First score for Megara aulos: Alcestis, Kommos

In this video, I discuss my approach to composing and playing music on an aulos reproduced by Chrestos Terzēs after an original buried at Megara in c. 300 BCE. The reeds are by Robin Howell. The occasion is the 2019 Bradfield Greek Play – the Alcestis of Euripides.

The aulos part that I am demonstrating is still in pencil. The first score for Megara aulos that I have finished engraving is from later on in the play – an abridged setting of the Kommos:


Here is a 360 degree video that corresponds to this score relatively closely:

It was filmed in the Greek Theatre at Bradfield College, UK, on Tuesday 25 June 2019. Special thanks to Polly Caffrey, Armand D’Angour, Stephen Wallace, Matthew Lowe, David Quinn and the cast of Alcestis 2019 — the 40th Bradfield Greek Play. King Admetus is played by Jack Kidson.

For more info, see

All the scores and rehearsal MP3s that I prepared for this production are available at

The following video gives more information on the auloi of Megara:

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The Euripides Orestes Chorus

Score and commentary: Euripides-Orestes-Chorus_2018-08-02.pdf
Open file formats:

A tiny piece of mummy cartonnage with musical notation was found in 1892. Written in about 200 BCE, it is thought to transmit music composed by Euripides for his tragedy Orestes (408 BCE).

My creative journey interpreting this fragment began in November 2016 when Armand D’Angour sent me the first version of his reconstruction. I had recently received a reproduction of the Pydna aulos, buried 400–350 BCE. This seemed like a perfect conjunction of events. Since then, several patient collaborators have suffered my determination to play the Pydna aulos in public, well before I was a competent player!

I am particularly grateful to Geoffrey Webber and the Caius Choir; to Tosca Lynch and the singers at the 10th MOISA meeting in Oxford; to the participants of the 1st Euterpe Doublepipe School; and to Stef Conner. These co-performers have all been encouraging, accommodating and constructive, helping me to develop an accompaniment on an instrument that no-one knew how to play.

The Pydna aulos has been slow to shed its secrets – it certainly challenges Western preconceptions. I am indebted to Stelios Psaroudakēs who measured it, Robin Howell who reproduced it, the Actors Touring Company who helped me pay for it, and Stefan Hagel whose dedicated aulos software helped me interpret it.

This reconstruction of the Euripides Orestes Chorus has now benefitted from 21 months of testing and development. A total of nine performances with varied vocal forces reflects the University of Oxford’s commitment to building public engagement into the design and conduct of research. I am also grateful to the European Music Archaeology Project for funding three of these performances and a recording soon to be released by Delphian Records.

Last week, Stef and I performed the latest version at the 11th MOISA meeting in Reading:

This was the first time I actually managed to play the notes I intended (I am thousands of hours away from mastery). This performance is perhaps slightly under tempo – a result of us rehearsing at half speed to increase our intonation accuracy. It corresponds to the performing materials that Armand and I released today at

This video offers a window on the development process:

Armand and I are not suggesting that this is Euripides’ music, or that this is the best way of interpreting the papyrus fragment. It is an experiment. For me, the aulos revival is about deepening our connection to things that are remote, historically and culturally. We do this best, I believe, by creating music that is excitingly new, assertively original and daringly experimental.

Releasing open file formats means that other people can make whatever changes they wish. There are many possible solutions and next time I would want to do it differently myself, responding to feedback. This poses a problem. Traditional forms of publication fix things; our interpretation is on the move and I would like it to remain that way.

A solution to this problem is offered by figshare. This free platform provides elegant version control, generates Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and can host open file formats that many sites (like this one) don’t allow for security reasons.

Over the next few months, I will be releasing four more volumes of editable performing materials: the EMAP Resources for Euterpe. Each will have a figshare DOI for the open file formats and a page like this for discussion, documenting developments and linking to alternative versions. This is a ‘soft’ launch. Once the and figshare pages are ready, then we can publish a homepage for the series on the EMAP website.

Don’t hesitate to make suggestions for how these performing materials could be made better. Any feedback is much appreciated!

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Poetovio Tibia I

It was 2011 when I visited the wonderful city of Ptuj for the first time in order to study the Poetovio-fragments for my PhD project on the acoustic and mechanical systems of the doublepipes from the Roman Empire period. I was especially interested in their organology, that means in their construction, trying to understand the different types of mechanisms present on the instrument. Apart from that I immediately started looking for any indications for the original order of the nowadays separate fragments of the pipes. During this study I was tremendously supported by a wonderful and extremely helpful team from the Ptuj Regional Museum (Pokrajinski Muzej Ptuj Ormož ), Tatjana Štefanič, Darja Koter and Boris Farič, who made professional photographs, and also by my husband Adje Both.

Then, the EMAP started and the reconstruction of the Poetovio tibia could not be missing in the “Archaeomusica” exhibition, especially as the exhibition was going to be shown in Slovenia. The Poetovio tibia is, next to the possible Neanderthal flute from Djive Babe, the most significant archaeological musical instrument found in Slovenia so far. The reconstruction project became a reality and I could continue my work together with the great researchers and instrument makers related to the EMAP – my personal dream team – Peter Holmes from London and Stefan Hagel from Vienna. Peter was the one who in fact produced the first reconstruction of the instrument seen on the photo below. Stefan, in turn, was involved in creating the design of the reconstruction. He enriched my organological interpretation by the use of his dedicated software for auloi/tibiae reconstructions, which gave the reassembly of the instrument fragments another dimension – he interpreted the instrument fragments according to nowadays knowledge on the ancient Graeco-Roman musical system. Stefan also created the .stl files for each of the pipes, so that we were able to print them out and check them before starting the production from bone and metal. The print out was done at the Middlesex University London (one of the EMAP’s associated partner) with the great support of Neil ‘Spike’ Melton.

Peter, Stefan and I are working currently on the design for Poetovio tibia II, so the instrument reconstruction will soon achive another level of maturity. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tibia from Poetovio (Ptuj, Slovenia), 2nd or 3rd century AD, Pokrajinski Muzej Ptuj Ormož. Photo on the left: the original fragments of the instruments; © Boris Farič and Olga Sutkowska. Photo on the right: preliminary reconstruction of the Poetovio fragments made by Dr Peter Holmes according to his and Olga Sutkowska’s measurements, Olga’s organological research, and the reassembly idea of Dr Stefan Hagel; the reconstruction project has been coordinated by Olga on behalf of the European Music Archaeology Project; © Olga Sutkowska.

Tibia from Poetovio (Ptuj, Slovenia), 2nd or 3rd century AD, Pokrajinski Muzej Ptuj Ormož.
Photo on the left: the original fragments of the instruments; © Boris Farič and Olga Sutkowska.
Photo on the right: preliminary reconstruction of the Poetovio fragments made by Dr Peter Holmes according to his and Olga Sutkowska’s measurements, Olga’s organological research, and the reassembly idea of Dr Stefan Hagel; the reconstruction project has been coordinated by Olga on behalf of the EMAP; © Olga Sutkowska.

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Euterpe 2018 preparation

This page contains experiments in sound and notation. We are sharing these experiments so that 1) participants can prepare for the 1st Euterpe doublepipe school, and 2) scholars can send us feedback before rehearsals begin on 3 May. After the scores have been road-tested at the school, they will be revised and published on the website of the European Music Archaeology Project, together with videos and audio recordings made during Euterpe 2018.

Please use this SoundCloud playlist to download the MP3s and the links below to print the scores. They are all snapshots of work in progress. Your critical feedback is most welcome. How can we make these performing materials better?

Note to participants: Please bring a music stand! Callum and I will be helping you write your parts into the blank staves, using these pieces as vehicles for practising. The notations we generate will be collected as starting points for future schools. No-one should do all 4 pieces. Excuse yourself from at least one and use its rehearsal slots to practise, fix reeds (with Callum or Marco), or relax. In the pieces you choose to rehearse, you have the option of singing or playing or both.

DAGM = Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments edited and transcribed with commentary by Egert Pohlmann and Martin L. West (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Pindar’s 12th Pythian Ode (on the invention of the aulos)

Score for chorus and Poseidonia aulos corresponding to this January 2018 recording with Stef Conner.
Enharmonic genus. ‘Dorian’ and ‘Mixolydian’ Aristides scales. Rhythm and pitch contour informed by the ancient Greek words

Two Anonymous “Bellermann” Exercises (DAGM 37 & 35)

Score with vocables prepared by Stefan Hagel 
Diatonic genus. Ancient notation and vocables edited by Stefan Hagel for the 4th Meeting of the Workshop of Dionysus (May 2017)

Euripides Orestes Chorus (DAGM 3)

Score for chorus and Pydna aulos
Enharmonic genus. ‘Phrygian’ Aristides scale. Melody 27% ancient notation, 73% reconstruction by Armand D’Angour

Athenaios Paean (DAGM 20)

Score for chorus at a pitch for Louvre aulos
Section 1: spondeion scale. Section 2: chromatic genus, modulating style. Section 3: diatonic genus. Melody 82% ancient notation, 18% reconstruction by Stefan Hagel


We are not attempting to produce definitive texts or performances. Please treat the draft scores above as members of evolving families of ‘indefinite’ performing materials; part of a rich ecology; starting points for new music and for doublepipe education. The ensemble arrangements we will create in Tarquinia next weekend will be tailored to suit everyone’s individual playing abilities, bringing together a glorious mixture of doublepipes.

With 20 participants, mostly beginners, we are not in the business of scholarly reconstruction: our music-making will accommodate everyone’s individual level and all the different doublepipes that we have. This means mixing up historical periods. We will be forming small ensembles dictated by the temperamental tuning of the pipes we want to play. The principle is to compose simple exercises that sound good and stretch us gently in the direction of becoming better players. It just happens that some of these exercises will be integrated into a final performance: this serves as a stimulus to practise and provides a holistic learning experience, touching every aspect of being a doublepiper.

Where ancient evidence is contradicted, we will make this clear and give reasons. For example, I have transposed the Athenaios paean down a minor 3rd to suit the Louvre aulos. I don’t believe it was performed at this pitch in 128/7 BCE, or that the Louvre aulos is the right type of aulos. We are using this pitch at Euterpe 2018 because: 1) we don’t have instruments at the original pitch, 2) it makes it easier for all participants to sing (not too high or too low); and 3) actively performing this piece without physical strain makes us more receptive to ancient Greek musical conceptions and idioms – we are better able to internalise an alien style when we are less stressed. The Athenaios is the best introduction to ancient Greek music that we have, lets enjoy it!

All the scores use sounding pitch, rather than the transposing pitch used in scholarly materials to date, for the following reasons:

  1. Ease collaborating with other musicians (particularly singers) – I see no sense in preparing scores for voice and aulos in which the vocal part is in a different key to the aulos part. This would prevent singers from reading the harmony, which is helpful both for pitching and for tuning.
  2. Ease collaborating with composers and scholars who ask you what notes you can play. As French horn players know, composers tend to get transposing instruments wrong even when textbooks are clear and numerous (neither of which is the case for doublepipes). Transposing introduces hazards which mean significant time is wasted as a result of mistakes and misunderstandings.
  3. Ease producing scores – when engraving software transposes a part, you loose the manual formatting. This can represent hours of work, getting the spacing to look good.  Even if the transpose button didn’t throw things awry, having to produce two scores (one in concert pitch for the singer/director and one transposed for the aulos player, with cues transposed) represents significantly more work. This is a waste of money and time.
  4. If all doublepipes behaved like the Louvre, but in different keys, then there would be a case for treating the aulos as a transposing instrument. But they don’t. Greek and Roman finds span a 700-year period and are significantly different in their tonal behaviour. Sometimes the pipes are a tone apart, sometimes a 4th, sometimes in unison. Without a fixed standard, transposition offers no practical advantage to the modern aulete, as it does to the clarinettist or would have done to the ancient aulete who played instruments from a single time and place.

Rather than making life difficult for our colleagues – singers, lyre players and composers – I think it is wiser for the doublepipe community to learn to read at pitch. The only slight exception I make to this is in scores for the Pydna/Poseidonia aulos: these instruments behave almost identically and sound only a semitone apart, so I split the difference and write at a pitch in between. Depending on reeds, the Poseidonia sounds about a quarter tone higher, the Pydna a quarter tone lower than written.

With the Athenaios, note that we are doing Stefan’s version, not Armand’s – there are major differences in the melody and in the pronunciation. Stefan’s view is that the pronunciation would have been old-fashioned, which makes life easier for us as we can use the same pronunciation rules in all three songs: Pindar, Euripides and Athenaios.

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Hichiriki reeds

by Jean Jeltsch, Robin Howell and Barnaby Brown


This Japanese hichiriki reed was photographed by the bassoon reed researcher Jean-Marie Heinrich in the 1980s. It bears a striking resemblance to an aulos reed acquired by the Berlin Egyptian Museum in 1894:


This image is from Stefan Hagel’s study, ‘Understanding the aulos Berlin Egyptian Museum 12461/12462’ (2010). The reed was in the low pipe of an aulos bought on the antiquities market, presumably in Egypt. A drawing in the museum inventory is all that remains. The drawing is not to scale, but because the reed was fitted in the low pipe when it came into the museum (they share an inventory number) we can estimate that its total length was between 3cm and 5cm. This is roughly a third of the length of the hichiriki reed in Jean-Marie Heinrich’s collection, photographed above.

Hichiriki reeds are made from Phragmites australis. This 2015 study investigates why stems from one particular lake make the best reeds. The following three videos each show a different method of hichiriki reed making:

In the video above, skip to 6:56 for the reed-making sequence.

We are fortunate that Gagaku musicians are sharing this information online – traditionally, such matters were closed and secretive, as they have been in Scottish piobaireachd and Sardinian launeddas traditions. To have expert hichiriki players contributing to the revival of ancient doublepipes could be very illuminating. Their different approach and musical conceptions have a venerable lineage and may steer us in valuable directions, helping aulos players to escape modern-Western musical training. If you are a hichiriki player, please get in touch!

In his account of traditional performing techniques, Thomas Piercy notes:

Sliding notes and tonal variation obtained by producing the same pitch on different fingerings is a feature of its style… Traditionally, tonguing is not used… Instead phrases are shaped by the control of the airflow and selected pitches are accentuated by tapping the instrument’s holes with the fingers.

Hichiriki came to Japan via Korea, which has a similar tradition and instruments. In China, it is called the guan. Below is a 12th-century painting depicting three guan players and two dizi (transverse flute) players, accompanied by a paiban (wooden clapper), performing in the home of Han Xizai, a minister to the Song Dynasty emperor Li Houzhu.


Further west, we find closely-related instruments in the Azerbaijani balaban and Armenian duduk (for which there are some reed-making videos here). All these instruments are essentially monauloi with an entangled transcultural history – the result of centuries of trading along the Silk Road and Indian Ocean routes:

Silk Road_06 copy

This map was produced by The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

In a recent study, Ingrid Furniss and Stefan Hagel find substantial evidence for direct contact between China and the Hellenistic world during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 CE).  Remarkably, they also draw attention to an image of a doublepiper on a bronze vessel thought to have been made in north China, buried in the 5th century BCE:


The doublepipe was evidently known in China long before the earliest written accounts, which suggest that musicians from Hellenistic regions regularly reached the Han court and the eastern seaboard between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE. For more details, see ‘Xiwangmu’s double pipe: a musical link to the far Hellenistic West?’ in Imago Musicae 29 (2017), pp. 7–32.

In Japanese culture, reeds have powerful metaphysical associations. Toyoda Mitsuyo writes:

The Japanese narratives of the emergence of the world… depict chaotic, complex, and organic processes of genesis. They do not assume creation controlled by a supernatural being but illustrate an unpredictable spontaneous power of nature that continuously generates life. Things in nature have been metaphorically used to describe the divinity and dignity of the process of becoming. In Kojiki, the Records of Ancient Matters, for example, the words ashi (葦, reeds) and ashikabi (葦牙, reed-shoot) appear repeatedly as an expression of the vital organismic force of deities and the world.

… When wetland covered most of the lowlands of Japan, the landscape of thick reeds was symbolic of the prosperity of the country… In spring, strong reed-shoots grow straight up from the web of roots hidden in the soil or in the water. The power of growth represented by reed-shoots is also a wish of further development of life and culture.

This is from ‘Recollecting Local Narratives for the Land Ethic’ in Japanese Environmental Philosophy, ed. J. Baird Callicott and James McRae (OUP 2017), section 10.2.

We have yet to find videos of the old style of hichiriki reed photographed by Jean-Marie Heinrich above, either being played or being made. If anyone could let us know more about traditional methods of making reeds with a waist, looking like the one lost in Berlin, we would be extremely grateful.

Warm thanks to Jean-Marie Heinrich for permission to publish his hichiriki reed photos. Essential viewing for all reed makers are these photos showing the difference between high- and low-density cane (2017). In this one, he has sorted 1000 tubes of oboe cane by density:


Lowest density is on the left (0.47 g/cm3), highest on the right (0.78 g/cm3). For aulos reed-making, we want low-density tubes (10-12mm diameter). Softer cane significantly increases success rate during manufacture and reduces the problem of blades cracking during a reed’s working life. These issues have plagued the aulos revival so far. It could be that the answer lies in Phragmites australis, which has a lower density than Arundo donax.

Jean-Marie has published many articles of interest to reed makers. His doctoral thesis investigates what makes one reed better than another: Recherche du mécanisme régulateurde la qualité musicale de l anche double confectionnée en canne de Provence’, Université de Paris, 1986.

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The 1st Euterpe doublepipe school

Our parent organisation, the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP), is organising a doublepipe school in Tarquinia, Italy, 3–6 May 2018. For the programme and further information on the Euterpe school, see


Euterpe is the Greek muse of music, commonly represented playing a doublepipe. The Roman mosaic above (c. 240 CE in Vichten, Luxembourg) shows her playing a mechanised tibia. We dream of playing an instrument like this in a future Euterpe school!

A detailed timetable will be published in mid-April, when registration closes. Meantime, please help us spread the word by sharing the Euterpe 2018 prospectus. We are particularly keen to reach woodwind players in conservatoires, universities, jazz schools and traditional music schools.

Anyone is welcome. You don’t need to bring an instrument: on the first day, we’ll be making simple Ur pipes that you can take home. These narrow-bore pipes are ideal for practising quietly and for learning circular breathing. They are based on Bo Lawergren’s study of a find from 2450 BCE. Below is a reconstruction by Marco Sciascia, hammered from solid silver in 2016. I made the reeds using Arundo donax that I cut in September 2014, while on holiday near Girona.


The other doublepipes that Callum and I will be focusing on at Euterpe 2018 (providing staff notation of exercises and group arrangements) are the Louvre, Berlin, Pydna and Poseidonia. Callum has been making exciting progress on the Berlin and I have been exploring ways of playing the ancient scales transmitted by Aristides Quintilianus on the Pydna and Poseidonia. This has been possible thanks to the development of superb reeds by Robin Howell, who made a Pydna for me last year from Scottish deer bonePydna-in-bone-by-Robin-Howell

The Euterpe school is associated with two websites. Let me explain the difference. For  discussion and work-in-progress, you can follow developments here in the Workshop of Dionysus ( This is a workshop. We get our hands dirty, experimenting, sharing drafts. It’s OK to make mistakes: we learn by getting things wrong in a supportive environment, one that understands the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration. Everyone can get involved, contributing to the evolution of ideas. What matters here is: 1) creativity breaking new ground; and 2) a spirit of generosity, curiosity and respect for other people’s ways of thinking – both in the distant past and in other cultural and professional spheres today.

The focus of the Workshop of Dionysus is the revival of doublepipes. The EMAP website ( differs in that it covers a whole cornucopia of musical instruments and has no discussion. Milestones in the doublepipe revival are frozen on the EMAP site from time to time, together with milestones from other strands in our parent project.

If you want to get involved in testing and developing doublepipe learning materials, the action takes place here. I look forward to vigorous discussion of the Euterpe school materials between now and May! Pages with information for participants and ‘milestone’ scores, the provisional results of ongoing experiments, will be at

Do join us if you can! If not at Velcamare, then in conversations at the foot of any page in this workshop.


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A Louvre deluxe model by Robin Howell


In June 2017, Callum Armstrong upgraded to a deluxe Louvre model, developed for him by Robin Howell in Toronto, Canada. Callum’s first performance playing this ‘Rolls-Royce’ instrument was at the 10th MOISA Meeting in Oxford last July:

The photographs above and below are of a similar instrument, the twin of Callum’s but with imitation-ivory and brass mounts. It is currently for sale. Robin has a serious illness and it has been my pleasure to help him out by preparing this deluxe Louvre for some lucky customer, making the reed-caps, reed-case, hard case, hole-closing mechanisms, and gently breaking it in so that the joints and reeds settle down and reduce their misbehaviours. As with all children, compassionate parenting is required in the early months of an instrument’s life, particularly one made from organic materials like cane and boxwood.


The long feather and white pipe cleaner are for cleaning and drying bores and reeds after playing. I use them together with disposable absorbent paper and have started washing out my reeds under running water, so the blades don’t stick together from residue build-up. The shorter feathers are for periodic oiling: almond oil for the bores and rapeseed oil for the reeds. This oiling significantly lengthens the life and improves the tone of both the wooden and cane components. Every week, I sanitise my reeds with 3% Hydrogen peroxide – a minute of fizzling using the pipe cleaner, inside and out, before rinsing them with water, carefully drying with absorbent paper, replacing the reed caps, and leaving to dry somewhere safe where air circulates. Mould shortens reed life and is a health hazard.

ALWAYS replace your reed caps: they are your insurance policy. Treat a good pair of reeds as your most valuable possession. The labour alone puts their price into several hundreds of dollars/euros/pounds. If they are going to give satisfaction, then the work involved in making a pair of aulos reeds will be 24 hours minimum spread over several weeks, sometimes months. Multiply that by a skilled hourly wage and you get the right price. There is a lot more to it than making two reeds!


Although I am barely beyond beginner status playing the aulos, it is nonetheless clear to me that Robin has a magic touch in the arts of reed making and voicing woodwind instruments – transforming an instrument that appears finished to the eye into something that really sings when you tickle it. The acoustic response, the harmonics, the tone quality, the vibration under the fingers: don’t be influenced by what a Howell instrument looks like; this is a maker whose mastery lies in what the aulos sounds and feels like to play.

Callum and I agree: if you are going to invest hundreds or thousands of hours in practising, then it is worth paying more for an instrument and particularly reeds that make your soul sing. The 3-piece design of this Louvre model (with separate cup, bulb and bombyx) is prompted by the evidence of archaeological finds that appear to be professional instruments, such as the Pydna aulos and the Pompeian tibiae.

Callum has been playing his intensively over the last 9 months. He writes:

Mine is very subtly-voiced instrument. Its three-piece design may be one of the factors contributing to its fine tone, particularly when you pull out the cups a little, creating chambers in the bore. But more practically, the cups are invaluable for tuning the pipes to each other quickly, or tuning to other instruments that may be a bit flatter or sharper. They also allow you to change the angle of the reed easily and safely, by rotating the cups rather than having to gingerly twist the reed in the reed seat in a way that could crack the reed.

For the hole-closing mechanisms, I am using Mylar A4 sheets (125 micron polyester film), cut into strips and carefully heated with a candle to make it curve and wrap snugly around the pipe. I pull the Mylar strip tight, cut, and bind with a quality tape. The result is an airtight seal that slides easily up and down, so I can change the instrument’s setup quickly. No lubrication is required.

You can hear my humble attempts to test-drive the twin of Callum’s instrument in the recording below. Put it into more capable hands – or rather, more capable lips – and it could do an awful lot more! It’s majestic response, however, helped me to realise two things:

  1. When circular breathing, you can’t keep diaphragm vibrato going; with lip vibrato, however, it can continue while you breathe in. Not only do I prefer the sound of lip vibrato – the pitch fluctuation is exciting – but in all its parameters, you have a higher degree of artistic control.
  2. The Louvre could potentially be a polymodal instrument, at least in the sense that it is possible to bend the pitch of every note to overlap with the pitch range of the neighbouring fingering, without any half-holing, i.e. purely using the embouchure.

Halfway through the recording, I play some bars from this Athenaios score.

I am very reluctant to let this aulos go, but wish its future owner well. Above all, I wish Robin a smooth road back to health so that more people can experience the joy and enlightenment of playing his instruments.

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Introducing the aulos of Poseidonia

Last week, I had the honour of playing the aulos of Poseidonia beside the original in the ancient city of Poseidonia, 100km south of Naples. Here I am with Marco Sciascia, who made a reproduction for the EMAP exhibition in 2015:


Marco finished making a reproduction for me in October 2016. Since then, I have been slowly learning to play it with the help of excellent reeds and mentoring from Robin Howell.

The original was buried in around 480 BCE, two centuries before the Romans took control and gave this prosperous city its modern name of Paestum. This is also the date of the site’s most famous mural, the Tomb of the Diver, which depicts a symposium featuring two aulos players and two lyre players:

Tomb of the Diver (480–70 BCE)

The colours of the two auloi and the relative size of their players suggests two different instrument types: a smaller wooden aulos (above), and a larger bone aulos (below).


As well as accompanying songs at exclusive parties, the aulos of Poseidonia could have been played in two of the city’s great temples: the so-called Basilica (to Hera or Apollo?) and the Temple of Athena. Building work on the largest sanctuary, the Temple of Neptune, was just beginning at around the time the aulos was buried.

The Poseidonia aulos was found in 1969. Detailed studies were published by Paul and Barbara Reichlin-Moser in 2012 and by Stelios Psaroudakis in 2014, each with meticulous measurements and close-up photographs. It is sometimes called the Paestum aulos, but this name dates from a later period.

It is an exceptionally well-preserved instrument from a time and place that represents a summit of ancient Greek culture. Poseidonia was founded in the 6th century BCE by Greek colonists. Walking around the museum today, it is clear that their pre-eminent musical instrument, both in sacred and secular contexts, was the aulos. Fancier types with more holes and metal keys probably began to be developed in the 5th century, but the archaeological record points to them being a 4th-century phenomenon. The Poseidonia aulos appears to be not only Classical in period but classical in form. A practically identical instrument was buried in Pydna, ancient Macedonia, a century later (400–350 BCE).

Perhaps this doublepipe occupied a place in 4th-century Greek culture comparable to that of the violin in Western culture today; and the doublepipes with moving parts occupied a place more like that of clarinets and saxophones. The point of making this comparison is that it helps us to imagine a more complex and nuanced ancient reality. Musical styles, repertoires and conceptions would overlap and intermingle. A mechanised instrument with more notes does not imply greater artistry in the players, a more refined type of music, or the loss of elite status for an earlier type of instrument – certainly not among those of educated or conservative taste.

Despite lacking chromatic mechanisms, the Poeseidonia-type aulos is compatible with the modulating style that became popular in the 5th-century BCE, the so-called ‘New Music’ scorned by Plato and others. In the following videos, I demonstrate how it is possible to play any scale with accurate intonation. Although I would not exclude half-holing, I find it relatively clumsy. For precision and speed, I prefer to use tiny movements from the elbow in combination with micro-adjustments in lip compression.

My playing in these videos represents humble beginnings, miles short of what the instrument is capable of. I am just far enough down the path to know that this type of aulos is a noble musical instrument, promising rich rewards in proportion to the hours spent practising. The professional auletes of ancient Greece probably put in as many hours as music students do today. I wish I was starting in my teens, not in my 40s! I certainly want to continue and hope others will join me.

Thanks to Angelo Meriani (Università di Salerno), Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the staff of the Parco Archeologico di Paestum and residenza “Il Granaio dei Casabella”.

Text lightly revised 2 February 2018

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Delphic Paean by Athenaios Athenaiou

Updated on 17 Jan 2019

Here is a draft of some performing materials I am developing with Armand D’Angour and Stefan Hagel. This is an experiment – we would welcome feedback from singers and academics. Our idea is to move away from a single solution, a single recording, a single edition. Instead of fixing and controlling, we want to make it easy for others to adapt these performing materials to suit themselves – a vision prompted by Peter Robinson in ‘The Digital Revolution in Scholarly Editing’ (2016).

Updates and alternative versions will appear from time to time under each heading below.

The words spoken

• by Armand D’Angour:

• by Stefan Hagel:

The words sung

• by Stef Conner in Reading, 21 June 2018 (v. AD4), with subtitle translations:

• by participants of the 1st Euterpe Doublepipe School in Tarquinia, 6 May 2018. This was an educational experience adapting Stefan Hagel’s reconstruction (see this page for score and notes). Some of the performers had never played the aulos before — our focus was on  active participation and creativity, making something new:

• by Miriam Andersén in Ljubljana, 26 August 2017 (v. AD3).  Here we introduced more breathing spaces to help articulate the text and to heighten the drama of Apollo slaying the serpent:

• by a mixed chorus in Oxford, 28 July 2017, directed by Tosca Lynch (v. AD1):


EMAP Resources for Euterpe, vol. 5, is in preparation (expected February 2019). This revises the drafts below and reflects on a 2-year development process. It aims to make all the decisions and differences (scholarly and artistic) transparent. An introduction to the EMAP Resources is here.

Chorus part v. AD 3 (26 September 2017). This has larger lyrics, full word-for-word translation, a revised translation of part 1, and additional rests suggested by Tosca Lynch (bars 71, 113) and Miriam Andersén (bars 92, 98, 108, 112). All other rests were introduced in rehearsals with Geoffrey Webber and the Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, in February 2017.

Aulos part v. BB2 (20 October 2017). This matches Chorus part v. AD3 above and introduces paphlagmata from pibroch. Its development process is documented at

DRAFT (7 May 2017) 7.4 MB. This gives much more information and discussion. We are grateful to Stefan Hagel for substantial input which will make the next release much stronger, presenting two solutions rather than one.

Editable file formats

Please download the PDFs above first. The editable formats below are unlikely to open correctly on your system. To avoid gobbledegook in your browser, right-click (or ctrl-click) to download the XML files.

Introduction. Texts 1,  4, and 5. Bibliography

DRAFT (7 May 2017): DOCX

Text 6. Chorus only

v. AD2 (8 September 2017): XML | SIB v7
DRAFT (7 May 2017): XML | SIB v7

Text 7. Chorus + blank staff

DRAFT (7 May 2017): XML | SIB v7

Text 8. Chorus + aulos

DRAFT (7 May 2017): XML | SIB v7.

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Scottish deer bones – episode 2

This is the second part of my adventure, experimenting with how to produce high quality bones which will be suitable for aulos making.

It was only a month ago that I found out that Barnaby was looking for someone to take on that task.  In my innocence I said “Yes, I’ll do it”, thinking it was maybe just a case of throwing some bones into a bucket of water, waiting a few months, then sawing off the ends.  How wrong I was!

It has been a steep learning curve, but I am really enjoying the challenge.

My first batch of bones arrived on 28th October. They had been well scraped and there was very little flesh on them. I didn’t have a bone saw at that time, so I decided to put the (previously frozen) bones into water until I was able to cut off the ends.  I was able to correspond with craftsmen who were possibly going to use them and they advised me about which part they wanted.  I thought it would be best to saw off the ends and extract the marrow to speed up the maceration process as the cold Scottish winter would slow down the process.

Bones after macerating in water for two days.  Even with the cold weather, something is happening.

Bones after macerating in water for two days. Even with the cold weather, something is happening.

My saw arrived two or three days after the bones had been put in water, so I set to cutting off some of the bone ends.  Even after that short period of time they were pretty smelly.  The bone was quite difficult to cut but the marrow could be extracted quite easily.

Sawn off knuckle showing the marrow.

Sawn off knuckle showing the marrow.

I was in the process of doing this when Barnaby phoned to say that some bones which he had been macerating since July were looking beautiful and not to bother sawing any more.  Was I glad to hear those words!  I stopped immediately.  We arranged that I should collect these bones and bring them back to my house to finish them off.

On my way to collect the bones I stopped off in Kirkintilloch to collect some hydrogen peroxide which I would use to give them a final clean and to improve their appearance.  The box of bones was ceremonially photographed and transferred into my car (see episode 1) and I felt things were really progressing rather well.  They may have looked good, but they still smelled rather awful.

The next day I decided to cut the ends off some bones to check if the marrow had rotted away and to see what they looked like close up.

With the first cut, stinking water came dripping from the inside of the bone.  After both ends had been sawn off I tried to extract the putrid paste which was in the marrow cavity.  The stench was overpowering and the marrow really difficult to remove, making the whole process quite the most horrible thing I have ever done in my life!  A heavy duty face mask and an electric saw are on the shopping list for tomorrow!

So far I have learnt to saw the ends off the bones as quickly as possible after receiving them – while still frozen in fact.  I’m sure the process would be much quicker and the bones take up much less space that way.  A lot more pleasant for me as well.

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