Past Event

Graduate Scholar Talk: Anna Conser, 'Old' Vs 'New' Music

October 6, 2021
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Old vs. new: the music of Euripides’ Medea

In the fifth century BCE, Greek tragedy underwent what has been called a ‘musical revolution’.  The resulting ‘New Music’ was both wildly popular and politically controversial.  I will use Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton to illustrate the contrast between ‘old’ and ‘new’ musical styles and then discuss how they played a similarly thematic role in Euripides’ Medea.  I have used digital reconstructions of melodic style based on the text itself because no music notation survives for the odes of Medea.  Traces of the original melodies, however, can be found in the rises and falls of the lyrics’ natural intonation.  Based on a computational analysis of pitch accent patterns in the lyrics of Medea, I identify two distinct styles of melody: an ‘old’ style evoking epic recitation, and a ‘new’ style associated with choral song and dance which, I argue, would have been central to Euripides’ play as originally performed, framing the narrative as a critical response to earlier literary traditions.


Graduate Scholar Talks provide young scholars an opportunity to make a generalist presentation on their research to a cross-disciplinary audience ready to listen carefully and ask probing questions. The talks are a useful learning experience for the presenter and for EPIC members to learn about topics beyond their own scholarly interests.

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