Music Education in Ancient Greece: Pt 2

ancient%20greek%20education Following on from Music Education in Ancient Greece: Part 1.

So what happened to this glorious status of music, worthy of the quadrivium club and central for an individual’s internal balance and wellbeing? Rome! When Rome defeated Greece the importance of music diminished greatly, for Rome was orientated toward the word, the law and the sword. Fast-forward to the 17thC and music was changing from science to art, as it is still regarded today, and this new classification led to its downfall and loss of status as an intellectual necessity. Music was now analysed in its expressive terms and judged to have entered into the ‘ephemeral world of the senses’ club that Plato so despised. But science was also moving from theoretical to practical, and the required usefulness of the industrial revolution furthered applied maths and science, but had little time for music. In 1831 William Crotch of Oxford argued that music is both an art and a science, but that scientific investigation was not the proper pathway for its investigation. Today, we would argue that one does not need to understand the science of music in order to make it, understand its meaning, and to enjoy it. We know that almost every human responds to musical sound. We all have the cognitive capacity to detect wrong notes, to find music we enjoy, to remember hundreds of melodies and to tap our feet in time with music. No scientific investigation nor formal education required.

Yet there persists a belief that whilst maths is not beyond the grasp of anyone, musical ability is. Music has this ‘fixed ability’ shackle impeding its advancement and wider accessibility, the irony being that whilst most people ‘love’ listening to music, many of these same people label themselves ‘unmusical’. Listen carefully and hear the fixed intelligence vernacular. Rather than being described as ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’, a musician is more likely termed ‘gifted’ or ‘talented’, perhaps even ‘lucky’. (Sarasate shook his head and snorted: “Genius! For thirty-seven years I have practiced 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius.”)

Pythagoras believed that that the key to understanding the universe is the science of numbers. This idea that one can understand complicated things through numbers permeates throughout history. As Galileo said “the book of nature is written in mathematical symbols”. Pythagoras was a pioneer with this thinking, and as you know, was most successful of all at linking geometry and numbers.  What about numbers and music? That’s coming up next.

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Also by Michael Griffin


Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at

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Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at

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‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 123 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
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Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at


Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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Posted in ancient greece education, classical greece, math, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, numbers, primary
2 comments on “Music Education in Ancient Greece: Pt 2
  1. matthew hetz says:

    Thank you for the history. Are there written examples of music from Ancient Greece? Is it performed?

    • mdgriffin63 says:

      Hi Matthew. Music was taught aurally in those days, unfortunately therefore no written examples. It took more than a millennium later for the beginnings of musical notation to emerge.

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