September 18, 2016

Pegasus the Horse of Thunder, Lightning and the Muses

Pegasus means "spring forth" or "of the springs." Pegasus is an immortal flying horse with close ties to fresh water springs. Only in later myths is he described as having wings. Today, his wings are most often white but that may be a very recent color change. There are quite a few divine horses running around the Greek sky. They are usually descended from the Gods of the four winds or the spirits of storm winds. Pegasus’s parents, however, are most often Medusa and Poseidon. He "sprang" from Medusa’s neck when she was killed. In older stories, Pegasus carried thunder and lightening for Zeus. The constellation Pegasus rises in the spring, bringing warm weather and rainstorms. Eos the Goddess of dawn also got along well with Pegasus. Each morning they traveled across the sky, Eos’s torch lighting the sky before the sun rose.

In the more adventure oriented stories, Athena Chalinitis, "the horse bridler," tames Pegasus with a golden bridle and gives him to the hero Bellerophon or she tells him how to tame the horse. Bellerophon rides Pegasus into battle with the Chimaera. Some people say this is a myth about the spring storms defeating the winter season. Unfortunately, Bellerophon doesn’t stop at using a winged horse to win battles and tries to fly to the Gods’ home. Pegasus throws him to the ground, usually at the request of the Gods and returns to flying wild.

Pegasus also appears in the contest of the 7 Muses of Pieria and the 9 Muses of the Olympians at Mount Helicon. The mountain rose up into the sky during the singing contest and Poseidon sent Pegasus to stamp the mountain back to the ground. The four springs of the Hippocrene fountain "horse spring," appeared where Pegasus’s hooves struck the mountain. The Muses promptly added this fountain to their collection of sacred springs of inspiration. Pegasus could almost be tracked by the springs his hooves created across the land (maybe he got thirsty easy) and most of these springs ended up being linked to the Muses, prophecy and ritual cleansings. Pegasides is a term for nymphs of springs and fresh water streams and is one of the many group names for the Muses. All of this may be why in later stories, Athena again tames Pegasus and this time gives him to the Muses.

The constellation called Pegasus has a few more stories linked to it. Chiron the healing Centaur had a daughter who had the gift of prophecy but she told too many secrets and was transformed into a mare (usually black) by Zeus. Artemis however stepped in and placed her in the sky as the constellation Pegasus. The Centaur’s daughter has a confusing list of names. Euippe or Hippe, "the good mare," and Ocyrhoe "the swiftly flowing" seem to be the most common but she is also called Melanippe "the black mare" and even Antiope. Intriguingly, the 7 Muses of Pieria are sometimes said to be the daughters of a nymph name Euippe or Antiope. One final horse and Muse related name to end with; Aganippe "the gentle horse who overwhelms" is the title of Demeter as a black horse with wings. Aganippe is also the name of a nymph who raised the Olympian Muses and gave them her spring which was known for inspiration.

Pegasus soars through the black sky filled with stars, leaps in the dark clouds filled with rain and brings inspiration and prophecies from the dark earthy source of sweet spring waters.

May 7, 2016

The Mythical Jacquaflute Arrives!

Not exactly myth related but I'm excited and want to share the sound clip.

I've been wishing for a vertically held rim-blown flute for some time. There are lots out there but none of them where quite what I wanted (a few examples are the Middle Eastern ney, the Japanese shakuhachi and the South American quena). Then I found someone who makes both Ancestor Pueblo/Anasazi style flutes and keyless transverse wood flutes. I asked him to mix them together in a size that fit my hands. Here is the result.

Cross between Pueblo / Anasazi style flute and keyless transverse flute

Sycamore rim-blown flute in G made by Jon Norris Music & Arts
The embouchure is quite different from a concert flute but not harder. Think of it as like blowing across a water bottle but trickier because there's a sweet spot. I spent a couple of days getting the flute to speak reliably and a week getting a feel for the range and different tones it can make. It just keeps getting more fun as I go and sounds amazing outside, especially in the woods.

Like most flutes, getting a good recording takes a few trials and errors. I'm still working out the kinks and feedback issues that go with this flute but I think I managed to get a decent track here.



A short bit about Pueblo/Anasazi flutes.
First, the name. Ancestor Pueblo is more polite but Anasazi is more widely used. Archeologists are a bit weird about saying the Anasazi people are related to today's Pueblo tribes. There isn't really a good reason for this. In Europe, they don't hesitate to call ancient remains German or French based on where they were found and then explain that they may or may not be direct ancestors of the people living in those countries. But not here in the Americas. Makes them seem a bit silly to me.
Second, the age. The Pueblo flutes that have been found in the Desert Southwest are around 1500 years old (at least). This means they predate Columbus and even the Vikings in the Americas. It is unusual to find wood instruments this old anywhere simply because of how fast wood decays. Older flutes (and other instruments) have been found but they are generally made of bone, clay or stone.
Now the size. The Pueblo flutes that have been dug up are all fairly large and deep. The low range is generally considered the best part of this instrument's voice and with good reason! It's a wonderfully lush tone. However, this doesn't mean smaller versions didn't exist just that we haven't found any. The Hopi flute and the South America quena are both examples of more current rim-blown flutes that are smaller and higher than the Pueblo flute. It would make sense for these flutes to be related to the Pueblo flutes but again, we don't know for sure. Individual makers certainly made changes to the design that seemed good to them (or to accommodate some lunatic musician's ideas) just as they do today. Nothing in music stays static really. It is a constantly changing art form.
Finally the scale and finger placement. The Pueblo flutes don't use a diatonic, pentatonic or chromatic scale. It's pretty intriguing and seems to be set up to let the musician chose between a major or minor sound (or go back and forth) without having to go up into the higher register. I went for a scale I'm already familiar with for my first venture into rim-blown flutes but may well try out the other scale sometime. In a way, this made my flute similar to the South American quena. But without a thumb hole and with smaller, easier to cover finger holes. And a different blowing edge which gives me a wider variety of sounds and a different tone than the quena. More on the quena in a later post.

So there you go. The Mythical Jackalope flute has been sighted, lured into the open and determined to exist at long last.

March 20, 2016

Turtles, Rabbits, Birds; Flute Players in the Americas

Every culture in the world seems to have some version of the flute. The idea of blowing across a hole and splitting air to make music is not really that difficult to come up with so this isn't that surprising. But there are many different ways these instruments develop. In the Americas, many different flutes have existed for many, many years. And like all flutes, there are many stories about them.

The Native American flute (sometimes called the Woodland flute or Plains flute though those two are not exactly the same) is held vertically and actually has more in common with the recorder than the concert flute. Both have a duct or a chamber that guides the air stream to the edge that creates sound. The Native American flute has an external duct and a different scale than the concert flute which is part of what creates it's individual sound. It is generally considered a North American instrument and yes, there are several different versions of this instrument in different tribes. In some stories, the Native flute was “invented” by a young man who heard music on the breeze coming from a hollow branch with holes made by a woodpecker. In others, the woodpecker is considered the musical inventor who gave the flute to people to express themselves better.

Woodpecker the Flute Maker
Woodpecker the Flute Maker

Native American flutes were often used as courting instruments and to lure girls outside and away from their parents. R. Carlos Nakai has said that unmarried girls from Native societies are still sometimes not allowed to attend his concerts and there are still far fewer women who play this instrument than men. Mary Youngblood is one of the more famous exceptions. Kokopelli (there are several different spellings) is possibly the most famous flute player from the Americas. The hunched figure playing a flute or pipe is found in ancient rock art all over the Southwest and Central America. There are often lines coming off of Kokopelli’s head that remind some people of antenna; a flute playing insect.

Ocarina-Kokopelli

Kokopelli is also one of the katchina figures-a masked dancer who chases the women while his wife Kokopelli-mana chases the boys. Some stories say that the hunched back is a sack and Kokopelli is a traveling salesman who plays flute to attract customers. Some say the sack is full of seeds, music or babies. Kokopelli is generally considered a fertility god (like nearly all mythic flute players). He often brings rain with him when he travels and helps crops grow. Some scholars say that the Kokopelli myths can be used to track the spread of maize or corn throughout the Americas. Katherine Hoover’s “Kokopeli” is a very popular piece for the concert flute (an instrument more often played by women than men) meant to represent Kokopelli as a leader of the migrations of the Native Americans.
What flute he plays is open to debate. The Native flute is held vertically which would match the rock art nicely. But archaeologists have also found several vertically held rim-blown flutes (no ducts) in the desert Southwest that would also fit the silhouette we see. These flutes are sometimes called Ancestor Pueblo or Anasazi flutes (Ancestor Pueblo is more polite, Anasazi is more widely used so knowing both is important). Again, they have a different scale than either the concert flute or the Native American flute and so have a different sound and tone.
Diatonic Pueblo/Anasazi Flute. Non-traditional scale and size but it gives you the idea.

In South American there are several different types of flutes. One is the quena that is held vertically. The quena is somewhat similar to the Pueblo flutes but smaller and with a scale closer to the concert flute. In the Andes today, travelers still sometimes play flutes to announce themselves and show they are peaceful as they travel from village to village. The panpipes and ocarinas also have been played in South America for ages. Europeans took the ocarina idea back over the ocean with them and now they can be found in a wide range of places. (I'll be doing more research on this instrument's history and myths later.)

Jabuti (various spellings) is sometimes the name of a character in folktales from the Amazon rain forest. He is a small tortoise who plays pranks on all the other creatures and usually outwits them, though (like most tricksters) he sometimes manages to outwit himself as well. In Gerald McDermott’s story, Jabuti plays a flute and makes the creatures in the jungle all dance and sing. When the birds go to sing for the King of Heaven, Jabuti wants to go and play his flute. Vulture (who is not happy with the sneaky turtle) offers to carry Jabuti to the sky but then drops him on his back, shattering Jabuti’s shell. The other birds help patch his shell back together (Humpty Dumpty could have learned a thing or two from this tortoise) and Jabuti lives to play music and tricks another day.
In other less Westernized stories, the flute playing tortoise is female and loves to dance. She often cons her way out of trouble or simply plays music to win others over to her side. The flute this character plays is not very well defined. Sometimes panpipes are pictured and other times a very general vertical flute is shown. I suspect her instrument choice changed depending on what flute was popular at the time.

Meanwhile, in the Brer Rabbit tales from North America, Brer Turtle uses Brer Vulture’s feathers to make “quill pipes” after tricking Brer Vulture out of some honey. Brer Fox hears the wonderful music and steals the pipes from Brer Turtle. Brer Turtle sneaks up on Brer Fox, bites and hangs onto his toe until Brer Fox gives the pipes back.
It is believed that both the Brer Rabbit and Jabuti/Tortoise tales have links to West African folktales, mixed with Native American stories that have taken on a life of their own.
The image of a turtle with a round shell playing a flute looks a great deal like the basic Kokopelli image to me though I know of no direct connection between the two.


Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales as told by Julius Lester
(a more recent version of the Brer Rabbit stories and my personal favorite)
  
Kokopelli: The Magic, Mirth and Mischief of an Ancient Symbol by Dennis Slifer

January 15, 2016

Program Notes

Everything you wanted to know about my music. Including how to find it.
Link to buy MP3s.
Link to buy physical CDs. 

Amaltheia's Lullaby-program notes-
In Greek Mythology, Amaltheia is a nymph or a goat who raised Zeus the God of thunder. Pan, half God half Goat, is the God of the wilderness. There are many different stories of Pan’s birth and antics. As the son of Amaltheia’s goat, Pan was raised in a cave with Zeus. Another story says Pan and Arcas were the twin sons of Zeus and Callisto a nymph who was changed into a bear. In yet another story, Pan helped Zeus after his sinews were stolen by the guardian of the sacred oracle at Delphi. Pan often plays a panpipe or a syrinx that can put anyone to sleep. A Labyrinth is a maze with only one path in and out. The version often seen in Crete, where Zeus and Pan were said to have been raised, has seven corridors.
The four notes F G C and E-flat are a call to Pan according to some. All the pieces on this album relate to these notes.

Waking the Devas-program notes-
A while ago, a friend of mine was telling me about her new garden. It was in the country across the road from a forest. It made her happy just seeing it. It overflowed with life as if little spirits were peeping out around the tomatoes, morning glories and grass. Even the bugs that ate plants down to the ground had a magic to them although that didn’t make them less of a nuisance. The garden became a nursery for nature devas, a safe place for them to gain strength as they step, roll and rush out into the world. This got me thinking about waking the devas, fairies, nature spirits in the world around us. Drawing them into the cracks in our lives and letting them run wild. Messy sometimes but more than worth it for all the joy they bring.

Link to buy MP3s.
Link to buy physical CDs.

November 10, 2015

Artemis the Lover of Song and Dance

Rising Full Moon
The Wild Wood
We are familiar with Artemis as the huntress of wild things, the independent Goddess of the Moon who guards young children and refused to marry. But she is also a Goddess closely linked to singing and dancing. 
Artemis
The Dancing Hunter
In myths and poems, Artemis is described as loving to sing and leading her nymphs in song as often as they hunted. Artemis led the Muses in circle dances and directed their choir singing (before Apollo became their manager). Young girls dressed in saffron tunics and danced a bear dance in honor of Artemis before they were allowed to marry. In myths, girl after girl is abducted while dancing or singing for Artemis (Helen, Ariadne). Aphrodite once disguised herself as a mortal and claimed the same thing had happened to her to make her story convincing. Many dances were considered sacred to Artemis: circle dances, winding chain dances, lively jigs with wild leaps into the air and dances where the dancers dressed as plants, deer (or other animals) and the opposite sex. Karyatis, Kordax and Korythalia are all titles or names linked to Artemis and the dances that were done in her honor.
Deer in Winter
The Moon and Deer are Symbols of Artemis
A few of Artemis's musical (or at least noisy) titles include; 
-Hegemone “leader of dance" or "choir leader.” 
-Hymnia “of the hymns” or "lover of songs." 
-Celadeinus/Celadeine “strong voiced" or "lady of clamors.”
And a final observation of my own; Erato the Muse of erotic and love poetry, wedding music and sometimes dance, is sometimes shown holding a bow and arrows, like Eros the God of love. And Artemis the leader of the songs and dances of nymphs, Muses and Graces, is most often pictured with bow and arrows today.

Eclipse Crescent Moon
When the Moon shines, Artemis dances with the plants and animals
Artemis is the untamed singer beside the forest stream who leads us into the harmonic wilderness. She is the conductor hiding within the ensemble, the dancer in costume, the disguised side of ourselves who sings duets with those she loves.

September 30, 2015

Flute and Aulos in Translation

I have mentioned this before and I know I will again but this particular issue is very widespread and deserves a post all its own. At least if you enjoy researching music in myths.
When reading anything about ancient Greece that mentions "the flute", there are very high odds that it should say "the aulos". Aulos is so frequently mistranslated as flute that you almost have to assume flute means aulos in any English text. The aulos is a double reed instrument played vertically, sometimes in pairs and sometimes not. The flute has no reeds and is played horizontally/transverse and almost no one is crazy enough to try to play two at once.
Pan Playing Double Aulos
Pan Playing Double Aulos Among the White Violets
The recorder is sometimes played in pairs but again, the recorder does not use reeds and so also isn't an aulos. The aulos does not exist as a modern instrument and we don't know all the details of how the aulos was made or played. We do have enough pictures from vases and sculptures, as well as writings about it, to know it was not like the flute at all. The aulos does seem to be somewhat like an oboe but that comparison is not precise either since oboes are not played in pairs and don't require a strap around the head. This means that whenever you run into something saying "Athena invented the flute", "Euterpe was the Muse of flute players" or "Apollo played flute with the Muses" it almost ALWAYS means aulos, not flute.
Now just to confuse things, there was a transverse flute in use in ancient Greece. It was considered a country instrument, not very sophisticated and linked to shepherds. There are almost no mythological stories that feature this instrument and the only reference to a God playing one (that shouldn't actually read aulos that is) that I have run across is Pan and I'm not sure about that one. It is possible that the original Greek text said panpipes or syrinx instead of flute, another common mistranslation. Although since Pan was a God of shepherds, it is not impossible that in this case, they actually meant the transverse flute.
Baby Pan Playing Transverse Flute
Pan Playing Transverse Flute Among the Wild Columbine
The transverse flute just didn't have enough respect to be used in the stories. It is one of the oldest instruments in the world but it took centuries for the flute to gain any standing among other instruments in Western culture. Yet people kept playing it, teaching it and writing music for it. And now, it is so hard for us to believe that this instrument didn't matter in the past that we change the name of other instruments to flute. Flutes can be sneaky little things.

August 1, 2015

Muses, Modes and the Music of the Spheres

This will be a rather long post about a picture called "Music of the Spheres" that was published in 1496 in Francinus Gafurius's Practica musice. This picture gives us some interesting insights into how the people of the Renaissance super-imposed Greek myth onto music theory. My views on the musical elements, mythological ideas and metaphysical ideas that can be seen in this picture are influenced by (but not the same as) Joseph Campbell's essay "The Muses Nine" (can be found in The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987) which I encourage you to read. (Even though he got the names of the two modes that are the same wrong-he was a mythology expert, not a musician.)

File:The music of the spheres.jpg

"Music of the Spheres" from Francinus Gafurius's Practica musice published in 1496-public domain.
(Yes, this picture uses a pre-Copernican order for the planets and is geocentric.) 

What is shown in this picure
-The Latin scroll at the top reads "The Apollonian mind moves the Muses everywhere." 
-Apollo is seated at the top playing a large lute. The little flying monkeys in the corners (I know they are supposed to be angels or cupids but they look like flying monkeys to me) are playing a smaller lute and a viola da gamba. Both lutes and viola da gambas were often used instead of lyres in the Renaissance pictures of mythological characters.
-Three Graces dance next to Apollo.
    1 Euphrosyne "Mirth, Good Cheer"
    2 Aglaia "Splendor, Beauty"
    3 Thalia "Blooming, Abundance"
-Nine Muses are paired off with the nine planetary spheres and the modes/scales. In between each planet is the word tonus (whole-step) or semitonium (half-step) to show the distance between each note. To hear the different modes/scales, you can follow the whole and half steps starting on any note. Or, on a piano, play only the white key between the notes in the parenthesis below.
    1 Urania “Heavenly one”---Stars---Hypermixolydian (A to A; Aeolian or minor) 
    2 Polyhymnia “Many hymns”---Saturn---Mixolydian (G to G)
    3 Euterpe “Giver of joy”---Jupiter---Lydian (F to F)
    4 Erato “Awakener of desire”---Mars---Phrygian (E to E)
    5 Melpomene “The singer”---Sun---Dorian (D to D)
    6 Terpsicore “Enjoys dance”---Venus---Hypolydian (C to C; Ionian or major) 
    7 Caliope “Beautiful voice”---Mercury---Hypophrygian (B to B; Locrian) 
    8 Clio “Giver of fame”---Moon---Hypodorian (A to A; Aeolian or minor) 
    9 Thalia “Festive, blooming”---Earth---no note
    (Note: These are not the current standard spellings for the names of the Muses.)
-The Greek words next to each Muse (Mese, Lychanosme, Meson etc.) are names for notes that mostly indicate the order of notes in a scale. They basically mean 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.
-A Three Headed Serpent in the center connects the Grace Thalia (top) to the Muse Thalia (bottom.) There really were both a Grace and a Muse named Thalia in some of the less well known Greek myths.
-The Elements-Fire (ignis) Air (aer), and Water (aqua) surround the Earth (terra) and the Muse Thalia.
I have yet to find any explanation of the vase of plants next to Apollo. I say it represents the blossoming of the earth creating spirit. 

Musical Ideas I See in this Picture
As a group, the Graces create the movement and speed of the sound waves; pitch.
The Grace Thalia shapes the type of sound being heard; timbre. I would tentatively give volume and rhythm to the other two Graces.
The Muses are the organization of the different vibrations/pitches; the notes and scales.
Since Muse Thalia (within the Earth) is not given a note or scale, she becomes not only the substance used to create music (air, wood, reed, string, metal) but also the sounding board or the part of the instrument/voice that reverberates and amplifies the sounds just as she amplifies our connection to spirit.
The whole-steps (tonus) and half-steps (semitonium) between each planet form an ascending minor scale from bottom to top though different scales are formed by starting on different notes/planets. The name of a Greek scale or mode is assigned to each Muse and planet. Hypermixolydian and Hypodorian are functionally the same scale pattern according to the picture. (Not, as Campbell says, Hypermixolydian and Dorian.)
A bit of trivia; the picture itself does not actually use Ancient Greek scales. Renaissance authors didn’t know how the Greek scales really worked and assigned the Greek names to their own scales somewhat randomly. (The Greek scales started on different notes, used different intervals between scale steps and often placed the tonic in the middle of the scale.) However, these ARE the scale patterns and mode names as they are paired off today. They just have nothing to do with the older Greek scales, aside from their names.

More Detail and Mythological Ideas
Apollo as the God of harmony helps people live in harmony with the world and spirit. Harmony can be created between different tones, different beings and different realities. In Greek myth, he was sometimes considered the leader of the Muses (after ousting Artemis.) 
The Graces are the first divisions, reflections or reverberations of spirit. They expand the possible ways of perceiving the divine mask, making it easier to approach. In myth, the Graces lived and traveled with the Muses. The Graces were sometimes considered a triad version of Aphrodite, who had ties to the Muses as well. There are several different sets of names for the Graces so don't worry too much if you haven't heard of this set before. Euphrosyne "Mirth, Festivity, Good Cheer" faces away from Apollo representing spirit moving out into the world. Aglaia "Splendor, Beauty, Triumph, Adornment" faces Apollo representing how the world feeds and seeks spirit. Thalia "Blooming, Abundance" faces the viewer creating a full circle.
The serpent descends through the planetary spheres and four elements (Campbell compares it to the Kundalini spirit descending the spinal column) and its three heads are in the earth with the Muse Thalia, connecting spirit with the physical world by linking the two Thalias. Three headed beings turn up in myth a great deal and often represent balancing our right and left energies (creative and analytical, spirit and body). This serpent helps us connect with or wake the Muse spirit within the earth and ourselves. 
The elements, earth, water, air and fire not only make up the world but are different forms of spirit within the world. The more aware we become of the various forms of spirit in the world around us, the more we experience the inspiration of the Muses. 
The Muses and the planets are the expansion of consciousness through the planetary spheres and different harmonies. Getting to know the Muses and their planetary spheres can be seen as the growing awareness that spirit exists in everything. And since all art, music and learning has its Muse, any art, learning or inspiration is a possible path to spirit.

Chakras and the Tree of Life
Campbell links the Muses to the chakras in his essay although he assigns three Muses to the heart chakra to make the numbers work. He describes encountering the different Muses as moving awareness up through the chakras in the body continuing the Kundalini idea.
Crown chakra----Urania/Stars
Brow chakra------Polyhymnia/Saturn
Throat chakra----Euterpe/Jupiter
                             Erato/Mars---Upper Heart, closer to spirit
Heart chakra-----Melpomene/Sun---Center Heart, balances earth and spirit
                             Terpsicore/Venus---Lower Heart, closer to earth
3rd chakra---------Caliope/Mercury
2nd chakra---------Clio/Moon
Root chakra------Thalia/Earth

Here is an alternative method of linking the Muses to the chakras that I came up with and think is less confusing. It uses two external chakras that are only present in some chakra systems (there are many.) Again, this is to make the numbers work.
External chakra above our heads----Urania/Stars
Crown chakra----------------------------------Polyhymnia/Saturn
Brow chakra------------------------------------Euterpe/Jupiter
Throat chakra----------------------------------EratoMars
Heart chakra------------------------------------Melpomene/Sun
3rd chakra----------------------------------------Terpsicore/Venus
2nd chakra---------------------------------------Caliope/Mercury



Root chakra-------------------------------------Clio/Moon
External chakra below the ground---Thalia/Earth 

This picture can also be used to place the Muses in the Tree of Life pattern. I don't know why Campbell didn't discuss this since the numbers match up better than with the chakras.
1 Kefer Crown/Source------------Apollo 
2 Chokmah Wisdom---------------Urania/Ourania
3 Binah Understanding-----------Polyhymnia
4 Chesed Love------------------------Euterpe
5 Gebunrah Strength--------------Erato
6 Tiphareth Beauty-----------------Melpomene
7 Netzach Victory-------------------Terpsicore/Terpshicore
8 Hod Glory----------------------------Caliope/Kalliope
9 Yesod Foundation----------------Clio/Klieo
10 Malkuth World/Universe-----Thalia
I think Mnemosyne “memory” works just as well for the first station as Apollo since she is the mother of the Muses.
With that in mind, Lethe “forgetfulness” is a good choice for the 11th station, Daath, that is both there and not. 
If you would rather stick with images from the original picture, the serpent would be my next pick for the 11th station. It would also be possible to put the Graces here as a group. (For a short, clear and sane intro to the Tree of Life, I suggest Math for Mystic by Renna Shesso-she discusses it in one chapter.)
Qabalah Tree of Life and Muses

Keep in mind that this order of the Muses was created in the Renaissance and has no relation to anything in Greek mythology. You are in fact free to move them around anyway you want.

Summing Up
Connection to spirit comes from perceiving that the spirit is a part of the physical world and understanding that the physical itself creates the spirit. To deny the physical, the body, as holy in hopes of increasing spirit or connecting with divine is similar to looking at a water glass without drinking it when we are thirsty. Drinking the water is much simpler and far more effective. Not to mention more comfortable.
The Muses bring inspiration of all kinds into our lives and harmony to spirit and matter throughout the universe.

For Music Theory on the Modern Modes Click Here

May 31, 2015

Four Notes, The Pan Call

F - G - C - Eb
The musical call to the God Pan is said to be made up of four notes; F G C and E-flat. These notes invoke Pan. Or soothe him to sleep. Or please him enough to send him dancing peacefully on his way. Since the Greeks used very different musical scales and notation systems than we do, it is likely these are not the notes an ancient would have used to call Pan. But they have a special magic all their own. These notes can fit into a minor scale, the Dorian mode or the Mixolydian mode easily enough. They can be played alone or other notes can be tucked in around them. They can outline chords or become stepping stones in a melody or harmony line. They can move one to the next quickly or linger as drones. They can dance, skip, march, process, grieve or hum a lullaby. All this from just four notes.
Goat-legged Pan is the God of the wilderness and the realms beyond human homes. He is shown playing a syrinx or panpipes so often it would make sense for him to be the God of music. But he wasn’t exactly. His music was the music of the wilds and the country folk. Music that anyone could make and enjoy. He was often shown with Dionysus who also loved untamed music. Some say Pan was the God of theatrical criticism (intriguing since Dionysus was the God of theater).
The panpipes were considered a country or shepherds’ instrument because they weren’t difficult to make. Though learning to play them well was another story. Most Gods didn’t bother with them. But Pan claimed them as his special skill. He invented the panpipes when one lovely nymph transformed herself into a patch of reeds while he was chasing her. The breezes made the reeds hum and sing so beautifully, Pan was inspired to create an instrument named for the nymph who had rejected him, Syrinx. Hermes sometimes is credited with inventing the panpipes but others say he simply learned to make and play them from the master music maker.
Pan was never civilized enough for the more formal gatherings of the Gods where Apollo and the Muses ruled the stage. Yet Apollo took lessons from Pan, both in music and prophecies. Once, Pan and Apollo even had a musical contest. Midas was one of the listeners and preferred Pan’s pipe-music to Apollo’s lyre-playing. He also questioned how fair the contest had been to begin with, since the judges were followers of Apollo. Apollo gave Midas donkey’s ears in revenge for his criticisms.
Hunters asked Pan to lure animals to them with his music. He coaxed Psyche out of her suicidal depression and helped her figure out how to get back her husband, Cupid, all with music. He fell in love with Echo, the nymph who could only repeat what others had said, a mythic call-and-response duo. Pan likes to sleep at noon and pipe his tunes at dawn or dusk. Waking Pan from his midday nap is an especially dangerous activity. His voice alone can panic the Titans into running away. He uses his music to lure young girls and boys into the woods and plays for the dancing nymphs under the stars. He can put a person to sleep or drive them mad with just a tune.
Perhaps we will wander into the woods this spring when the green shoots and early flowers are growing beside the thawing creeks and streams. And perhaps we will play four notes that ring and echo into the distance. If we dare.

March 21, 2015

The Flutes of Gilgamesh and Tammuzi

I put off this post in a deluded attempt to find more information but have now admitted the truth; I likely have all the information I can find. Both of these instruments are only mentioned in fragments of myths, making our information spotty at best but I'll do what I can.
First, a note about the term flute in these myths. The instrument in Gilgamesh’s story is often called a flute in English translations (and other languages) however it most likely was a reed instrument. This seems to be an extremely common mistranslation when dealing with old texts; any old or archaic wind instrument that is basically a hollow pipe is translated as flute regardless of the type of mouthpiece or how it is held. Why I’m not quite sure aside from the translators not realizing that “pipe” is a generic instrumental term and was never exclusively used for flutes. In the case of Gilgamesh's story, there is some doubt as to what kind of instrument is really meant but it was almost certainly end-blown (held vertical to the body instead of horizontal) and most likely had a reed in the mouthpiece. I have yet to find anyone examining the term for Tammuzi’s wind instrument but given the prevalence of musical translation issues and the popularity of reed instruments in this time and area, I think it is safe to assume it wasn’t a flute either. At this point, the use of the word flute in translations of myths is so common, I think it is quite reasonable to include these stories as part of the flute’s mythology so long as it is made clear when the instrument in question was really a flute or reed instrument.
Second, I apologize for using so many different versions of Dumuzi/Tammuzi and Ishtar/Inanna. It is a result of the how many cultures have told these stories and the fact that I do not feel qualified to simply "merge" the names into one without damaging the stories. I have kept things as simple as I could.

The Carnelian Pipe
The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu comes from Mesopotamia. This is a very old and very fragmented poem. The different fragments are pieced together in different ways creating several versions. In short, Gilgamesh is the King of Urek (possibly Sumeria or thereabouts). He has divine parentage (quite common for royalty in myths) and a bad temper (ditto). Enkidu is created by the Gods to be his friend and calm him down. They have a number of adventures and encounters with the Gods which are anything but calm (but at least they stop bothering ordinary people so much). Eventually, Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh holds a funeral for his friend. In the process, Gilgamesh offers a wind instrument made of carnelian to Dumuzi (the Sun God is witnessing this ceremony I believe, not keeping the offerings) so that Enkidu will be welcomed into the afterlife. It is worth noticing that he also offers a flask made of lapis lazuli to Ereshkigal for the same reason (both lapis lazuli and Ereshkigal will be mentioned later). 
He displayed to the Sun God a flask of lapis lazuli
   for Ereshkigal, the queen of the Netherworld:
"May Ereshkigal, the queen of the teeming Netherworld, accept this,
   may she welcome my friend and walk by his side!"
He displayed to the Sun God a flute of carnelian
   for Dumuzi, the shepherd beloved of Ishtar:
"May Dumuzi, the shepherd beloved of Ishtar, accept this,
   may he welcome my friend and walk by his side!"
---from Book VIII of the Epic, lines 144–149

The Lapis Lazuli Pipe
Now for Tammuzi’s other wind instrument we have to look at the story of the descent of Ishtar into the Underworld. Again, there are several different, fragmented versions of this story. Ishtar is often related to Inanna the Sumerian Goddess of love, fertility and war. Tammuzi/Dumuzi (and various other spellings) is Ishtar’s/Inanna’s lover. Ishtar/Inanna decides to go to the Underworld to see her sister Ereshkigal the Queen of the Dead. In the process, Ishtar/Inanna basically dies but being a Goddess, she can return to her home and divine role of keeping the world alive if some one will take her place in the Underworld. Now while she was gone Tammuzi/Dumuzi has been living it up in her palace, sitting on her throne and playing a wind instrument (often called a flute but likely something else) made of lapis lazuli. She sends him to take her place in the Underworld supposedly for not mourning her properly. Tammuzi/Dumuzi took his lapis lazuli instrument with him to play comforting music for the dead. In some versions Dumuzi’s sister takes his place for half the year so he will not always be dead. The seasons change when they trade places in the Underworld. 

A Few Gems
We don’t always know exactly what stones the ancients meant by carnelian or lapis lazuli but they generally meant something reddish with carnelian and something bluish with lapis lazuli. We do know they meant something valuable as these gems were used in trade and by royalty. It would have been expensive to make instruments from them but not impossible and since both stones were associated with the Gods, anything made from them would have been appropriate as offerings. There have been a number of gem encrusted flutes (and other instruments) made in history, both for display and just to see how they would work, so there’s no reason to assume more ancient cultures wouldn’t have made instruments out of something flashy too. It is also quite common to say someone in a story or myth is playing an instrument made out of unusual or exotic materials to enhance the mythic or magical quality of the instrument.

So what shall we take from this? Well, we can't say anything for certain but I like the idea of Tammuzi’s/Dumuzi’s music changing colors as the seasons shift. Blue and red, cool and warm, living and dead, circling and harmonizing every year as the earth spins year after year.

January 31, 2015

Ianuaria the Lady of Pipes

Ianuaria, a Celtic/Gaulish Goddess. The information about her is extremely limited but intriguing. At a healing shrine in Beire-le-Chatal, France, she was pictured as a young girl with curly hair, wearing a pleated coat and playing the panpipes. The site also had images of Apollo, bulls and doves. No one knows if she was associated with music, healing or birds and bulls outside of this site or not. Her name is related to Janus the Roman God of beginnings, doorways, gates, the new year and January. Jana (or Iana) Luna, a moon Goddess, is Janus’s consort and the only other female version of the name Janus (as far as I know).

Music goes back to our beginnings as various finds of 40,000 year old flutes show. Music and healing are often paired and music was sometimes used as a form of healing. Many of the Gaulish deities mixed and matched roles, attributes and even names with other cultures. The ancient Celts traveled so far they couldn’t help but run into other Gods and see similarities to their own. Meanwhile, the Romans were quite prone to creating Roman names for local deities and pairing them up with a Roman God, just to make everything seem Roman to them. All this makes it quite likely that there was a local deity connected to healing or music or both who was simply renamed.

Ianuaria’s roots are long gone but close your eyes and listen for the sound of flute music drifting over the hills on a chilly day and you just might catch glimpse of where she went.


Adkins, Lesley and Roy A. Adkins. Dictionary of Roman Religion.
Theoi, Roman Myth Index: http://www.mythindex.com/roman-mythology/J/Janus.html

November 11, 2014

Contest of the Muses


Bees with Snowdrop pollen
Bees were called the birds of the Muses.
Honey was mixed with milk or water or grains of wheat as offerings to the Muses.

 
The Muses had several musical contests but only one was against another group of Muses. The two sets of Muses in this story were the 9 Olympian Muses and the 7 or 9 Muses of Pieria.

The Olympian Muses are the nine daughters of the Titan Mnemosyne, the Goddess of memory, names and language, and Zeus. They are the most widely known Muses today, but it took them quite some time to become the dominant version in Greek myth. The Romans assigned specific poetry, music and images to them but were not always consistent about it. They were all pictured with a lyre at one time or another.

1) Kalliope/Calliope, “of the beautiful voice,” is the Muse of epic or heroic songs. She leads the other Muses and plays the trumpet. She travels with leaders to inspire justice and thought. She settled the argument between Persephone and Aphrodite over Adonis.
Kalliope/Calliope is sometimes pictured with a scroll and stylus (pen) or holding a laurel crown and the Homeric scrolls. In Renaissance times, she played the harp or lute.
2) Kleio/Cleo, “the giver of fame,” became the Muse of history poems. She spread the use of the alphabet and plays the trumpet. She is my pick for a Muse of brass instruments.
Kleio/Cleo is sometimes pictured with a chest of scrolls/books or a water clock.
3) Thaleia, “the festive or blooming,” can be found at the theater watching a comedy when she isn’t off with her other sisters, the Graces. She teaches geometry, architecture and agriculture. She invented the plectrum, used to strum the lyre.
Thaleia is sometimes pictured with a comedy mask, shepherd’s staff and ivy wreath. In Renaissance times, she played the rebec (early violin) or viol (stringed and bowed instrument that isn’t a violin).
4) Melpomene, “the singer,” prefers tragedies and elegies. She creates chants and plays the hunting horn.
Melpomene is sometimes pictured with a tragedy mask, sword, a wreath of ivy or cypress and wearing actors’ boots. In Renaissance times, she played the bass viol.
5) Euterpe, “the giver of joy,” is the Muse of instrumental music. She plays the aulos, a double-reed instrument. She loves wind instruments, lyric poetry and education.
Euterpe is sometimes pictured with the aulos or surrounded by many instruments. In Renaissance times, she played the flute or other woodwind instruments.
6) Terpsichore, who “enjoys dancing,” plays the lyre and dances. She loves large choruses in plays and education. She is occasionally the Muse of stringed instruments.
Terpsichore is sometimes pictured dancing, wearing a laurel wreath or holding a lyre. In Renaissance times, she played the cittern or large lute.
Bleu Mantle Rose
7) Erato as the “awakener of desire” claimed erotic poetry, wedding music and dances that entice or require pairs. A prophetic priestess of Pan shares her name.
Erato is sometimes pictured wearing a rose wreath or holding a lyre or jingle ring. In Renaissance times, she played the cittern.
8) Polyhymnia/Polymnia, “many hymns,” is best known for her sacred hymns and mimic arts. But through a link with Demeter, she is also the divine prostitute, the one who grants love to all. She makes the rules of grammar and teaches geometry and agriculture.
Polyhymnia/Polymnia was sometimes pictured wearing a veil or cloak. In Renaissance times, she played the organ or clavichord.
9) Ourania, the “heavenly one,” makes predictions by watching the stars and invented astronomy. Aphrodite took Ourania’s name as one of her titles: Aphrodite Ourania “the Heavenly Aphrodite,” the merciful one who dances to the music of the spheres.
Ourania is sometimes pictured with a compass and star globe. In Renaissance times, she kept time on a drum or gong.

At first, every village or kingdom had its own local Muses. Since Pieria is thought to be the place the more organized cult of the Muses began, the seven Muses of Pieria may have been a quite early group. (Confusingly, they are sometimes called the Muses of Lesbos, but Pieria is much more common.) Finding more information about them however, is not easy. Even the meanings of their names have to be pieced together from other myths. Their mother is a nymph named Antiope or Euippe. The name Euippe is closely related to Hera Hippia and Athena Hippia, the horse Goddesses. Their father Pierus is named for the land of Pieria itself. The seven Muses are named Rhodia, Asopo, Neilo, Achelois, Tritone, Heptapora and Tipoplo and their number matches the seven mitochondrial Eves, the genetic mothers of the human race.

Rose Buds1) Rhodia is rose or rose garland or perhaps hibiscus or some other red to pink flower. Two sunny nymphs, Rhodos and Rhode, have very similar names. Some believed Rhodos was the same as Athena Hippia, and Rhode’s mother was sometimes the ocean nymph Polyphe, “of much thought.”
2) Asopo, “never silent,” is a river name. It may also mean “clever in all ways.”
3) Neilo may mean river and/or relate to the river Nile.
4) Achelois, “washes away pain,” is the name of a moon Goddess who was given offerings at the oracle of Dodona.
5) Tritone is three. Tritones are the sea creatures who look like the sea God Triton, the conch shell player. By coincidence, tritone is the name of the most famous interval in modern music theory, the augmented 4th or diminished 5th, the mid-point of the octave.
6) Heptapora is another river name, possibly one with seven springs, streams or paths.
7) Tipoplo, very tentatively, may be a bird call.

In later myths, Pierus is a mortal king who had nine daughters, instead of seven. He claimed his daughters sang as well as the more famous Muses, or he named them after the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus. Whether he did this out of pride or by order of an oracle depends on which story you read. Regardless, his daughters were worshiped as the true Muses of Pieria. Before long, they challenged, or were challenged by, the nine Olympian Muses to a singing contest, which was judged by the nymphs or nature itself. The music of the contest caused the Helicon mountain to rise up into the sky until, finally, Poseidon sent Pegasus to stomp on the mountain. Springs leapt up where the winged-horse’s hooves touched the ground and the Muses were worshiped at these springs. The singing daughters of Pierus, meanwhile, were declared the losers and changed into birds, either magpies or nine different birds: the grebe, the wryneck, the ortolan (or hawk/kestrel), the jay, the green finch, the gold finch, the duck, the woodpecker, and the dracontis pigeon.

Redheaded Woodpecker
About those birds…
The translations of the nine birds are a little uncertain. For the birders out there and for those who just like this kind of puzzle, here are the Greek bird names.
1) Colymbas/Kolymbus means shrub and may be the grebe.
Bubble Bath Rose2) Iynx is the wryneck and also means spell or charm.


3) Cenchris is a kind of serpent and may be the hawk, kestrel or ortolan bunting.
4) Cissa/Kissa is the jay. Also a genus of magpies.
5) Chloris means green, may be the green finch and is used for many green birds. It is also the name of the flower Goddess who created the first rose.
6) Acalanthis/Akalanthis may be the gold finch, linnet or warbler.
7) Nessa means descending from above and may be the duck.
8) Pipo is the woodpecker.
9) Draconitis/Drakonitis is some uncertain type of bird.


Of course, anyone who enters a contest with the Gods is transformed. Some stories say it’s a reward; others that it’s a punishment. But there is no doubt that coming face to face with a God and showing exactly what you can do, exactly who you are, will change you deeply and leave you marked by having met Them. In this case, changing singers into birds, who spend their lives singing...well I leave you to decide precisely what that means.





For more on the other groups of Muses (yes, there are more), see my other Muse post, The Muses Return.


Ovid's Metamorphoses
Hesiod's Theogony
Women of Classical Mythology by Robert E. Bell
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso
The Gods of the Greeks by Kerenyi
Theoi.com

October 31, 2014

Sirens the Muses of the Underworld

Hephaestus once built a temple for Apollo in Delphi, where three Muses once lived. On the temple's golden ceiling were the Keledones, the “soothing Goddesses.” They were three living, singing statues of women or wryneck birds or a mix of both. They had the same skill with song as the Sirens, whose name may mean "to entwine."


Entwining Voices
The Sirens tangled people up with their words and music. They had the wings of birds. Or the legs of birds. Or the bodies of birds. But they always have lovely faces and entrancing voices. They dart about on the edges of reality like fragments of old stories that have escaped their meanings. They were born from the earth. They are sea nymphs. They charm the wind. They are surrounded by flowers. They turn white as bone. They died when Orpheus helped the Argonauts pass them safely. They died when Odysseus took Circe’s advice to pass them tied to a mast. They sing like the Muses who wear their feathers. Hera introduced them to the Muses. They nest in Hera’s hands. They follow Artemis’s lead. Aphrodite gave them wings. Demeter took their wings. Demeter gave them wings. They serve Persephone. Their music causes obsession. Their music erases fear.
The Sirens and the Muses are too similar to avoid each other. Both are singing bird women linked to water with changeable names, numbers, instruments and homes. They exist more as ideas or groups than as individuals, but reach out to humans one to one. They put secrets and unbreakable charms into song and they all gathered flowers with Persephone. Three different Muses are called the Sirens’ mother: Terpsichore the dancing Muse, Melpomene the tragic Muse and Kalliope the epic Muse. The name of another Muse, Achelois, becomes the group title of the Sirens, the Acheloides, when they are daughters of the river God Achelous. One Siren and one Muse even have the same name, Thelxinoe “the enchantress” or “heart’s delight.”

Earth, Water and Air
The Sirens have roots in the sky, the sea and the earth. In older genealogies, they are children of a river and the earth or another river and a sky woman. The story goes that Heracles and Achelous, a shape-shifting river God, once fought each other for days. They were fighting over who would marry Deianeira or for possession of the cornucopia, the horn of plenty that Amaltheia used to feed baby Zeus. Hercules tore off one of Achelous’s horns and the blood of the fish-tailed God fell onto the earth, Gaia. The Sirens sprang up from the blood-soaked ground, mirroring the birth of Aphrodite and the Furies. But others say their father is the Acheron river and their mother is Sterope, a name also used by one of the Pleiades and a daughter of the sun.
Later, they became daughters of the sea God Phorcus/Phorcys, “the hidden dangers of the deep.” They sit on islands named for flowers with rocky shores and rapid waters that rush musically, singing and calling. Sailors say if anyone hears them and survives, the Sirens will turn to stone or die, raising the question of how the sailors knew the Sirens existed in the first place. Others say when the Sirens lost their contest with the Muses, they fell into the sea and became islands of white rock covered in wild flowers.
The Sirens have two more sets of parents. In the sky are Zeus and
Hera, the God of thunder and the Queen of heaven whose mane of hair stretches across the storm clouds. Closer to the ground are Dionysus and Coronis. Dionysus is a hidden earthly version of Zeus. Coronis is a nymph who may disguise Hera when mentioning the old Goddess by name would reveal far too many buried secrets. Hera once coaxed the Sirens into a song contest with the Muses. When the Sirens lost, they turned white, once again mirroring the Furies. The Muses took the Sirens’ wing feathers to weave into crowns; for inspiration perhaps. Yet after all this, Hera still appears holding the Sirens in her hands, honoring her inspiring little song birds.

Names, Names, Names
Single Sirens are unnamed aulos or lyre players. Their solos echo calls to initiation mysteries.
As pairs, the Sirens create harmonies with the aulos and the lyre. Their shifting names refer to glory or splendor and enchantment; Aglaopheme of the “splendid voice,” Aglaophonos the “glorious sounding,” Thelxiope who is “persuasive,” Thelxiepeia of the “enchanting words” and Thelchtereia the “soothing watcher or enchantress.”
Siren trios play aulos and lyre and sing in a mixed consort of traditions. They are the daughters of the Muse Melpomene and the horned river God Achelous, but there are two different versions of these three. One set of triplets have names that Aphrodite would approve: Peisinoe the “seductive”, Aglaope the “glorious voice” and Thelxinoe the “enchanting voice.” The other three sisters have names that Artemis might claim: Ligeia the “bright voice,” Leucosia the “white Goddess/substance,” and Parthenope the “virginal/maiden voice.”  It cannot be a coincidence that Aphrodite gave the Sirens wings when they said they wanted to be virgins, like Artemis, forever. Parthenope in particular seems to cross the boundary between these two differing Goddesses. At her tomb, torch races were held in her honor every year, a tradition of Artemis and Hecate. And she was a bird Goddess in her own right, sharing Aphrodite’s doves and swans.
The Sirens also gather in flocks, promising to tell all the stories in the world, if you will just stop your life for a moment or two. Some borrow the earlier names and others add yet more names to the list. Peisthoe the “seductive”, Pisinoe who “affects the mind,” Teles who is “perfection,” Raidne who “improves" or "sprinkles water,” Himerope whose “voice creates desire” and Molpe and her “song and dance” all spin round each other like feathers in a breeze.
And Plato tells us that there are eight Sirens, named for the scale tones, who each sing one note in perfect harmony with the spheres of the sky. The star loving Centaurs forgot to eat and starved when they heard these Sirens turning the secrets of the universe into music.

Soothing Sirens
Persephone, the Muses and the Sirens grew up together, sharing clapping games and counting rhymes. When Persephone was carried off by Hades, the Sirens asked Demeter for wings so they could search the world for their friend. But when the Sirens wouldn’t or couldn’t tell Demeter where her daughter had gone, she bound them to the earth Persephone had
vanished into. Yet after all this, the Sirens settled into places of honor in front of Persephone’s throne. They used their music to ease the fear and pain of death and guide underworld travelers through the maze of their own souls. Persephone even sent the Sirens flying back out into the world, their wings fuller than ever, carrying her blessings. And whispers began that their true mother was Chthonia, “the depths of the earth,” bringing us back round to the story of the Sirens springing out of Gaia, the earth itself.

The Sirens are the Muses who inspire Muses. The ones who make the music of the earth, sky and sea. They are the overwhelming, uncontrollable side of inspiration that awes and terrifies us. They blur boundaries, create common ground, speak unsettling truths and guide us to hidden realities. They created the steps of the scale and accidentals. They are the sweetest possible antidote to loss, sorrow and fear of the unknown.
Nest and Red Buds
see The Muse Contest and The Muses Return for more on the Muses.

Sources:
Ovid's Metamorphoses
Hesiod's Theogony
Women of Classical Mythology by Robert E. Bell
The Gods of the Greeks by Kerenyi
Theoi.com

August 1, 2014

Of the Muses I Sing

 As with all Greek mythology, the details of the Muses’ story are a little changeable.  They seem to have started out as nymphs associated with springs and fountains that bring inspiration. Since the different regions in Greece each had their own inspiring springs, the Muses had different names and numbers in the various myths.
At times, the Muses almost exist without any family and are named for the music they make. There are three Muses named for three different types of instruments (strings, winds and percussion usually). Other times, they are named for vocal, instrumental and dance music. And I once read that one Muse was born from the movement of water, one from the movement of air and one was embodied in the human voice.

Muses were often worshipped at fountains
Tame(ish) Fountain
When the Muses' parents are Ouranos (the Sky) and Gaia (the Earth) there are usually 1 (Mnemosyne), 3 (Melete, Mneme and Aoede) or 4 (Arche, Thelxinoe, Aoede and Melete) of them.  
Mnemosyne is sometimes called the first Muse and this is the only name that appears as a solitary Muse figure. She is considered the Goddess of memory and language partly because the first thing she did was to name everything in existence so they could be sung about.
Other times, there are three Muse sisters; Melete “practicing/meditation”, Mneme “remembering” and Aoede “singing.” Under these names, they are living versions of how poets and musicians work. This set is also described as the Titan Muses, the older generation. Mnemosyne was at times considered a fourth Muse of this group.
Another group of four Muses descended from either Gaia or a Nymph named Plusia and Ouranos or Zeus use the names Arche (beginning), Thelxinoe (the heart delighting), Aoede (song), and Melete (more practicing).

When their parents are Zeus and Mnemosyne (Goddess of memory, time and prophecy) there are usually 9 sisters. They were all born at once, were addicted to song and had dancing-grounds on mountains and near fountains and wells. Artemis led them in singing hymns and circle dances. At first, Apollo played the aulos, a double-reed instrument, with the Muses but switched to the lyre after Hermes invented it. They were also companions of Dionysus, the other God of music. The Muses traveled wrapped in clouds and their voices could only be heard at night. They lived with the Graces and are the patrons of poets and musicians.

Other traditions make the three Muses the daughters of Apollo. These three are sometimes named after the lowest, middle and highest strings on the lyre or are called Kephiso "of the river Kephiso", Apollonis "daughter of Apollo" and Borysthenis "strength."
And there are Muses whose names we have lost completely. Polymatheia "much learning/knowledge" is the only surviving name from a set of 3 Muses worshiped at Sicyon.
The House of the Muses Today
Home of the Muses
The number of Muses steadily increases (the 7 Muse daughters of Pierus are Neilo, Tritone, Asopo, Heptapora, Achelois, Tipoplo, and Rhodia; for more on them see The Muse Contest) until nine is the most accepted number. Eventually, a tradition developed of assigning specific forms of poetry, and the music that went with it, to individual Muses. The precise list of who was linked with which art form changes depending on which writer you are reading but here is a general list of associations.


-Kleio “the giver of fame” took charge of history poems. She played horns and trumpets. Two other Muses in this group play brass instruments.
-Euterpe “the giver of joy” played the aulos, directed all instrumental music and was in charge of lyric poetry. Euterpe is called a flute player so often, it is nearly impossible to convince people otherwise and really, I like having a Muse connected to my particular instrument. But the aulos has no relation to the flute. It was a double-reed instrument with no true modern equivalent. I consider her the Muse of woodwind instruments.
-Thaleia “the festive or blooming” led the music of comedy and comic plays.
-Melpomene “the singer” had charge of music for tragedies and elegies and played horn.
-Terpsichore “enjoys dancing” danced and played the lyre. In some lists, she is in charge of choral songs.
-Erato “awakener of desire” inspired erotic poetry, danced and wedding music. In some lists, she is in charge of mimic imitation.
-Polymnia or Polyhymnia “many hymns” sang story-telling songs. Others say she is in charge of religious hymns and/or mimic arts.
-Ourania “heavenly one” studied astronomy and played a drum or a gong to keep time.
-Kalliope “beautiful voice” was awarded epic or heroic songs and played trumpet.


In the myths, the Muses are most often referred to as the musical accompaniment at celebrations and funerals attended by the Gods. Poets generally praised them at the opening and closing of any song, partly in hopes of performing well. There are stories of false Muses (sometimes nine daughters of a king) challenging the Muses either in a song contest or by setting up their own cult. Like most Greek Gods, the Muses do not take the challenge well. When the true Muses sang, the sky, stars, sea and rivers all stood still and a fountain sprang up on Mount Helicon. They then turned the challengers into birds, either magpies or nine different songbirds. Since the Muses themselves were able to turn into birds, this leaves the question of who the true Muses were open for debate. Sometimes one of the Muses is claimed as the mother of the Sirens, another group of singing bird women. The Sirens are also said to have challenged the Muses. The Muses then stripped their feathers from their wings and wore them as crowns. Nearly every singer, musician or poet in mythology is said to be a child of one of the Muses or at least raised and taught by them. And a shocking number of them are punished by the Muses for various offenses. Blinding is one of their favorite punishments, but considering the tradition of blind poets and musicians, one has to wonder...
Forest Creek
Wild Spring
The Muses are worshiped at fountains, springs and wells. They teach the arts of healing and prophecy. They know how to lie and reveal the truth. They sing in consort, dance in rounds and whisper into our dreams. They are Goddesses of art, science and knowledge and they remember everything that has ever happened. They inspire creativity of all kinds and they bring forgetfulness of sorrows and cares. The Orphics worshiped the Muses especially and said there were two springs in the underworld that the dead could drink from, the spring of Mnemosyne “memory” and the spring of Lethe “forgetfulness”.
Reflections


Smile on my little song, Ladies of delight. Bring me foresight, sweet melodies, freedom from sorrows and a good memory.


For more info about the Muses, see my other Muse posts.

July 19, 2014

Daily Musings

A while back, I decided to work on memorizing more music. I've always kind of slacked in that department and I've also always wished I didn't. So I've started keeping a musical journal where I record things I'm trying to play by memory along with some of the daily improvisations I create. Not sure where this will take me but I intend to share bits and pieces as I go.


Improv based on O'Carolan's "Farewell to Music"



"Carolan's Dream"



I'm mixing up the "simpler" folk tunes (some of which aren't that simple!) with Telemann and Troubadour music. The idea is that there will be some songs I learn more easily (which will hopefully encourage me) while I'm struggling with the longer pieces. In time, I hope to share a wider variety of tunes.