Pitch Accent and Melody in Aeschylean Song

In: Greek and Roman Musical Studies
Anna Conser Columbia University New York, NY United States

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This article presents empirical evidence that pitch accents played a role in the antistrophic songs of Aeschylus’ tragedies, and argues that the accentual melodies preserved in the texts can usefully contribute to our interpretation of tragic lyric. Following a general Introduction, Section 2 provides an overview of the historical principles by which pitch accent and melody are coordinated in the ancient musical documents, and considers how these principles would apply in the context of tragedy’s antistrophic song. Section 3 presents the results of a computational study of pitch accent responsion across all the extant lyrics of Aeschylus, finding the overall degree of responsion to be statistically significant compared to prose and verse control groups. In Section 4, I demonstrate how the melodic traces preserved in pitch accent patterns can be meaningfully related to the lyrics they accompany, using an example from the Kommos of Libation Bearers (434-43).

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