Classicist Armand D’Angour, who is reconstructing the music of ancient Greece, discusses the 1,800-year-old ditty heard above:
One complete piece, inscribed on a marble column and dating from around 200 AD, is a haunting short song of four lines composed by Seikilos. The words of the song may be translated:
While you’re alive, shine:
never let your mood decline.
We’ve a brief span of life to spend:
Time necessitates an end. …
Dr. David Creese of the University of Newcastle has constructed an eight-string “canon” (a zither-like instrument) with movable bridges. When he plays two versions of the Seikilos tune using Ptolemy’s tunings, the second immediately strikes us as exotic, more like Middle Eastern than Western music.
George Dvorksy summarizes some qualities of ancient Greek music: