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Greek music and lyrics: from the 6th century BC

Our word for music is provided by the Greeks. It means literally the art of the Muses. That very broad definition indicates the role of music in ancient Greek life. It is connected with the recital of poetry (when read to the lyre, the result is 'lyrics') and it accompanies the dancing of the chorus in the performance of drama.

The Greeks are interested in musical theory (the Pythagoreans discover the mathematical basis of the octave) and they are the first people to devise a way of writing down music. As a result a few fragments of Greek music are the earliest examples to survive - including two hymns to Apollo carved in marble at Delphi in the 2nd century BC.

Mechanical organ: 3rd century BC

Pipes of varying sorts are among the earliest of musical instruments, and pipers must often have imagined a pipe too large for human lungs. A scientist in Alexandria, by the name of Ctesibius, is credited with being the first to invent an organ - with a hand-operated pump sending air through a set of large Pipes. Each pipe is played by pressing a note on a board. This is the beginning of keyboard instruments.

By the time of the Roman empire, a few centuries later, the organ is a familiar and popular instrument - playing a prominent part in public games and circuses as well as private banquets. The emperor Nero, an enthusiastic performer, is proud of his talents on the organ.

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