|Orpheus, the mythical poet and musician who tamed wild beasts and conquered death with his music.
Even in cave paintings, string instruments are found, a type of fiddle bow similar to those used for shooting arrows; fiddle bows-three, four, five or seven-joined together at one end, while separated at the other end in the manner of a half open fan, whose strings were played by means of another bow of the same or similar characteristics.
Upon playing, the sound was forced, but to rub against or scrape some strings with another, would be monotonous, just dissociated noises, to which, nevertheless, the primitive people of the world danced or shouted, not in such a distinct manner as presently, but some savage
|An Etruscan fresco of a musician
And, continuing a moment, let's also add, that the mythical and religious traditions and beliefs which attribute the origin of the world to a primitive sound, to a chord or a song, or to a musical instrument which the Creator used for the creation of the universe, are numerous. "According to an ancient Indian idea, the whole universe has been brought into being by a powerful woman singer, who was transformed, little by little, into light, stone and flesh." And the early Christians said that music was invented in heaven.
The guitar's progeny now ascends in time four or five thousand years, as may be seen in the bas-relief (sculpture) of the Asian and Egyptian people who cultivated the worthwhile music of various string instruments such as the lyre, harp, guzla, lute, and zither, etc. Apparently, these instruments did not then have an independent musical existence, but were bound up with the other spiritual and artistic forms; the dance, writing, and poetry. For a
|An engraving of Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician who explored the mathematical basis of sound frequencies.
The Greeks were the first occidental people that cultivated and developed vocal and instrumental music. Perhaps with the conquests of Alexander (fourth century, B.C.), who introduced it as far as India after taking possession of Persia and Egypt, the ancient musical instruments of these two great nations, among them the zither, or kitharah asiria, which in Greek was kithara, and, later still, in Arabic, gitar, from which was derived guitarra, arrived in Greece and at the time its name was changing, the instrument's characteristics were also being modified.
The Greeks so fond of deifying all the outstanding aspects of the life of man and Nature, gave to Apollo, the god of the Sun and the Arts, a son shown with the nymph, Calliope: Orpheus, to whom they attributed the invention of the kithara. (Orpheus is symbolic of music and amorous love.) The harmonious seducing quality of his kithara, pulsing with deep feeling, exercises such powerful magic that it soothes the furies (supra-natural agents which appear in Greek plays, etc.); tames wild beasts; woos the female attendants of Bacchus, the god of wine; halts the swift waters of the rivers; attracts the stones; and all
|An ancient Persian illumination with a lute player.
In the sorrowful myth of Orpheus, the poets, painters, and sculptors of each age and country, have represented him with the musical instrument most in vogue; the lyre, harp, lute, and the guitar, and always surrounded by Nature in a submissive and charmed posture. The myth of Orpheus came into being about the sixth century before Christ.
Music was much cultivated in Greece, and with popular approval, the kit hara, whose sounds provided accompaniment for national songs, festive weddings, and even the sad accents of the funeral songs.
The Greek kithara went, later, to Rome, while the Asian kitharah, across through Persia, arrived in Arabia. The Greek kithara (guitar) became the Roman guitar, and the second, the gitar sarracena. This last instrument quickly had very illustrious kinsmen among the Arabs -the guzia, the rabel, and the lute - and from the Roman kithara was derived the Latin guitar (guitarra latina). "This was played with the fingers and was easy to arpeggio; the Arabic, the Moorish guitar, was played with a plectrum and was a melodious instrument." The term, guzia, from the Turkish gazi, is an instrument having a single string which one plucked; the rabel, from the Arabic rabab, is an instrument similar to a lute, with three strings and having a very shrill sound; and the lute, from the Arabic cud, is an instrument played by plucking its strings.
The Latin guitar has a sounding case with lateral curves, and has four rows of double strings. The Moorish guitar has an oval sounding case similar to that of the lute and primitive arc violins, a much larger fingerboard and three strings.
In ancient Rome, string instruments enjoyed great favor among society's upper classes, and even Roman emperors were not ill-disposed to learning their use-emperors such as Adrian (76-138) and Caracalla (188-217), who, surely, ordered a monument erected to Mesomedes, the player who introduced advancements in the technique of string instruments.
But with the fall of imperialism and the appearance of the barbarians, music decayed to weak forms that only began to recover about the seventh century, A.D.
By Vidal Denito Revuelta, translated by Robert Kotas.