LyreFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and The Nuttall Encyclopaedia
A lyre is a stringed musical instrument well known for its use in Classical Antiquity. The recitations of the Ancient Greeks were accompanied by it.
According to ancient Greek mythology, the young god Hermes created the lyre from the body of a large tortoise shell (khelus) which he covered with animal hide and antelope horns. Lyres were associated with Apollonian virtues of moderation and equilibrium, contrasting the Dionysian pipes which represented ecstasy and celebration.
Erato (i. e. the Lovely), the
muse of erotic poetry and elegy, represented with a lyre in her
1913 photo posed to recall Classical Antiquity
Places in southern Europe, western Asia, or north Africa have been proposed as the historic birthplace of the genus. Some of the heroes and improvers of the lyre were of the Aeolian or Ionian Greek colonies on the coasts of Asia (ancient Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) bordering the Lydian empire. Some mythic masters like Orpheus, Musaeus, and Thamyris were believed to have been born in Thrace, another place of heavy Greek colonization. The name kissar (kithara) given by the ancient Greeks to Egyptian box instruments reveals the apparent similarities recognized by Greeks themselves. The cultural peak of ancient Egypt, and thus the possible age of creation, predates the 5th century classic Greece. Thus we can infer that the instrument might have existed in one of Greece's adjacent countries, either Thrace, Lydia, or Egypt, and was introduced into Greece at pre-classic times.
The frame of a lyre consists of a hollow body or sound-chest. From this sound-chest are raised two arms, which are sometimes hollow, and are bent both outward and forward. They are connected near the top by a crossbar or yoke. Another crossbar, fixed on the sound-chest, forms the bridge which transmits the vibrations of the strings. The deepest note was the farthest from the player; but, as the strings did not differ much in length, more weight may have been gained for the deeper notes by thicker strings, as in the violin and similar modern instruments, or they were turned with slacker tension. The strings were of gut. They were stretched between the yoke and bridge, or to a tailpiece below the bridge. There were two ways of tuning: one was to fasten the strings to pegs which might be turned; the other was to change the place of the string upon the crossbar; probably both expedients were simultaneously employed.
Number of Strings
The number of strings varied at different epochs, and possibly in different localities - four, seven and ten having been favourite numbers. They were used without a finger-board, no Greek description or representation having ever been met with that can be construed as referring to one. Nor was a bow possible, the flat sound-board being an insuperable impediment. The plectrum, however, was in constant use. It was held in the right hand to set the upper strings in vibration; at other times it hung from the lyre by a ribbon. The fingers of the left hand touched the lower strings.
There is no evidence as to what the stringing of the Greek lyre was in the heroic age. Plutarch says that Olympus and Terpander used but three strings to accompany their recitation. As the four strings led to seven and eight by doubling the tetrachord, so the trichord is connected with the hexachord or six-stringed lyre depicted on so many archaic Greek vases. We cannot insist on the accuracy of this representation, the vase painters being little mindful of the complete expression of details; yet we may suppose their tendency would be rather to imitate than to invent a number.
It was their constant practice to represent the strings as being damped by the fingers of the left hand of the player, after having been struck by the plectrum which he held in the right hand. Before Greek civilization had assumed its historic form, there was likely to have been great freedom and independence of different localities in the matter of lyre stringing, which is corroborated by the antique use of the chromatic (half-tone) and enharmonic (quarter-tone) tunings pointing to an early exuberance, and perhaps also to an Asiatic bias towards refinements of intonation.
Lyre, or Lyra (lýra) is still the dominant folk instrument of some areas in Greece, such as in Crete and areas with Pontian populations in Northern Greece (Greek Macedonia). This version of Lyra is held vertically, resting on the thighs of the player, and is played with a bow like a violin.
Amphi`on, a son of Zeus and Antiope, who is said to have invented the lyre, and built the walls of Thebes by the sound of it, a feat often alluded to as an instance of the miraculous power of music.
Hermes, the Mercury of the Romans; in the Greek mythology the herald of the gods and the god of eloquence and of all kinds of cunning and dexterity in word and action; invented the lyre, the alphabet, numbers, astronomy, music, the cultivation of the olive, &c.; was the son of Zeus and Maia; wore on embassy a winged cap, winged sandals, and carried a herald's wand as symbol of his office.
Lyric Poetry, poetry originally accompanied by the lyre, in which the poet sings his own passions, sure of a sympathetic response from others in like circumstances with himself.
Marsyas, a Phrygian peasant, who, having found a flute which Athena had thrown away because playing on it disfigured her face, and which, as still inspired by the breath of the goddess, yielded sweet tones when he put his lips to it, one day challenged Apollo to a contest, the condition being that the vanquished should pay whatever penalty the victor might impose on him; Apollo played on the lyre and the boor on the flute, when the Muses, who were umpires, assigned the palm to the former; upon this Apollo caught his rival up, bound him to a tree, and flayed him alive for his temerity.
Midas, a king of Phrygia who, in his lust of riches, begged of Bacchus and obtained the power of turning everything he touched into gold, a gift which he prayed him to revoke when he found it affected his very meat and drink, which the god consented to do, only he must bathe in the waters of the Pactolus, the sands of which ever after were found mixed with gold; appointed umpire at a musical contest between Pan and Apollo, he preferred the pipes of the former to the lyre of the latter, who thereupon awarded him a pair of ass-ears, the which he concealed with a cap, but could not hide them from his barber, who could not retain the secret, but whispered it into a hole in the ground, around which sprang up a forest of reeds, which as the wind passed through them told the tale into the general ear, to the owner's discomfiture.
Orpheus, in the Greek mythology son of Apollo and the Muse Calliopë, famed for his skill on the lyre, from which the strains were such as not only calmed and swayed the rude soul of nature, but persuaded even the inexorable Pluto to relent; for one day when his wife Eurydice was taken away from him, he descended with his lyre to the lower world and prevailed on the nether king by the spell he wielded to allow her to accompany him back, but on the condition that he must not, as she followed him, turn round and look; this condition he failed to fulfil, and he lost her again, but this time for ever; whereupon, as the story goes, he gave himself up to unappeasable lamentings, which attracted round him a crowd of upbraiding Mænades, who in their indignation took up stones to stone him and mangled him to death, only his lyre as it floated down the river seaward kept sounding "Eurydice! Eurydice!" till it was caught up by Zeus and placed in memorial of him among the stars of the sky.
Pindar, the greatest lyric poet of Greece, and for virgin purity of imagination ranked by Ruskin along with Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Scott; born near Thebes, in Boeotia, of a musical family, and began his musical education by practice on the flute, while he was assisted in his art by the example of his countrywoman Corinna, who competed with and defeated him more than once at the public festivals; he was a welcome visitor at the courts of all the Greek princes of the period, and not the less honoured that he condescended to no flattery and attuned his lyre to no sentiment but what would find an echo in every noble heart; he excelled in every department of lyric poetry, hymns to the gods, the praises of heroes, pæans of victory, choral songs, festal songs and dirges, but of these only a few remain, his Epinikia, a collection of triumphal odes in celebration of the successes achieved at the great national games of Greece; he was not only esteemed the greatest of lyric poets by his countrymen, but is without a rival still; when Alexander destroyed Thebes he spared the house of Pindar (522-442 B.C.).
Polyhymnia, one of the nine Muses; she is represented as in a pensive mood, with her forefinger on her mouth; she was the inventress of the lyre and the mother of Orpheus.