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An Appreciation of Ancient Songs and Instruments

A topic by Minoh Workshop created 82 days ago Views: 424 Replies: 30
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As everyone must know by now, Minotaur Hotel is strongly influenced by ancient music and instruments. It's only fitting, after all, that a story based around mythology and different cultures coming together should take that to its soundtrack as well!

As such I'm always looking for (old) songs, which is an enjoyable enough process on its own that I might as well share it. Hopefully it can teach others to have some appreciation for the classics!

To kick this off I think it's only fitting to cover one of the greatest musical influences in the entire game: Lina Palera's performance of the Seikilos Epitaph.

Not only is this song central to the story of Minotaur Hotel, I find it impossibly fitting that it was performed with a recreation of the ancient lyre made by Luthieros. I will admit that, in large part, creating this thread is made with the goal of bringing some attention to their and Lina Palera's amazing work. You can check the comment thread below for more of their work.

Routinely I will post more songs here, both ancient ones reinterpreted and new ones played in old instruments. You are free to share your personal favorites as well, hopefully we can all learn a bit from each other.


Here are some of my favorite performances of the Seikilos Epitaph:

I also recommend this version, which is the one you can find in the game itself.

Those are by Luis Paniagua.


How to play the Seikilos Epitaph:

And here's a more advanced (and less orthodox) performing technique:


There is also, of course, our original version of the Seikilos Epitaph by CivValian

And this festive-ish rendition, at least as it goes on:

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This Pindar ode, the First Pythian, has some surviving music, and is oddly catchy. It was written/composed to commemorate a victory at the Pythian games (SPORTS CHANT!!!). I can't recall which event, though.

nice.  this is good sleepy time music... thanksss


Here's the Lyre Harp I'm currently learning on. It's a 10 string. 


Another important song to Minotaur Hotel is Mesomedes' Hymn to Nemesis, which some of you may have heard in the Ruthless Route of the story. Nemesis is usually portrayed as the punisher of pride, hubris, vainglory. She brought down those who insulted the gods. She was, we can say, the concept of divine justice. 

But there is also a benevolent side to her. Supposedly some ancient cults worshiped her in her benevolence towards the good and the pious. It would seem that rewarding good and kindness was, too, in her domain.

This is lovely. Music has always been an inspiration and big part of my life and I could tell I was in for something special from the title screen alone. Admittedly, it reminded me of more "modern" music where you're going to find more harps. Songs like Bjork's Moon:

That musically tries to capture the cycles of the moon, both in it's structure and lyrics. The lyrics seem to fit especially well with Minotaur Hotel

All rested
As if the healthiest pastime
Is being in life-threatening circumstances
And once again be reborn
Best way to start-a-new is to fail miserably
Fail at loving and fail at giving
Fail at creating a flow then realign the whole
To risk all is the end all and the beginning all

As well as the music of Joanna Newsom:

This song is, from what I gather, about the death of a child, but I think all the imagery of the sea and some lines in particular work well with Asterion before his current situation.

And in the trough of the waves,
which are pawing like dogs,
pitch we, pale-faced and grave,
as I write in my log.

Then I hear a noise from the hull,
seven days out to sea.
And it is the damnable bell!
And it tolls — well, I believe that it tolls — it tolls for me.
And it tolls for me.
And darling, we will be fine; but what was yours and mine
appears to me a sandcastle
that the gibbering wave takes.
But if it’s all just the same, then will you say my name;
say my name in the morning, so that I know when the wave breaks.

I wasn’t born of a whistle, or milked from a thistle at twilight.
No; I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright.

So: enough of this terror.
We deserve to know light,
and grow evermore lighter and lighter.
You would have seen me through,
But I could not undo that desire.

The Lyre is such a beautiful instrument. It hits that same airiness that defines the harp, but in a more ephemeral way. Harps are large. They're a production and are pretty set to where they are. That production also grabs attention, so it's a sort of inward instrument. Lyres seem perfect for storytelling and exchanges over a fire. There's an outward feeling to its form where it seems to underscore a setting. I'll have to check out more of Lina Palera's work to get a better feel, but judging by how subtly complex most tracks are in MiHo (Seikilos Guitar I is so damn good. I cannot state that enough. Just...bliss.) I imagine I'll enjoy it.

Is there a particular place you'd recommend to start with Lina Palera's work?


First of all, 
>Joanna Newsom

Remarkable taste


I actually met my current boyfriend because I mentioned my love of Joanna Newsom. He told his sister he'd find someone else who loved her since she'd get annoyed by him playing her music. We luckily had a lot of other things in common, but I'll always find that funny. She really is something.

Also shut up, Nanoff. You're not allowed to be the reason Khenbish exists and like Joanna Newsom. That's being greedy with great taste.

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As a quick aside: This might sound a bit weird, but you've got the spirit of an alchemist. On the surface, this post seems to go against your negative reaction to Kentucky Route Zero being too academic. However, you've managed to filter the study of classics through your experience of them, allowing others to find their own connections through yourself and others who have contributed, thus creating their own personal attachment. A catalyst in a sense. It's a bit unorthodox to use this as a major pillar in a work like it is in Minotaur Hotel, but I think the discussions throughout the forum speak for themselves. I don't know how much of this was intentional, but it's interesting nonetheless.


I recommend checking the Seikilo Ancient World Music channel, there are plenty of videos of her playing the lyre. Search for "Lina Palera" in the search bar. It's actually kind of funny, a few days ago I was talking with a friend and he told me that Mrs. Palera is "a big name" in the world of lyre players. I am not surprised by that, but it was funny to me because I just enjoyed her music without being in any way aware of her status.

Anyway, I'm posting below two videos I particularly like from her, just as an appetizer.

God, Delphi is just hauntingly gorgeous. Both are great, but that mix of dark and light that Delphi has is something I'll never get tired of. I love how melodic both tracks are, too, and how much they shift to tell stories. It's why I find the Seikilos Guitar Suite, but especially part 1, so powerful. It basically contains every emotion up to that point with the distance between notes slowly getting closer before melody and excitement begin to take over.

I know this is once again modern, but the Joanna Newsom track I picked before was mostly because of how it felt somewhat thematically appropriate. This song is slower, but her voice has toned down and even if you don't like it I think you'd appreciate the last minute even if the song has a lot of crescendos throughout the track.

I'm going to listen to more Lina Palera in the meantime. (Off-topic, but her personal style is wonderful, as is that room.) Thank you again for introducing me.

Joanna Newsom is the greatest living poet.

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Her music didn't click until I started really diving into the lyrics. And once it did, it became essential. There are a couple of low points in my life where it allowed me to process and move on. "In California" was eerily analogous to my situation, so having "Does Not Suffice" be an almost secret reprise eventually broke through the spiral I was experiencing. 

I know Divers wasn't as positively received, but "Time, as a Symptom" is one of her most beautiful songs. And I love that the album loops so that song transitions into the opening, creating an endless loop. Ys will always be my favorite, though. I can't imagine an album from any artist topping it. I do hope we get more music soon, but with her child, I imagine it will be a while.

ETA: Time, as a Symptom is a very Minotaur Hotel song. Like:

When cruel birth debases, we forget
When cruel death debases
We believe it erases all the rest
That precedes
The nullifying, defeating, negating, repeating
Joy of life
Joy! Again, around–a pause, a sound–a song:
A way a lone a last a loved a long
A cave, a grave, a day: arise, ascend
(Areion, Rharian, go free and graze. Amen.)
A shore, a tide, unmoored–a sight, abroad:
A dawn, unmarked, undone, undarked (a god)
No time. No flock. No chime, no clock. No end
White star, white ship–Nightjar, transmit: transcend!

Wonderfully, there are some surviving examples of vocal music from the Mediterranean cultures in the classical era. This includes quite a few examples from Ancient Greece! MalPerMeCheMaffidai has already posted one here, but there are plenty more!

The nice thing about vocal music is that the human voice is still largely as it was several thousand years ago. So, while of course we need to worry about language, tone and colour, at least we don’t need to recreate the instrument!

Perhaps particularly relevant to this thread is Mesomedes of Crete. Minoh Workshop has already anticipated me in mentioning him – unsurprisingly! – but I’ll include my little spiel here anyway. After all, I’m focusing on vocals here specifically!

Mesomedes lived during the late 2nd century AD, which means he was broadly contemporary with the Seikilos epitaph. Several devotional hymns of his survive, complete with both music and text. These include hymns to the Calliope, Nemesis (see above) and the Sun (and so Apollo).

Somehow, I can see Asterion appreciating a hymn to Calliope, who was the muse related to epic poetry. It’s short, but beautiful:

Here’s his Hymn to the Sun, which is a fair bit longer:

These recordings are a touch over-interpreted – the original hymns are a single vocal line with no accompaniment, while the recordings add various instruments and changes in tone based on modern tastes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Just be aware that the original performances might have sounded quite different from what you’re hearing here. The same goes for the Hymn to Nemesis too. That being said, all these performances are played with real spirit, and are interesting interpretations. I enjoy them!

If you allow short pieces, you can go back much earlier. For instance, music survives for parts of Euripides’s plays, who was writing a good 500 years before the Seikilos epitaph and Mesomedes. (Although still 1000 years after Asterion’s day). Here’s some music from Orestes – κατολοφύρομαι – which was written in 408 BC. It’s particularly interesting, because it includes music for both voice and instrumental accompaniment. That’s quite unusual! This work is a lament on Orestes’s fate:

These are just a few examples. There’s quite a rabbit-hole of fine music from Ancient Greece if you go digging for it. I look forward to seeing what else you post, Minoh Workshop, and everyone else in this thread!


Fun fact: the first music that plays when you start the game is called Calliopeia. That was very deliberate on us, I liked the idea of the story beginning (even if stealthily!) with a homage to Calliope. It was our way of asking for inspiration and creativity in this journey, I suppose.

I don't it's an ancient song but, you know, there's some magic there regardless.

And thank you for the songs you posted! Even if I do quite a bit on research on them it's always good being pointed out interesting performances. I particularly liked the very delicate performance of the Hymn of Nemesis in the first video you posted.

Oh, that’s really neat! I hadn’t picked up on that at all. It’s wonderfully fitting that a large work like this, one that looks at events and themes spread over such large timescales, should begin with an homage to Calliope. In a way, it’s your own Homeric ‘Sing, O Muse!’.

As for whether it’s an ancient song or not, I’m not sure I particularly mind. It’s a fine piece of music either way! I always like to think of music performed as having its own merit, regardless of its origin.

For instance, I do think it’s really important and interesting – not to mention enlightening – to perform historic music in ways that try to recreate how those works would have sounded at the time they were written. But I think it’s also informative to reinterpret this music with a modern mindset. Likewise, I think it’s worth using historic themes in new music, and also to write new music in historic forms. There’s a real art in writing good pastiche of historic styles. If this Calliope is a pastiche, or even simply evoking a certain style, I think it’s pretty decent.

As for using ancient themes, I think it’s interesting that the Greek Gods have never really left us, at least in art. We might not build temples to them these days, but they’ve been a continuous part of many cultures for thousands of years. I’m a singer myself, and I sing music from a wide range of eras – spread over a good thousand years or so. And I can think of references to the Greek Gods that span most of that time. There are just so many examples!

One song springs to mind. I’d post it here, but sadly no-one seems to have recorded it yet. It was written in the 1670s/80s, and has as its text a poetic translation of Anacreon’s Ode ΕΙΣ ΛΥΡΑΝ. At least to me, the text seems to sit well alongside Minotaur Hotel. The title refers to the lyre, and the song is accompanied by the lute – the lyre’s close companion – so that too seems fitting!

“I'll sing of Heroes, and of Kings;
In mighty Numbers, mighty Things.
Begin my Muse! but lo! the strings
to my great song rebellious prove,
the strings will sound of nought but Love.

“I broke them all, and put on new;
'tis this, or nothing sure will do.
These sure, said I, will me obey;
these sure heroic notes will play.
Straight I began with thund’ring Jove,
and all th’immortal Pow’rs, but Love.

“Love smil'd, and from my’nfeebled Lyre,
came gentle Airs, such as inspire
melting Love, and soft Desire.
Farewell then Heroes, farewell Kings,
and mighty Numbers, mighty Things;
Love tunes my heart, just to my strings.”


On the subject of that two-square-inch surviving fragment of Euripides music, this is an interesting video for its thoroughness-- showing the original text and notation, a transliteration, a translation into Spanish, and a sheet music realization on screen (showing off the use of quarter-tones)-- though the performance itself is not very good:

i was actually planning on posting the Orestes piece, but wanted to make sure to find the translation of it-- but got too lazy to do it until now-- I believe it is from this part of the chorus's first big part, having just witnessed Orestes have a bout of madness and then pass out:  

Here is another version just because it is quite a good performance:

The dearth of surviving music of these operas is a complete fucking travesty.... :'c


Sorry. I didn’t mean to steal your thunder!

I really appreciate you holding off on talking about Orestes until finding a good translation. And, even better, putting it into context! While there was a translation attached to the video I posted, it rather misses the sense of the text. That’s one reason I didn’t want to point it out. The translation you posted here is much, much better. Anyone who wants a translation of the Orestes fragment, use MalPerMeCheMaffidai’s!

I really like your two videos, too. The live performance is great! It’s sung and played with real spirit, which I really appreciate.

The more academic video is interesting, not least because of how much information is clearly presented on the screen at any one time. It raises a rather nice point, too. This video uses a different set of intervals to the other Orestes fragment videos in this thread. It uses quarter-tones, whereas the other videos use semi-tones, along with some other slight differences.

I may be wrong about this, but I believe this is because of ambiguity in the notation. This notation is so old, and we have relatively little of it, that we can’t be completely sure what it represents. Those small intervals could be interpreted as a semi-tone, or quarter-tone, or even as smaller increments (at that point, the notes are essentially the same). The only way to know for sure would be to find more material to compare against! Of course, if I’m misunderstanding something there, please do correct me!

Interestingly, this isn’t the only fragment of Euripides’s music to survive. There are also two fragments from ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’, one of which has alternation between Iphigenia herself and the chorus. I gather these are fairly complete fragments, and I have the impression that enough information survives to produce short performable versions – much like with the Orestes fragment.

Curiously, though, I’ve yet to actually find any performances of them. Does anyone know why that is? Is there something odd about those fragments?

Also, complete aside, but I’ve also just come across this. It’s not ancient, but it reflects on the Labyrinth. Says Ariadne: “For ‘tis a Lab’rinth of more subtle art, To have so fair a face, so foul a heart.”:


It seemed necessary-- being music for drama-- that the text be available (for reference, it is the William Arrowsmith translation). But yeah, there is some unclarity in exactly how to read the music due to a dearth of example or guidebooks or whatehaveyou. I even found one performance of the Orestes piece that is strikingly different than any posted so far-- I only didn't link it because I just kind of don't like it. Haha. But yeah. I have kind of shitty tone-sense, so I didn't pick up that other performances were evidently not employing the quarter-tones. I figured it was just some weird shit with how modes might work, mostly. Haha.

I had to look up the Ipheigeneia In Aulis fragment you mentioned, because I couldn't remember if it was because it wasn't consecutive lines or what-- but it turns out why it doesn't have any recordings is that, because it's not in a strongly strophic section, where it would be known to have repetitive phrases, it can't really be reconstructed from having the start of one line and the end of another, and such. Here it is from the ML West book of ancient Greek music fragments:

There are a few other interesting fragments from otherwise unknown plays, such as a fairly extended monologue (with some gaps) from a satyr play (which I think is actually in the game as some flute bullshit that Argos plays with a drum), and a few stray lines of Tecmessa from a non-Sophocles Ajax play. The latter has some recordings, but I believe the former does not. The first one I'm linking because it has the sheet music, but I am not terribly fond of the super breathy performance-- the second one holds its own better and is more believable as what you would hear as a dramatic performance (though maybe, Ms Soprano, some clearer/crisper consonants would be appreciated...):


There are some gaps, but the translation given by West is: "With suicidal hand and . . . your sword, Ajax son of Telamon . . . because of Odysseus, the villain . . . wounds, he whom we miss..."

Speaking of Ariadne and opera, there is another work that treats the exact same subject as that Henry Lawes composition you linked-- there is the famous Monteverdi aria "Lasciatemi Morire", Arianna/Ariadne's lament on Naxos-- early opera/florentine camerata works being inspired by ancient Greek music-dramas in the first place:

(translation available if you scroll down here: ) 


Thanks so much for the information about Iphigenia in Aulis!

I think my problem was that I slightly misinterpreted the sources I was reading. They went into some detail about the structure of the music in this fragment, and various stylistic approaches used in the melody. I got into my head that this meant that the fragment was in good shape. I hadn’t thought that all that information could be determined even from a heavily damaged papyrus. Oops!

The image you posted is a really nice one, since it gives a good indication of how much damage there is. It’s a real shame that we can’t make more of it – although I suppose we can be thankful that at least those small portions of music survive! It’s a tantalising window into a musical period that is so nearly lost to us ...

By the way, don’t worry too much about having trouble hearing quarter-tones! That’s actually really quite common. At least in modern Western cultures, the ear is trained from an early age to recognise semi-tones as the smallest unit of music. Quarter-tones appear so rarely that the ear isn’t trained to recognise them. Because of this, it’s easy for listeners used to Western music to confuse semi-tones and quarter-tones. I know I do!

Thanks also for posting Tecmessa’s Lament! I wasn’t aware of it, and it’s quite striking! I rather like the chromaticism, and some of the dissonant intervals (the end of line two is great). I think it’s interesting that I would naturally associate both of these features with a lament – although, given the large expanse of time between then and now, that may well just be a coincidence.

Good choice on posting the Monterverdi, too. It’s a fine, fine work, and it’s great to have a good excuse to listen to it again! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Lawes was aware of it. It’s entirely possible Monteverdi’s work inspired his own setting. At the time Lawes was writing, Italian music was becoming increasingly popular in Britain. Scores was being brought over from Europe, and composers were studying and copying the continental styles. Lawes made strong use of the new Italian style first popularised by Monteverdi. You can hear the similarity in styles between the two Ariadne videos we posted, I think!

I’m in danger of getting off-topic here, but just a brief aside. Compare those Ariadne videos to the one below. This is British, based on Greek/Roman myth, but predates both Ariadne works by a few decades. It’s in a much more ‘British’ style (which really means that it uses older Italian influences!). The work describes how various important deities from the Greek/Roman pantheon give honour to a famous mythical British Queen: Oriana. Since the video doesn't mention it, this madrigal is by John Lisley. It looks to be his only surviving work!

“Fair Cytherea* presents her doves,
 Sweet Minerva singeth,
Jove gives a crown,
a garland Juno bringeth.

“Fame summons each celestial power
To bring their gifts to Oriana's bower.
Then sang the Shepherds and Nymphs of Diana:
Long live fair Oriana.”

*Cytherea (‘Lady of Cythera’) is another name sometimes given for Aphrodite.


Last night I was dying because I couldn't find a song that had been ringing inside my head. It isn't an ancient song, but I was so happy when I found it and so glad it was just like I remembered that I feel like sharing it.

I'm a sucker for the lyrics. Hopefully you'll feel how it can touch a bit, even if distantly, on some moods/ideas we have in the game.

And another one from the same artist for good measure.

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It's interesting that you bring up this song to the sun when a lot of the times, Bulls are a solar symbol.... 

Well that and their horns can be considered a Lunar symbol as well. 


Asterion is tied to stars, I wonder if Oscar has a connection to one of the other ones... Oh, who knows!

A bit of a silly idea but Night Sky Asterion skin? Maybe triggered by finding something made of Lapis Lazuli?  I wonder how the dear moo will react, bashful? amused? or cringe?


I came across a few more songs I'd like to share, here are a few:

And, of course, this very Minotaur-related song:

Here are some more songs I enjoyed recently. I hope it pleases you guys as well.

Might be worthwhile following the artist in this video, Bettina Joy de Guzman.

This is a nudge nudge wink prompt, huh? Is the association perchaps with the moon as raccoon mentioned? Saying other ones in that context makes it sound like a celestial body. His relations to Poseidon by extension links him to the sea and fishing (not to mention his history)-- which makes the moon among the choices the best fit. The moon affects the tides after all, which also affects fishing to some degree.

Looking into it now, Oscar has more incriminating ties to Poseidon than what I've seen in the threads so far. First, storms are Poseidon's domain, which is coincidentally also Oscar's self-made nickname. It's also noted that white and black bulls are sacrificed to him. Poseidon is of course linked to seas and fishing, which are highly involved in Oscar's lineage/ancestry. The family on his mother's side were fishermen and lived near the coast, after all.