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Hexameter Blues

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Hexameter Blues

Postby Bardo de Saldo » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:41 am

Hello people, I'm glad to have found you.

I'm an apprentice bard, and I started learning the Iliad last Christmas (and greek along the way). I'm stuck with Homer's hexameters, trying to put stresses, pitches and length of vowels together. I started with the convention of using the accents as stress, which probably works fine with prose, but not with poetry: first because I cannot stress a short vowel without making it long in the process, and second because I can't stress twice a word that has both an ictus and an accented vowel in the arsis.

So, I´ve gone for pitch. I understand the theory of acute, grave and circumflex, but my trials in the shower are pretty sad. I still have the problem that if I try to change the pitch of a short vowel, I make it long in the process, and I can´t find any real life examples to use as a model. I can think of several modern languages that raise the pitch (acute) in words, but that raise in pitch always goes together with stress and lengthening of the vowel. I cannot think of a language that lowers the pitch of vowels in words (as opposed to in sentences).

I´ve read some threads that deal with accents, but I can´t understand the charts that go along with them, and I can´t make much sense of the sound recordings either.

Would anyone help me with an Accents for dummies? My audience (once-tamed animals turned sylvatic by my singing) and I will appreciate it.

From what I see, you guys are way ahead of me, but I'll do my best to participate. (If a new guy comes along with an easy question, leave it for me!)
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Postby Eureka » Wed Mar 16, 2005 1:24 am

χαιρε, Bardo.

Good to see you’ve decided to go with go for the pitch accent, 'cause if you didn’t, you might as well take your lute a go home. :wink: (At least as far as performing it is concerned.)

The book Accents for dummies does not exist. :( However, you should have a look at Chad’s work on pitch-modelling here:

http://iliad.envy.nu/ (You’ve probably already seen it, judging by your post.)

It’s not as complicated as it looks, but unfortunately, there are still a few unknowns.

I’m hoping that using the principle that the Iliad, being a song, should be entirely musical, and that therefore, an analysis of a statistical number of lines should provide reasoned answers to those questions in a scientific manner.


Anyway… the important thing about pronunciation of poetry is that the pitch accent was not the sliding mandarin-style accent used in prose. Instead of sliding upwards on acute accents, you simply hit a certain note for the entire syllable. Circumflexes, I think, can be treated as slurred notes with the second tone lower than the first. The effect is to have a piece of music along modern principles.

Following on from Chad’s work, I have, so far, lines 1 - 42 (reconstructed with caveats) as a music file. I can send you a midi file of what I have so far if you’d like. Just send me a PM.
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Wed Mar 16, 2005 5:22 pm

ΝΑΙ ΔΗ ΤΑΥΤΑ ΓΕ ΠΑΝΤΑ, ΕΥΡΕΚΑ, ΚΑΤΑ ΜΟΙΡΑΝ ΕΕΙΠΕΣ.

Thanks for saving me from the Mandarins, Eureka, the nice folks at my local Chinese restaurant were starting to look at me funny.
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Postby Eureka » Thu Mar 17, 2005 7:54 am

Just a note about that midi file, that is not necessarily the pitch it is supposed to be sung at (in fact it is very unlikely to be), so feel free to change the key.

For a sense of what the pitch is supposed to be, listen to the recording they have here:

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/sh/

(n.b. They use a 4-note system, whereas we use a 7-note system, so the music sounds quite different.)
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Postby Eureka » Sat Mar 19, 2005 11:23 am

I should point out one more thing on that pitch model.

ως ε-φατ', ε-δει-σεν...

The 5th note of line 33 certainly sounds like it is one tone too low. There is grammatical justification for it being thus, but it may well have been one tone higher (it depends on whether there is a pitch reset caused by the comma or not).

(I'm sure the poem contains many lines of this form, so it shouldn't be too difficult to clarify.)
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Fri Mar 25, 2005 9:10 pm

I've been listening to your music, Eureka. It's going to be a while before I can do it justice with a comment.

I have my own vicissitudes. :wink: In my pursuit of bardic excellence, I have recently joined the epic band The Homerics. We have costumes, props, and even our own wagon to take us from village to village!

Hërr Scheptrön is in charge of the beat. We are all very afraid of him.

Our musician is Monsieur Fleuriture. He can only play with one finger so far, but man: What he can do with that finger!

Our vocalist is Maestro Leandro, ‘La Voce’. He does a méàn Mandaríìn, and rumor has it that he´s looking for a Swedish girl-friend.

Then there´s Expiatorio, our goat. Does tricks for the audience during the breaks. Our main bread winner.

I get to pull the wagon!
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Postby Bardo de Saldo » Tue Mar 29, 2005 5:39 pm

Here's my report, Eureka:

Your music sounds good (sometimes very good); and every line is a variation of a theme, like I would expect. My objection is that the music is too varied to sound "old", and too monotonous to sound modern.

I think that your approach is valid, but missing a last step: distilling all the information that you've gathered into possible 1st lines, and then using your human ear to choose among these tentative first lines one that sounds good to you. Once you have the first line's music, everything else falls into place on its own weight.

In his pursuit of this magical 1st line, M. Fleuriture is working on his great ouvre Masterful adaptations to the Iliad: from 'Allons enfants' to 'Waltzing Mathilda'.

Personally, I've done lots of progress this last week with your (plural) help. I can now do a half-assed rendition of hex lines with the help of music.
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