"Suppose that 2,500 years from now all that survived of the Beatles songs were a few of the lyrics, and all that remained of Mozart and Verdi's operas were the words and not the music. Imagine if we could then reconstruct the music, rediscover the instruments that played them, and hear the words once again in their proper setting, how exciting that would be."
That is the start of an article by BBC News about reconstructing music that was earlier deemed lost to us. I would quote the entire article, but I will refrain and post only a few choice bits. Before I do, though, some of the terms in that post are a bit technical. I have already made an attempt at explaining how ancient Hellenic music was composed, so I will link to that first.
I had actually planned to write about something else today, but then the news about reconstructed ancient Hellenic music broke and that thought went right out the window. I love it when every single group I am a part of suddenly posts the exact same thing. So, of course, I have to join in today because reconstructed music from ancient Hellas? That is definitely exciting!

I forgot if I mentioned this to you--a quick search says I haven't--but while I don't play an instrument of any kind and I have zero ability to keep a rhythm going (you should see me try to waltz--my girlfriend's toes are still sore and that was years ago), I can actually carry a tune moderately well. I like music, and I would love to figure out a way to sing all the classics--because as the article posted by BBC News also states; all the plays, all the poetry, all the epics--they were meant to be sung and performed to music.

We have examples of what the ancient Hellenes might have listened to; the link above gives one, for example, and there have been earlier attempts at reconstruction. In fact, here is another example. This piece was performed by Newcastle University's David Creese. It's a song originally found on stone inscriptions from ancient Hellas and performed on an eight-string 'canon'--a zither-like instrument with movable bridges.

Now, from the article:
"The instruments are known from descriptions, paintings and archaeological remains, which allow us to establish the timbres and range of pitches they produced. [...] The Greeks had worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals - an octave is 2:1, a fifth 3:2, a fourth 4:3, and so on. The notation gives an accurate indication of relative pitch: letter A at the top of the scale, for instance, represents a musical note a fifth higher than N halfway down the alphabet. Absolute pitch can be worked out from the vocal ranges required to sing the surviving tunes. While the documents, found on stone in Greece and papyrus in Egypt, have long been known to classicists - some were published as early as 1581 - in recent decades they have been augmented by new finds. Dating from around 300 BC to 300 AD, these fragments offer us a clearer view than ever before of the music of ancient Greece.

[...] In ancient Greek the voice went up in pitch on certain syllables and fell on others (the accents of ancient Greek indicate pitch, not stress). The contours of the melody follow those pitches here, and fairly consistently in all the documents. [...] But one shouldn't assume that the Greeks' idea of tuning was identical to ours. Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD provides precise mathematical ratios for numerous different scale-tunings, including one that he says sounds "foreign and homespun"."

I am very excited about the possibilities this research by the article's writer, Oxford musician and classics expert Armand D'Angour. Not only am I interested in hearing these classics reconstructed in their former--if somewhat boring--glory, but for us Hellenists, this type of research gives us another way to be closer to our Gods and to make our Household and festival worship that much more authentic. Here is to hoping D'Angour works out the finer points of his research, and if he is ever short on funds, I will pitch this cause to Pandora's Kharis myself.