indeed, to Middle Eastern cultures. Choruses of animals (birds, frogs etc) also sing and dance in the theatre during performances of comic plays. Can we know whether their sounds and movements were to some degree imitated in the poets’ music and choreography?

Besides real animals, undoubtedly in the realm of human imagination and symbolism, there appear beings of a mixted nature, half human half animal, such as centaurs, cyclops, the Sirens, having a go at a musical instrument. What kind of music do they produce? How does ‘animal’ music affect humans?    

 

7. Animal calls imitated in human music

Composers occasionaly introduced in their music imitations (in musical sound) of animal cries. The best known example is the hissing of the snake Python included in the Nomos pythikos, a technically demanding show piece performed during music contests at Delphoi. Very likely, this was done within the general imitative framework of artistic expression, especially in the much saught after ‘word painting’ often to be found in some of the surviving vocal scores.       

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