Terpander : the invention of music in the orientalizing period
The legend that Terpander rejected "four-voiced song" (τετράγηρυν ἀοιδάν) in favor of new songs on the seven-stringed lyre (ἐπτατονος φὸρμιγξ) epitomizes the Greek exposure, at the height of Assyrian power (c. 750-650 B.C.), to the Mesopotamian tradition of classical music. Terpander's `invention' answers clearly to the heptatony which was widely practiced in the ancient Near East, as known from the diatonic tuning system documented in the cuneiform musical tablets. "Four-voiced song" describes the traditional melodic practice of the Greek epic singer, and must be understood in terms of its inheritance from the Indo-European poetic art. The syncretism of these two music-streams may be deduced from the evidence of the later Greek theorists and musicographers. Though diatonic scales were also known in Greece, even the late theorists remembered that pride of place had been given in the Classical period to other forms of heptatony-the chromatic and enharmonic genera, tone-structures which cannot be established solely through the resonant intervals of the diatonic method. Nevertheless, these tunings were consistently seen as modifications of the diatonic-which Aristoxenus believed to be the `oldest and most natural' of the genera-and were required to conform to minimum conditions of diatony. Thus the Greek structures represent the overlay of native musical inflections on a borrowed diatonic substrate, and the creation of a distinctly Hellenized form of heptatonic music. More specific points of contact are found in the string nomenclatures, which in both traditions were arranged to emphasize a central string. There is extensive Greek evidence relating this `epicentric' structure to musical function, with the middle string acting as a type of tonal center of constant pitch, while the other strings could change from tuning to tuning. So too in the Mesopotamian system the central string remained constant throughout the diatonic tuning cycle. Hence the melic revolution of the Archaic period represents the fruit of an Assyrianizing, diatonicizing musical movement.