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The Monochord in Ancient Greek Harmonic Science


  • 26 b/w illus. 5 tables
  • Page extent: 426 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.7 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 787.7
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: ML3809 .C87 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Monochord
    • Musical intervals and scales--Greece--History--To 500
    • Music theory--Greece--History--To 500

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521843249)

Among the many instruments devised by students of mathematical sciences in ancient Greece, the monochord provides one of the best opportunities to examine the methodologies of those who employed it in their investigations. Consisting of a single string which could be divided at measured points by means of movable bridges, it was used to demonstrate theorems about the arithmetical relationships between pitched sounds in music. This book traces the history of the monochord and its multiple uses down to Ptolemy, bringing together all the relevant evidence in one comprehensive study. By comparing the monochord with a number of other ancient scientific instruments and their uses, David Creese shows how the investigation of music in ancient Greece not only shares in the patterns of demonstrative and argumentative instrument use common to other sciences, but also goes beyond them in offering the possibility of a rigorous empiricism unparalleled in Greek science.

• Up-to-date and comprehensive account of our knowledge of the monochord • Demonstrates the value of studying ancient Greek music for our understanding of ancient Greek science in general • Includes many diagrams and tables to help the reader follow the mathematical and harmonic arguments


Preface; Introduction: The geometry of sound; 1. Hearing numbers, seeing sounds: the role of instruments and diagrams in Greek harmonic science; 2. Mathematical harmonics before the monochord; 3. The monochord in context; 4. Eratosthenes; 5. Canonic theory; 6. Ptolemy's canonics; Bibliography; Index.

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