Music in the Odes of Horace

BookMusic in the Odes of Horace

Music in the Odes of Horace

Aris & Phillips Classical Texts


February 10th, 2010





Following the success of Horace's Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi in which he proposed that Horace's Odes were truly carmina (songs), Stuart Lyons further explores the orality of the Odes in both the Augustan Age and their early medieval reception. Challenging the perception of the Odes as purely literary works and drawing on extensive evidence in Horace and other ancient sources, Lyons argues that Horace's objective was to produce a unique type of performance art, a Latin re-interpretation of Greek lyric song to entertain the Roman elite. In post-Carolingian manuscripts, there are several instances of musical notation for the Odes. Some was to help students articulate their Latin, but other notation records performance works. Lyons shows that the arrangement for the Ode to Phyllis in the Montpellier manuscript and Guido d'Arezzo's do-re-mi mnemonic share a common ancestor. The long-hidden St Petersburg codex is a virtual songbook with sixteen melodies reflecting secular as well as monastic traditions. These and other manuscripts provide persuasive evidence that Horace was sung for entertainment as well as teaching. While there is no provable link between early medieval performance and Horace's own practice, Lyons argues that the Horace of the Odes was a musical innovator, songwriter and entertainer, as well as a literary craftsman, and sang much of his lyric poetry to the accompaniment of his own lyre. With 50 illustrations, 12 colour plates and a comprehensive set of indexes this book will stimulate and inform both classicists and musical historians. Stuart Lyons was senior Classics scholar at King's College, Cambridge.

Those who remember reciting Horaces Odes at school in a dry, dreary set-text way may wish that Stuart Lyons had been around in their day.'

The Carmen Saeculare...,as Stuart Lyons shows in his admirably detailed monograph Music in the Odes of Horace, offered pious backing to Augustuss coup détat permanent.'

Lavishly produced and well written.'

Lyons' book is a useful introduction to the evidence for musical performance of Horace's Odes both in antiquity and in the Middle Ages,