Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Aristoxenus “Elements of Rhythm”: Text, translation, and commentary with a translation and commentary on POxy 2687
by Marchetti, Christopher C., Ph.D., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick, 2009, 320; 3379159
Abstract (Summary)

Aristoxenus of Tarentum makes productive use of Aristotelian concepts and methods in developing his theory of musical rhythm in his treatise Elements of Rhythm. He applies the Aristotelian distinction between form and material and the concept of hypothetical necessity to provide an explanation for why musical rhythm is manifested in the syllables of song, the notes of melody, and the steps of dance. He applies the method of formulating differentiae, as described in Aristotle’s Parts of Animals, to codify the formal properties of rhythm.

Aristoxenus’ description of the rhythmic foot presents several interpretive challenges. Our text is fragmentary, and we lack Aristoxenus’ definitions of several key terms. This study seeks to establish the meanings of these terms on the basis of a close examination of the structure of Aristoxenus’ argument. Parallel passages in Aristides Quintilianus’ On Music are considered in detail for their consistency or lack thereof with Aristoxenian usage. Parallel passages in POxy 2687 are cited as illustrations for several rhythmic constructions and principles Aristoxenus mentions; because these involve original interpretations of some points in POxy 2687, they are supported by a thorough presentation of POxy 2687 in a separate chapter.

One central conclusion of this study is that Aristoxenus viewed rhythmic feet as musical functions, analogous to the theory of melodic functions he had presented in his Elements of Harmony. Only limited conclusions about the applicability of Aristoxenus’ theory to the history of ancient Greek music can be justified. While some of the extant remains of Greek music are in accord with Aristoxenian theory, others contradict it. Much of ancient poetry is more rhythmically complex than what is presented in our text of E.R., but regular poetic forms such as the anapestic dimeter and the stately rhythms of religious hymns may have provided the original starting points for subsequent rhythmic developments Aristoxenus seeks to explain.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Figueira, Thomas
School: Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
Department: Graduate School - New Brunswick
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 70/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Music
Keywords: Ancient Greek, Aristotle, Aristoxenus, Music theory, Peripatetic, Rhythm
Publication Number: 3379159
ISBN: 978-1-109-45913-5
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