From the INTRODUCTION.
It is often said that the musical art of the present day is so entirely different from that of the Greeks that, fascinating as the study is to many minds, the musician has nothing whatever to learn from the ancient Hellenic art.
This is true of the "melos," i.e. that part of music which has to do with melody, scales, intervals, orchestration, vocalisation. Greek melos, with its refinements of modes, genera, transpositions, and modulations, rose, during the classical age, to a very high degree of development, and, in a lesser degree, appealed to the cultured Attic audience much as the music of a Beethoven or Wagner appeals to an audience of to-day. But no sooner had this remarkable manifestation of art arrived at its zenith, than there began a rapid process of decay, in which its most essential features disappeared one by one.
Music, however, does not consist of melos only. More important from the Greek point of view was rhythmos, which gave strength and form to the melos: and it is with this side of music alone that we propose to deal, and to see whether ancient rhythmical theory, like ancient sculpture and architecture, has any message for modern musicians and lovers of music.
The gradual rise of Christianity gave the final blow to the already moribund system of music as understood and practised in Hellas. The Fathers of the Church disdained music as an art, and only utilised it as the "handmaid of religion." They found that the Psalms and certain other Scriptural writings could be brought home to the congregation more forcibly if they were sung than if they were merely recited; hence the words were put to simple melodies, not with any idea of aesthetic pleasure, but merely as a vehicle for their better comprehension and remembrance.
As for rhythm, the old Attic refinements were forgotten at the period of the advent of Christianity, owing to the loss of the feeling for time-measurement in poetry, and the rise of accent or stress in its place.
The introduction into the Church of rhythmical hymns in addition to the prose melody of the Psalms was strongly opposed, since the pleasure which the people derived from the musical rhythm did not suit the stern ascetic views of life held by the leaders of the young and still struggling religion, though in the end they were obliged to give way. Instruments were entirely banished, since they were associated with rhythm, and its visible representation in the dance.show more