The meeting of a large number of choristers and players in the immense Roman and Alexandrian theaters and amphitheaters does not constitute progress, leading only to an increase in sonority. The only genres that retain any vitality are the hymn, the citarodia, the auletic nómos. But Christianity does not take long to proscribe them, as they are linked to pagan myths and rites. Even the notation ends up being forgotten, and of all ancient music only a few vestiges remain in the nascent Christian hymn.
Greek music was essentially melodic and homophonic. Harmony understood in the modern sense, as a succession and concatenation of chords, was not known from antiquity. In vocal music the Greeks practiced nothing but chant in the octave or in unison. In instrumental or instrumental-vocal music the instruments could perform certain ornamental figurations, similar to those which today are called supports and passing notes; procedure in which we can recognize the heterophony mentioned by Plato in book VII of the Laws.
According to sportsqna, the Greeks knew only three consonant intervals: the fourth, the fifth and the octave, called symphonies (συμϕωνίαι). The third and sixth major and minor, called diaphonies (διαϕωνίαι), were considered to be the sweetest of the dissonances. The melody was most often doubled to the octave, what was called “magadize”, from the magadis, an instrument of Asian origin, equipped with double strings that produced the octave. While for us the melodic construction is based on the octave, for the Greeks the fundamental unit was the fourth, the smallest consonant interval admitted by their ear. The set of four notes separated by three degrees (the tetrachord) is the generating nucleus of all the Greek scales. These always result from a series of tetrachords, usually identical and, in any case, similar, sometimes joined by a common note (joint tetrachords), sometimes separated by a disjunctive tone (disjunctive tetrachords). The point of conjunction and separation of the two constitutive tetrachords of the scale had great importance with respect to the scale itself and its relations with the whole system. In conjoined tetrachords (i.e. with a common sound, which was at the same time fourth degree of the first tetrachord and first degree of the second) the conjunction point was called sinafe (συναϕή); in disjoint tetrachords, with the space of one tone between the first and second tetrachord, it was called diazeusi (διάζευξις). The melodic movement in Greek music always goes from the acute to the grave and the penultimate note, leaning on the lower one, has an office similar to that of our sensitive note, but in the opposite sense, not already ascending but descending. The tonic consisted of the month (μέση), which formed the point of attraction of the sounds and the beginning of every melodic succession. Its name indicates the almost central position in which it finds itself in the staircase; and its importance is certainly due to the fact that most of the melodic relations were perceived directly or indirectly in relation to it. It seems that the conclusion of the phrases took place preferably on the initial note of the melody or on one of the two central notes. The complete system was called a perfect system (τελεῖον) or a modulating system (μετάβολον). Here is the general scheme:
In support of this system is the scale of fifteen sounds (similar to our scale of the minor) consists of a series of joint or disjoint tetrachords. This system is the foundation of the speculations not only of the Greeks, but also of medieval treatise writers. The same denominations of sounds are found everywhere and even the extension of the system was not outdated for a long time. The ecclesiastical chant, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, still moves within these limits and the notation in Roman letters, which appears from the century. IX to X, still refers to this two-octave diatonic scale.
The “modes” or “harmonies” are the scales that were built on this diatonic series. They were distinguished according to the position of the semitones in the tetrachords of which they were formed. The “modes” took their name from the Greek nationalities with which they were in use and from the ethnic cantteristics that marked them and that they were better able to translate. There were the following typical scales: the Doric, consisting of two tetrachords with the semitone in third place:
the Phrygian, made similarly but with the halftone in second place:
the Lydian, with semitone first:
the hypodoric, transposition of the Doric:
l ‘ ipolidia:
Three other scales were obtained with the inversion of the tetrachords, the suppression of the common note and the integration of the octave, not with the repetition of the low sound, but with that of the acute sound, that is: upside down Doric with the addition of the beginning of the yes, called hyperdoric or misolydian, i.e. mixed:
hyperphrygus, equal hypodoric:
hyperlidium, the same as hypofrygium:
From some ancient writers (Pollux, Athenaeus and Heraclides Pontico) we know that before the Macedonian conquest the harmonies were called by other names: aeolia (manner of la), ionic or iastia(modo di sol), lidia abbassata (modo di fa), corica (modo di mi), frigia (modo di re), lidia (modo di do), misolidia (modo di si). Il modo locrio, inventato da Senocrito di Locri, aveva la stessa tonalità dell’ipodorico.
But later on the number of modes practiced was increasingly reduced and, from the time of Aristotle, certain theorists recognized only two harmonies: the Doric and the Phrygian, of which the others were only modifications. From Ptolemy (2nd century BC) we know that the only modes still used in his time in the citarodia were Doric, Hypodoric, Phrygian and Hypophrygian. The doctrine of the éthosmodal harmonies, that is their expressive character and their moral influence, has a great importance in Greek music and largely determines their use in the different genres of composition. Thus the Doric (virile, grave, majestic, educational) was the mode of the Apollonian lyric, of the liturgical hymns, of the citarodia, etc.; Phrygian (graceful, enthusiastic, Bacchic, tumultuous) was the mode of auletics, dithyramb and tragedy; the hypolidium (voluptuous and ardent) was the mode of the aulody, and so on exemplifying.
The genus, according to Aristoxenus, is the relationship in which the sounds of which the fourth interval are made up reciprocally. In other words, it is a way of dividing the tetrachord. The two extreme sounds of the tetrachord are invariably separated from each other by an interval of the perfect fourth. For this reason they are called fixed sounds. Such are the proslambanomene (προσλαμβανομένη), the two ipati (ὑπάται), the month (μέση), the paramese (παραμέση), the three neti (νήται). As for the intermediate degrees, their intonation varies according to the genre, provided however that in no case they are tuned higher than in the diatonic. Therefore they are called mobile or variable sounds. To this category belong the paripati (παρυπάται), the licani (λίχανοι), the triti (τρίται), the paraneti (παρανήται).