Euripides Alcestis for Bradfield
Performing materials for Euripides, Alcestis, lines 212–80, 394–415 and 860–932
by Barnaby Brown & Armand D'Angour
Developed for performances at Bradfield College, UK, 22–27 June 2019
Alcestis was first produced in Athens in 438 BCE. Only the words survive. The ancient Greek language, however, embeds rhythms and a tonal contour that we have respected in this new-music experiment. Excerpts 1 and 3 are at a pitch suitable for accompaniment on a reconstruction of the Megara "man's" aulos, an instrument probably made in the late fourth century BCE, recovered from a grave in 2005 (see video 1 below). Excerpt 2, the Child's Lament, is at a pitch suitable for the Koile-Athens plagiaulos, a transverse flute recovered in 2000 (see video 2 below). As well as taking these superlative archaeological finds and the musical qualities of Euripides' words into account, this experiment respects the earliest written evidence concerning musical behaviour in Greek drama, notably the tonal system for aulos-based music known as the Aristides scales.
For each excerpt, 4 files may be downloaded:
• PDF with all the performing materials bound together.
• MP3 corresponding to the PDF (for rehearsal purposes).
• Sibelius 7 and XML files so the music notation may be revised.
• DOCX file so the transliteration, translation and Greek text may be revised.
The PDF contains three scores, each matching the MP3. Each score is designed for a different stage in the memorisation process. For singers unfamiliar with ancient Greek, we recommend focusing on one thing at a time: first learning the sounds (which are most memorable when sung); then understanding the words; and finally (for those who wish) reading the Greek alphabet.
The open file formats (SIB, MusicXML and DOCX) are shared because different performers have different needs and these materials are highly experimental: a starting point, not an end-point. As the evidence is inconclusive, constant exploration of other solutions is desirable. We will change our minds – new ideas will form as a result of the practical experiments these materials are intended to seed. Sam Barrett makes the case for collaborative research of this nature on the Music@Cambridge research blog. He writes:
We have texts that we know were sung, we know that in many cases instruments were used, and we know that instrumentalists were virtuosos whose playing enthralled audiences. To insist on reading these texts without singing them, and on performing them without instruments, is not to retreat into the safety of the known, but to experience them in a way that goes against surviving evidence.
We are delighted that the staff and pupils of Bradfield College have joined us on this creative adventure, making new music that is also breaking new ground in the understanding of Classical Greek culture.
Kommos. Version 4 provides two settings: 'light' and 'reduced'. The 'light' setting was performed at Bradfield and its score captures developments to the aulos part made during the run of 4 performances. The MP3 matches the score in Version 3.
Child's Lament (lines 394-415). Version 4 has 12 syllables added to the antistrophe, so it matches the strophe, and a metrical framework corresponding to what we developed in rehearsals. The MP3 matches the score in Version 3.
Lines 244-83 (Alcestis & Admetus). Last update: Version 3 (pre-rehearsals).
Lines 212-43 (Chorus). Last update: Version 1. This section was cut so the music has not yet been performed.
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