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An Appreciation of Ancient Songs and Instruments

A topic by Minoh Workshop created Sep 09, 2021 Views: 1,686 Replies: 53
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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.


More ancient songs! These ones are Roman, though. My favorite is by far the second half of the 3rd song.

I dunno if you've already found this guy, Petros Tabouris, but he does a lot of Ancient music reconstructions as well as more recent Greek art-songs, and Byzantine era stuff too.


semi opera by HARRY PARTCH


translated and edited by W B YEATS.

This work was explicitly written to try to recreate the overall musicodramatic/semi-operatic nature of how the ancient Attic Tragedies were originally performed in its composition, instrumentation, and performance. Partch even famously created his own instruments which could play microtonal intervals, so he could get at the "pure intonation" of ancient Greek music. It can be a bit unsettling at times, but there is a real beauty to it as well. It is mostly percussive and rhythmic, and is very convincingly ancient in overall tone. (Kind of weird in how the final scene with Creon and Oedipus being banished is cut, but it still works)

Oedipus is a manic and powerful figure in this interpretation. Jocasta and the Chorus Leader both have kind of weak voices that don't carry next to him or the extremely dramatic Partch as Tiresias and the Old Shepherd, but they are servicable.

Really worth listening to. I could have gone for more music underneath the dialogic sections more consistently, but still good.


This new lyre video from Seikilo just came out and I'd like to share it here, along with some other musical recommendations.

Fun fact: I listened to this song a lot while writing 0.5. nanoff gives me shit that I have a very small musical repertoire so, take that, I added one more song from King Crimson! This and the next one, Abusey Junction, are part of my writing playlists.

And this was one of the songs that gave me a few ideas for Storm having a more alternative musical taste.


I dream of one day playing the lyre as well as this galaxy-brained being. And I like how happy he is in the video.

I've also come to have an appreciation for the kora

If I ever master the lyre, the kora just might be my next musical adventure.


While looking for something completely different, I came across this:

This is music for two Ancient Greek works already mentioned in this thread! No. 12 is Mesomedes’s Hymn to Nemesis – important for the Hotel – and No. 13 is the opening eight verses of Pindar’s first Pythic Ode. The surviving parts have been fleshed out by the 19th century composer, Dr. Crotch. (No, I’m not making that name up.)

I thought I’d put this here in case anyone wanted to play along to these – particularly to Nemesis!

(In a second nice coincidence, Minoh posted in this thread earlier today. So I don’t even need to look it up. Hooray!)


Oooh... I just might try the Nemesis Hymn, now that I'm spending more time with my lyre.


Lately I've been taking lyre lessons, studying some music theory here and there... And the deeper I go, the more I realize what an awesome instrument the West African kora is. In reality a lot of the so-called "lyre" songs in Minotaur Hotel were recorded with a kora by David Gilden.

If/when I ever master the lyre, chances are I'll have a go at the kora next. What an incredible sound... For some reason I'm just not into harps, which is what some people would suggest instead of a kora.

And here's a lyre+cello song, too.

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A very good non-traditional song with Kora is "Go Long" by Joanna Newsom (although it does also use harp mainly. Haha)

A dramatic reminisce about her failed previous relationship with a songwriter, framed within the metaphor of the myth of Bluebeard (particularly using how Bela Bartok's opera treats the myth)

And a more traditional use of the Kora, along with a Balaphon (like a xylophone) and the recitation of the only still-living Epic Poem Bardic Recitation tradition today,-- singing a passage of the Sundiata/SonJara epic of Mali:

Just because I was thinking about it recently, and it's fucking hardcore, Strauss's operatic version of Sophocles's Elektra is fucking rad:

Here is Elektra's entrance, where she basically jills off to the idea of murdering people in her father's name. Beautiful and dramatic. Not ancient, but has an ancient basis.


So, I was wandering around the British Museum the other day, and came across a couple of fascinating instruments I hadn’t seen before. I thought they’d make an interesting addition to this old thread!

I was originally going to post some pictures I took myself. However, there’s an image on Wikipedia that’s so much better than my attempts, and I thought it would be best to use that instead. So, here’s a picture of these two instruments, taken by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg):

This image shows two lyres, found at the Royal Cemetery in the ruins of Ur, dating from about 2600BC. It’s hard to stress just how early this is. This is nearly *2000 years* before Homer, and centuries before the Minoans built their first palaces!

The thing I find so striking about these instruments is that they’re *huge*. Thankfully, the person in the picture above helps to give an idea of scale. Both lyres are around 1m tall! That’s much, much larger than the traditional dimensions of the classical Greek lyre! They both contain large amounts of metal, too, so these instruments would be *heavy*. And yet, remarkably, murals from the period show that they were simply held in the hand when they were played. These musicians would have had to be strong and dextrous, I think!

Interestingly, all the instruments from this set are decorated by bulls!

Here’s an informative video which demonstrates how a lyre like this might have sounded. The instrument here is a replica, but it’s enough to give a rough idea! The metallic frame gives the instrument quite a distinctive colour:

I was thinking about this, and started to wonder what sorts of instruments Asterion might have played in his lifetime. Feel free to ignore the rambling theorising below!

It’s only really possible to guess what instruments Asterion would have been familiar with if we know roughly when he lived. It’s possible some dates have already been given – if so, I’m sorry for being forgetful! – but here’s some crude guesswork. We know that Asterion knows Linear A well, but not Linear B. Thankfully, that helps us to tie things down pretty neatly. From archeological records, we know Linear A was only widely used from about 1625BC to about 1450BC. That’s a pretty narrow window. So we should be able to place Asterion somewhere within this two century gap! Given he’s at least aware of Linear B, he’s probably closer to the 1450BC end – but probably not pushing right up against that boundary.

But there might be a problem here, at least so far as lyres go. The earliest record we have of a classical Greek lyre is a Minoan mural on the Greek mainland – which is good! – but it only dates to about 1400BC. That’s ever so slightly later then the Linear A period. In other words, there’s no evidence that classical lyres were used while Linear A was also in popular use. So, if Asterion speaks Linear A, then the historical record suggests that he might have slightly *predated* the Greek lyre. At least, when he was alive. Maybe he picked the instrument up later, in the underworld? Could his childhood lyre have been something else entirely?

If Asterion played something different during his physical lifetime, what might that have been? Well, even in his relatively late period of Minoan history, the Minoans would presumably have been powerful maritime traders. Asterion lived before the sacking of Troy, so Crete would have had a powerful trading partner close by. And the Trojan borders covered much of the distance from Crete, in the west, to the Babylonian Empire, in the east. So it’s a possibility – albeit it a shaky one – that Babylonian instruments could have made it all the way to the Minoans.

So perhaps Asterion would have been familiar with huge lyres like these after all?

Of course, there’s a bundle of problems with this theory. We don’t see big lyres during this period *either*, so my earlier argument cuts both ways. And Asterion clearly *does* know about classical lyres! As much as I’d want to argue he might have picked that up in Hades, I can’t really justify that. Asterion pretty much contradicts that himself.

Still, I rather like the idea that both types of lyres might have been competing in the Crete of Asterion’s day. Maybe he actually learned on both sorts of instruments, but eventually ended up preferring the newer Greek style?

Anyway, sorry for the theory ramble!


Ah, yes. I've been aware of those Mesopotamian lyres for a good while now. I think I want to geek out about them, if you'll permit :)

There's a lot more engineering in them than meets the eye, some of which Peter Pringle talked about here and there. The first attempts at recreating those lyres — including trying to get something like the sound said to come out of them — ended quite catastrophically. If memory serves me, there was a lot of debate over how those "pegs" at the top could be used to tune them (which I know for a fact is a solved problem nowadays) but mainly getting the tuning right seemed impossible.

The issue was that the tension on the strings was so high that the crossbar would bend down with each string that was tuned, which in turn made all the previous ones out of tune. Wood alone just couldn't take it! I think the video you posted was recorded back when Pringle was still commenting about this issue, which I believe he later solved as you can see in this beast of a performance below.

I can't quite pull a quote here, but I believe he ended adding a metal bar inside the crossbar to be able to bear the load... And this refinement might have been there in the original specimens of this instrument, I was told. It's really incredible, isn't it? The instrument itself does sound like a cow, and in the video description Peter Pringle explains a lot about his rationale in the recreation.

Now, another very interesting lyre comes from Crete itself, from the Hagia Triada sarcophagus, which I had the pleasure of seeing for myself.

It's also visible in this pottery from around 1200BC:

It's also been recreated by Luthieros, though it naturally comes with a number of creative liberties.

I bring all of this up for a reason, though. Crete was quite the maritime and economical powerhouse back in its time. There are Cretan artifacts spread all over the Mediterranean and North of Africa, and there's been a very healthy cultural mixing between Crete and Egypt. Scarab jewels were found in Crete, and it seems like there was a lot of artists coming back and forth learning techniques in foreign lands.

Mind you, both the Mesopotamian and the Hagia Triada lyres far precede Ancient Greece as we know it! The myth of Hermes tells of his mother, Maia, giving birth to him and his little adventures shortly after, wherein he killed a turtle and some of Apollo's cattle, then used the shell, horns, leather and guts to fashion a lyre. If we think of this as belonging to "Ancient Greece" as a historical period, then look how advanced the Cretans and Mesopotamians that preceded them were! And that's being generous to the Cretans, because I wouldn't be surprised if the Hagia Triada lyre actually originated from Egypt. And Mesopotamia was not too distance from Crete either — don't quote me on this, but I think I saw on the Heraklion Museum some stuff about Cretan artifacts being found in Mesopotamian ruins.

Mind you, nowadays I play the lyre and I've become very immersed on its research and recreation. My interpretation, or perhaps I should call it my hypothesis, is that lyres must have been a very developed and refined category of musical instruments back in 1400BC. The ancients were no less criterious with their songs than we are today, they must have been inventive and ingenuous. I believe the most traditional turtle shell lyres (called chelys lyres) must have been extremely ancient, and by the Neopalatial Period (between 1750 and 1490BC) there must have been a wide variety of them. The consensus among historians and players is that, for example, the kithara (another kind of lyre, which you can see below) seems to have been exclusive to professional players, while the more average people used simpler versions of the instrument.

Now, I'm very eager to talk about all of this because recently I've been doing a lot thinking on this subject. Asterion's lyre will pop up a lot on Chapter 20 and I plan on giving it a new look. Back when the game started we didn't know much about lyres ourselves, so we went with a pretty standard design but now that I've been playing it for a while I have a better feel for what kind of lyre Asterion would want and how it would be preserved across the centuries.

It's probably a bit dorky of me, but I want Asterion's lyre to be reproducible in real life because I've been approached by a handful of people who want to learn it because of Minotaur Hotel. In short, I'd love it to be a design and a sound that Asterion would be satisfied with, and I want it to have the standard of quality I've demanded out of my own lyre. Though I will say that I've realized that Asterion would not want a truly traditional Greek (chelys) lyre because they really are a bit too limiting. Someone like him, with all the time he's had, would want something more, which we will probably see soon. We haven't settled on a design, but for sure it will be one that is possible, good and affordable*

But I should probably confess that I'm not the most traditional of players myself! My lyre is almost 1 meter tall too, which almost every person on Earth would say is too much but I love this beast.

*Affordable in comparison to the usual price good lyres go for, which are easily above the 600-700USD range for even basic ones with only 7 strings, which I consider overpriced (my big beast of a lyre came out cheaper than that, it's better and has 13 strings, so I think I'm in a position to say this). 

Anyway, I hope I've given you some food for thought, Sirius. As you can see I have a lot of opinions about lyres.


Me, complain about geeking out over early instruments? You must be kidding! :)

Uh, I did get a bit over-zealous in thinking about this, though, producing a bit of a hefty ramble. So sorry in advance for being a bit wordy here ...

I had a feeling these instruments wouldn’t be new to you! Thanks for going into detail. You’ve certainly given me plenty to think about! These instruments are a new discovery for me, so it’s great to have more information about them, and their modern reconstructions too. I’m slowly reading more, as and when I have time, and I’m having a whale of a time.

It sounds like I should really start looking into Peter Pringle in more detail. He’s clearly put a lot of thought and effort into reconstructing these instruments, over many years to boot, and he’s produced some really impressive results. He must have some insightful things to say about the reconstruction progress! That point about adding a metal bar into the frame to support the tension of the strings under tuning clearly shows that he knows his stuff!

Thanks, by the way, for posting his Lament for Gilgamesh. It’s phenomenal! I appreciate how he’s really going all out in that performance, fully emoting all the way. The two instruments and the voice combine beautifully, too. And the sound of the lyre is really quite something. Those deep metallic overtones are extraordinary. I really can’t think of any other instrument that produces a tone quite like that!

You’ve also pointed out something really obvious, but which I somehow hadn’t clocked. I’d thought about Crete being a powerful trading centre, but only in the sense of collecting artifacts from other cultures. Somehow, I hadn’t thought about the *reverse*! It makes perfect sense in hindsight that Minoan artifacts would have spread widely around the Mediterranean area, and that the cultural mixing would go both ways. I think, whenever I’ve looked at Minoan artifacts in the past, I’ve not really checked where they were actually *found*. I’ll have to pay to may more attention to that in the future!

For instance, I find the idea of cultural mixing between Egypt and Crete rather appealing. I’d always held the two cultures in my head separately, not properly realising that these two cultural powerhouses would naturally have been in contact. It’s interesting to think about how they might have interacted! I had no idea that there were Scarabs were found in Crete, for instance. I’ll have to look those up!

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Minoan artifacts turned up in Mesopotamia, too. It they made it as far as Egypt, I can image them getting to Babylon as well. I did propose something like that, but it would be interesting if there were artifacts that actually backed that up. I’ll keep an eye out for any references while I’m reading around!

For what it’s worth, I do like your theory that lyres were a highly developed class of instruments in c.1400BC. That makes a whole lot of sense to me.

My thinking on this comes down to the time factor. We know that lyres were in use in 2600BC, over a thousand years previously. And there’s evidence of other stringed instruments that goes back even further. I had a dig around for another reference while thinking about this, which I’ll put here just for fun. Here’s a cylinder seal found in a broadly similar area to the Mesopotamian lyres, Uruk this time, dating from c.3100BC. The general consensus seems to be that the figure on the left (of the righthand portion of the image) is playing a sort of lute. This artifact is in the British Museum, and the image is under their copyright:

Also, there seems to be good consensus that people were employed as professional musicians as far back as the Mesopotamian lyres, and possibly even earlier. That ties in with what you said about the kithara! (Fun fact, references to the kithara pop up in my work from time to time, but almost exclusively in Latin texts.) Moreso, it seems that musicians were employed by royalty, presumably in well-paid, honourable positions.

As soon as you start giving people power and status for something, you get innovation! I simply cannot imagine that musical instruments and playing techniques would have remained static for a thousand years, given that. Musicians would surely have competed with each other for the top jobs, developing refinements to existing instruments, new ways of playing instruments, new modes of composition, even new instruments, all to gain an advantage over the competition. Since lyres were around in at least 2600BC, they must have received significant refinement by the high period of the Minoan civilisation. And with refinement comes variety. I can well imagine that a great variety of different types of lyre would have developed, much as there is great variety of violin-like instruments in the modern day.

So I would totally buy your idea of lyres being a highly developed set of instruments by c.1400BC.

I’ll tie that into your comment about lyre sizes, too. While there seems to be a broad consensus on the sorts of sizes of ancient lyres, I – speaking only as an amateur, of course! – think it’s possible to read too much into the archeological evidence. Lyres are relatively fragile instruments (except for these hardy metal early models, I suppose), and decompose easily. We really don’t have all that many surviving examples of them, in the grand scheme of things. And the ones we *do* have are presumably fairly traditional. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that lyres produced and played by the common person would have been largely lost.

So, while we do have a range of lyres in the archeological record, I’m not convinced they’re a representative sample. I would guess there’s more variety than we strictly have evidence for. And I don’t think there’s any harm in making some logical guesswork about what might be missing, given what we know about music in general.

I think one fairly natural innovation in music is in pitch. If you have instruments playing together, it makes sense to have the instruments playing at quite different pitches. That makes the different parts easier to hear. Since we have some evidence of people singing to lyres – that is, two musical instruments playing together – then wouldn’t someone also have thought to have several *lyres* playing together as well? That might also help explain the rather elaborate tuning systems on these instruments, too. While these are naturally needed to keep the instrument in tune with itself, one important facet of a tuning system is to help one instrument play in tune with *other* instruments.

When you propose an idea of a ‘lyre consort’, like this, it makes sense to have lyres of different base pitches too.

Since the pitch of a lyre scales with its size, then I’d argue that you should expect lyres of several different sizes to exist. The two obvious sizes to have are ‘big’, making a ‘bass’ lyre, and ‘small’, making a ‘treble’ lyre. If you add more instruments, you’d put them in-between those two sizes, where they can add internal harmony (giving you ‘alto’, ‘tenor’ ‘mezzo’, etc. lyres). It looks like there’s variation like this in existing lyres already, to some degree – hopefully I'm not rehashing something that's well-known! – but I’d propose there’s more variation than we have evidence for.

So, while your 1m tall lyre might seem large compared to the historical record, I’d just argue that you’ve made a ‘bass lyre’! Or maybe even a ‘contrabass’!

Now that I think about it, I wonder if Asterion might have some views on this? I can picture Asterion wanting to teach the lyre to the player (perhaps particularly for an artist-type player?), but maybe they could also play *together*? I’m envisioning a situation where Asterion and the player form a little lyre duo! (In a slightly niche reference, I can’t help but think back to the little duet between Marin and Link in the original Link’s Awakening).

It’s interesting to hear that you’re working on a new design for Asterion’s lyre, too. One thing that got me wondering about this topic was thinking back to the early design you used. Reading what you’ve said here, it makes perfect sense that you’d go for something straightfoward (and easily recognisable!) early on, when you didn’t know as much as you do now!

I have to admit, I’ll be really interested to see the sort of design you come up with. I can imagine Asterion going in a bunch of different directions with an expanded instrument, especially if modern design techniques come into play. I look forward to seeing how that looks!

And no, it is absolutely *not* dorky to want to make his lyre reproducible! Anything that encourages people to play music is a great thing, especially if it’s in relatively niche areas such as ancient (or ancient-ish) instruments. I think that’s a pretty cool venture, myself. Kudos for you for wanting to make it affordable, too.

Now, you’ve probably already thought really carefully about this. And you already know far more about the design of these instruments than I do! So anything I come up with you’ve probably already thought of! Still, I couldn’t resist having a little think about how a good-quality, affordable lyre could be produced. It’s an interesting little puzzle.

This might be a bonkers idea, but I’m wondering whether one solution might be making it out of metal? As I understand it, the high cost of many high-end string instruments is due to the time and skill needed to carve the wood. Making metal objects can be much quicker and cheaper, under the right circumstances. That’s particularly the case if you choose the metal well – certain metals come surprisingly cheap.

This is bit beyond my simple metalworking skills, but I think you could make the frame of a metal lyre using a casting process. You make a mould, pour molten metal into it, and when it cools you have a metal frame. With the Mesopotamian lyres, you do have some degree of historical precedent too! I say this with the caveat that the internet claims that such a process is unsuitable for short production runs, although I’m sure my serious metalworking friends do things like this quite regularly. I’d have to check with them – it’s possible I’m being stupid, and misunderstanding something they’re doing! At least using this approach you’d only need to pay for the production of the mould first off, and then just the material and time taken to pour and cast after that. Maybe it would come out cheaper than wood?

The other option that comes to mind, which people could make independently, is 3D printing. It should be possible to create all the components of a particular lyre (minus the strings, naturally) out of plastic. This approach has the advantage that you could make an official Minotaur Hotel CAD design, which people could download and use straight away! The worry I have with this, though, is that I’m not sure how a plastic lyre would sound. I think that the material of a lyre should be really important for its tone quality. Since plastic isn’t very dense, it won’t make a very good resonator, and I’d worry that a lyre made using it would be quiet and tinny. It might not be nice to hold, too. And, somehow, I can’t quite envision Asterion going for plastic. But maybe it’s worth experimenting with, just in case?

Anyway, you’ve probably had better ideas than those already!

By the way, there’s something I meant to say earlier in this thread, but never got around to. Would you perhaps consider sharing some sound files of you playing your lyre at some point? I’d be interested to hear your instrument, and your interpretations, and I’m sure other people would be too. Your beast of a lyre must produce a pretty awesome sound! (Of course, no pressure. I know only too well that public performance is a whole different world to playing in your own company!)


Alright... It's been four months since this message, and I wanted to respond to it with what I was working on at that time.

So, first thing: here's a little something I recorded and posted on Youtube. It was just a recording experiment and far from my most complex performance (I can play Lina Palera's Seikilos Epitaph by now!), but it's something.

Now, properly responding to what you said...

Last year when I visited Crete, saw the palaces and the archeological findings for myself, understood just how long-lived the lyre was an instrument and how diverse they were across multiple cultures...

Well, to put it simply, I understood that the current lyre designs that have been uncovered can only be an extremely narrow representation of reality. With the Mesopotamian lyres we even see these incredible, impressive instruments that were so impressively decorated, that no doubt they were one of a kind. At the same time the lyre is a rather rudimentary instrument in design, with the chelys lyre being made of simple natural materials, many of them leftover from food — animal hide, a turtle shell, horns, gut strings — so I even would go as far as saying that there might have been a lot of variability even between lyres of the same general type.

In the same way that only a tragically small number of ancient compositions survived to this day, what we found in murals, pottery and other artifacts can only be a small, thin slice of what the ancient civilizations had going on.

So, instead of trying to limit myself to what was clearly portrayed in archaeological findings, I tried a different experiment. I asked myself: "looking at what has been found of the Minoans, their preferred motifs and symbols, can I extrapolate and produce a design that could have been produced?" And, taking it a step further, can I make it embody a few more useful characteristics?

Now, since the whole purpose of the exercise was to extrapolate, I cannot ever say that its result would be an ancient or even a Greek lyre. It would be an original creation, at best inspired by ancient motifs, and if I had to attribute it a nationality I could only use mine. What Greek-ness it would have could only come from taking my experience with Greek lyres and using them as a basis. And, speaking more frankly, considering the Minoans were pre-Greek I don't think using their motifs would entitle it to being called a Greek instrument.

So, I set out to gather some Minoan motifs and weave them together with my own sensibilities as a lyre player. For instance, I decided that the deeper notes would be on the left, the higher ones on the right, which follows the same arrangement used by Greek lyremakers. It would be designed to be playable with both hands, which is absolutely mandatory for Greek lyres but often disregarded in some of the cheaper lyres on Amazon. It would either use widely available fishing line as strings or nylgut, sugarcane or gut strings — no metal strings. It would be designed so that harmonics are possible. Tuning should be easy. It would have to be structurally robust, portable and easy to carry — this is an instrument meant to be carried around and played outside.

Now, when I mentioned "a few more useful characteristics"... The lyre, as I said, is a rather rudimentary instrument. But if you look online you will find that generally they are either cheap Donner lyres of questionable quality or expensive Luthieros onesThere are other lyremakers, but they aren't so easy to find and their prices can also be very high. Suffice it to say, there is no middle ground.

Now, I decided that I wanted a lyre which, by virtue of its design, should be cheap and easy to produce. In case I put it on the game, I know that there will be people who want to get a similar one, so I didn't want it to be some luxury good that few can afford. I want it to create joy, and being accessible is crucial.

And, of course, I set out to use Minoan motifs. That was the easiest part: a visit to the Palace of Knossos showed me exactly what I needed.

The horns of consecration as they are known are a recurring motif in Minoan architecture and art. It was all over in the palaces, art and even in their tombs.

This symbol was immensely important to them and all over the place.

And it just so happens to be perfect as a basis for a lyre. The horns can function as arms, the base can be lengthened to become a sound box, a length of wood at the top becomes a cross bar. The base is flat so it can even stand on its own! And if the horns are hollow they can act as extensions of the soundbox. If the surface is kept flat that would also make it far cheaper and easier to produce than the traditional Greek lyres. And, to top it off, I decided to base its dimensions around those of a standard cabin carry-on luggage, so that people could easily take it with them on trips no matter what transportation they took.

I can't be so bold as to say that what I came up with must have existed at some point in time. But I think the experiment has been a success so far. Here's the result.

It hasn't arrived yet. I haven't had the chance to hear what it sounds like. But damn I'm happy with the results already.  This baby packs 13 strings — you won't find a Luthieros lyre with this number for less than a thousand Euros, while this one cost less than 400USD. The flowers are Cretan crocuses and the paint on the sides is gold leaf, and even with those bits of extravagance it still came at that price. The wood is cedar.

Once it arrives I plan on recording the same song with it and my main lyre, to see how they compare. I'll post it here, and I'll probably make a devlog about it all once it's in my hands.

Okay, so this is awesome on so many levels! I wanted to reply sooner, but I’ve been caught up in the last stages of preparation for an important interview, and there weren’t quite enough hours in the day. For what it’s worth, I actually considered mentioning this lyre project of yours in that interview, as an example of innovation in modern historically-informed performance, but in the end I couldn’t quite fit it in!

But, before I get distracted, thanks so much for sharing that recording of your own lyre! And, wow, do you have every reason to be proud of your instrument! The tone is gorgeous; the sounds your lyre produces are rich and resonant, and full of colour. Good choice on the music, too. That particular theme works beautifully on your lyre. That’s especially true at the slightly slower speed you chose. Not only does that highlight the resonance of your lyre, but it nicely brings out the peaceful side of the original track. And you give a good demonstration of the range of your instrument too, in a solid performance.

I know it’s simple, and just an experiment on your part, but I think the result is quite captivating. I hope you’ll consider uploading some more in the future! Maybe there’ll come a point where you could even contribute something to the Hotel’s soundtrack yourself!

Now, onto your new instrument. I’m really impressed by this, both from what you’ve produced, but also from your entire approach. Or perhaps ‘ethos’ would be a more appropriate word here, haha.

I think the way in which you’ve used your knowledge of the history and culture of the Minoans to inform your design choices of a new instrument is very sound. Your extrapolation approach is a very reasonable one to take, I would say! Even going back just a few centuries, it’s all too easy to get bound by actual physical artifacts, and to not look beyond them. And you’re going back thousands of years, when all we have are odd scraps of information! Humans are creative creatures, both in the modern day, and in the past. I think it’s quite acceptable to take the historical record as a starting point, and to speculate what other things could have been produced based on it. If we in the modern day can speculate about something that could have been produced in a particular culture, who’s to say that someone in that culture might not have had similar ideas, even if we can’t prove it as such? And if the results of that extrapolation ends up producing something interesting, something that *could* have been, then surely that can only be a positive thing!

As a slightly random example, later this week I’m singing a vocal piece that dates from the 1500s. Only three of the four voice parts survive: one has been forever lost. A music editor has written a new part, in the style of other voice parts of the time, which completes the piece, and allows it to be performed in the modern day. Is this modern version identical to the original piece? Almost certainly not! But the piece is unperformable without it. Is it better that that piece is never performed again, preserving the integrity of the historical record, or that it’s performed in a way in which it *could* have sounded five centuries ago, so long as that’s clearly indicated? If the result is something beautiful that people enjoy, surely extrapolation is the better choice!

Or, thinking about your case specifically, your experience of Knossos gave you a really good idea: making the horns of the consecration into the basis of a lyre. But if you, as a modern person immersed in Minoan culture, could think of that, what would have stopped *an actual Minoan* from thinking the same? We may not have any evidence of an instrument like this, but it seems a little unreasonable to think that, over the thousands of years of Minoan culture, a Minoan musician didn’t at least have the idea, and experiment with it. Maybe that hypothetical experiment wasn’t successful, or the instruments weren’t sturdy enough to survive, or ended up being show-pieces that were never used, or sacred instruments that ended up being destroyed, or the whole idea was taboo from a religious standpoint, so the instruments never really saw the light of day. There are many possibilities.

Clearly, we can’t say that an instrument like that actually existed. There’s no evidence for it. But *could* it have existed, at least in principle? I would think so! And for a project like this, I think that’s more than enough. After all, your project here is to make a new instrument, using history as a guide, rather than to reproduce something that’s already been made. From what you’ve said, I think you’ve more than met that goal!

Incidentally, I love that first picture you showed of the horns, from the palace itself. I don’t think you have chosen a better picture to show the importance of that symbol!

All that being said, I think your idea to make a lyre that is both high-quality and affordable is where this project gets really interesting. Making an instrument that produces a quality sound, but which isn’t a heavy-duty investment that prices out most potential players, is such a good thing I can’t begin to emphasise it. A ‘middle-ground’ instrument like this can only help to encourage people into ancient instruments, perhaps trying them out for the first time. You’re opening up a really interesting world of music to a whole group of new people, and that’s a really great thing. I might even say a noble one.

After all, if the only trumpets one could buy were toy plastic trumpets, or trumpets made out of platinum-infused gold, who on earth would play the trumpet?

(For what it’s worth, as a professional musician, I eye the Luthieros lyres with a bit of suspicion. I’m not a string player – so I don’t know what I’m talking about! – but my instinctive, gut feeling is that those instruments might have been designed more as show-pieces than actual performing instruments. They seem more extravagant than durable. But what do I know?)

I am *super* impressed by those images you’ve shown of your new instrument. It looks beautiful, and it’s even in cedar! The design touches are classy too, particularly the flourishes in gold. That little stand is nice, too, although I’m not sure if it’s part of the set. The instrument certainly looks the part! The size sounds very practical, too. Yet the overall price is thoroughly reasonable! From my perspective, 400USD is very cheap for a decent musical instrument (although I’m not based in the Americas, so maybe my viewpoint is skewed).

The real tell here, I think, is this: based just on the looks at this point, I’d be tempted to pick up one of these instruments! I’ve idly thought about trying out stringed instruments before, so I could go full-on bard and accompany myself singing. But I’ve never really come across an instrument that I think would work for me. For instance, lutes are great, but tricky to transport. But a lyre like this? There’s a chance it might just work! It sounds like it might just hit the sweet spot of having a good tone, and get still being easy to carry around.

So you’ve already got one potential convert. So far so good!

When it arrives, please do make that comparison recording you mentioned! That’s one really good way to demonstrate how the instrument sounds. Could I also request that you say something about its dynamic range? I know that's probably a little niche, but I’d be interested to know whether it can comfortably play at a volume that could accompany a singer / another instrument. Although, given that’s the way in which Asterion uses his instrument – I hadn’t really thought I’d be duplicating his approach until just now! – maybe that’s a more important question than I thought?

Anyway, you’ve done a superb job on this instrument. Kudos! Here’s hoping it sounds as good as it looks! Although, given the materials and the construction, I think there’s a good chance that it will!

I hope you’ll consider uploading some more in the future! Maybe there’ll come a point where you could even contribute something to the Hotel’s soundtrack yourself!

That's the plan! I'd like to record some songs for the game and if all goes well I'll include at least one in the next build. I feel like I'm skilled enough to be satisfactory, but I still need to improve my recording setup.

I figured I had some minutes to spare now and quickly recorded an attempt of the Seikilos Epitaph as we play it in the game. Again, bad microphone setup, next to no editing, all recorded in one take and after spending a week not practicing, so there are quite a few stumbles and weird noises.

View on Vocaroo >>

This uses my lyre, a big boy that's closer to a bass lyre/barbiton.

Now, regarding the Minoan-esque lyre... I haven't received it yet, but the luthier sent me a sample of what it sounds like.

View on Vocaroo >>

When I receive it I plan on recording the same Seikilos Epitaph song with my big lyre, this new one and a Luthieros one I have access to. You will be surprised how different they sound, and you will come to understand on a deeper level why I'm so happy with the Minoan-esque lyre having an accessible price tag. To put it bluntly, a lyre this small and cheap has no business sounding this good when you compare it with the expensive Luthieros one. I'll say no more on this regard, and let you reach your own conclusions when I record the same song with the same recording equipment with these three instruments.

And, FYI, I can say with a lot of experience that your suspicions about Luthieros' durability are completely justified. I won't go in details here, suffice it to say that some of the issues I've seen with them informed my decision to make resilience and durability a priority in this lyre.

But if you, as a modern person immersed in Minoan culture, could think of that, what would have stopped *an actual Minoan* from thinking the same? We may not have any evidence of an instrument like this, but it seems a little unreasonable to think that, over the thousands of years of Minoan culture, a Minoan musician didn’t at least have the idea, and experiment with it. Maybe that hypothetical experiment wasn’t successful, or the instruments weren’t sturdy enough to survive, or ended up being show-pieces that were never used, or sacred instruments that ended up being destroyed, or the whole idea was taboo from a religious standpoint, so the instruments never really saw the light of day. There are many possibilities.

Yes, I fully agree with your thought process. When I was in Crete I saw it in almost mathematical terms: the horns of consecration as a motif were present in some of the earliest and most rudimentary clay pottery found in Crete, and were absolutely overwhelming in their frequency in some places. This was a symbol they used in all sorts of places and occasions, be it in architecture, funerary rites and even daily tools. We can only speculate about its importance, but given how often it was used... I mean, it's plausible that they would have made many things using that shape, which just happens to be perfect for a lyre.

I'd put my money on someone, at some point, having made an instrument like this.

I plan on including this lyre in the game, in Chapter 20. I don't want to give spoilers but I can say that Asterion, like any artist, experimented across the centuries and built some lyre prototypes which haven't been shown in the chapters so far. And I plan on giving this lyre some history inside the game's story.

Incidentally: it will be really funny if at some point in the future someone discovers that the Minoans did make lyres like this and they look back on it being independently developed as a speculative exercise for a minotaur-fucking gay game. That will be one hell of a story.

After all, if the only trumpets one could buy were toy plastic trumpets, or trumpets made out of platinum-infused gold, who on earth would play the trumpet?

Let me just show you what's the situation here...

All those cheaper lyres use metal strings and my experience is that they just keep ringing for so long, it really muddles up the song, and they are often built in a way that you can't even play all the strings with both hands. My first lyre was one built in this style and I pretty much stopped playing after a few months because of how limited and unsatisfactory it felt.

This will be it for now, I've got to go back to writing. I might add some more later, but for now bye bye!


lmao the lyre just arrived

Okay, so I’ve been working late, and I don’t quite have time to write anything just now. But I just couldn’t resist the coincidence. The lyre arriving *now*, of all times, is superb. How’s that for timing? :)

Your Seikilos Epitaph is legitimately impressive, by the way. And the guest appearance of the horse at the end of the sample track for the new lyre made me smile!


Despite the construction work going on in the apartment above mine, I managed to record a bit.

My main lyre:

View on Vocaroo >>

The Luthieros lyre:

View on Vocaroo >>

The new, Minoan-esque lyre:

View on Vocaroo >>

(I played it a little differently in this one because my fingers got too sore from doing harmonics. You also might be able to hear a meow here and there, my cat wanted me to come out and play.)

Thanks so much for recording these! Especially with the construction work going on around you. Commiserations about that, by the way. I know that can be a *real* pain. Oh, and hello off-screen cat! *waves*

This is a really great way of demonstrating the differences between these instruments. It’s interesting making a comparison based just on sound, since that avoids any distractions based on the look of an instrument (which is obviously important, but it's nice to focus on sound). And the comparison is fascinating. You’re weren’t kidding. These three lyres sound remarkably different!

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts, speaking as a professional musician who isn’t a string-player.

Main lyre:

I’ve already talked about this lyre before! Still, as a quick summary, this instrument has a gloriously rich tone, one that’s full of colour. And this richness extends throughout the range of the instrument. I really like the tone of this lyre. I could listen to it all day!

Luthieros lyre:

This is an interesting one. When I first listened to this recording, the tone of the instrument repelled me a little. The opening sounded a little off-putting. But the lyre’s tone grew on me the more I listened to it. Once I’d listened to the whole track, and gotten used to the instrument, nothing sounded particularly strange if I went back and listened to the opening again. On reflection, I don’t think that’s any fault of the lyre itself. I think what’s happening there is that this lyre is tuned slightly differently to your main lyre. I don’t mean that either was out of tune – just that they were tuned slightly differently compared to each other. That small difference in tuning was throwing me off, which was clouding my judgement a little!

But, that aside, the tone itself is interesting. There’s a significant difference between this and your main lyre, but I’m not sure quite how to describe what that is. The Luthieros lyre is definitely not as rich in tone as your main instrument. But there’s another quality there. The tone sounds slightly more fluid to me. It almost seems as if the strings are a little looser somehow, although I don’t think that’s how the physics works! My guess is that the individual notes might be slightly more resonant on this instrument? Perhaps the notes sound slightly longer, which is giving that fluid quality I’m hearing? Whatever the cause, the fluid quality of the notes works nicely in the faster-moving sections.

I was also struck by the tone across the range. Your main lyre has a fairly even tone, but this one has more variation. At least to my ears, I think it produces its best sounds in the middle register, but is perhaps a little lacking at higher pitches. Incidentally, without wishing to labour the point, it’s interesting to hear that my gut feeling about the resilience of these instruments wasn’t entirely unfounded!

If I were to use an analogy, the tone of your main lyre is like syrup, and the Lutherios lyre is like custard. It’s less rich, but flows a little more easily. In any case, while there is something nice about the fluidity, I very much prefer the overall richness of your main lyre!

New lyre:

Now this is something else altogether! I know this will partly be due to you playing a little differently, but there’s a gorgeous clarity of the sound here. The sound is so crisp and clear. It makes me think of cut glass. Or perhaps, to continue the food analogy, sugar-glazing!

From my perspective, this lyre combines a beautiful, crisp tone with some of the fluidity of the Luthieros lyre. So I guess, in a sense, it’s something of a middle-ground between your main lyre, and the Luthieros one. Also – and apologies if there’s a proper term here that I don’t know – I think the glissandi work particularly well on this instrument. While I was pretty impressed by the sample you posted above, this track has *really* impressed me. This lyre produces a very nice sound indeed!

And yet it’s small, and cheap! That’s just remarkable. I think the sound of this instrument compares very favourably to the Luthieros lyre. But it’s a fraction of the cost and, from the sounds of it, much, much more practical both to play and transport! Again, you weren’t kidding. This lyre really shouldn’t sound anything like this good. But, wow, doesn’t it just! You’ve made something super impressive here: a practical, affordable instrument that makes a wonderful sound. You have the evidence to prove it too! For my money, I get the impression this instrument would work particularly nicely in a small chamber setting (Asterion playing to Luke and Kota comes to mind).

If I saw a lyre of this price in a shop, and it produced a sound like this, I would *strongly* consider buying it! Very nicely done. I think you’ve done some really exciting here!

But, just to continue the comparison a little, I’ve now had time to have a listen to the videos you showed of the very cheap lyres. And ... okay, so they obviously weren’t going to be great, but I really see why you didn’t stick with an instrument like that. Wow. For me, the tone itself is off-putting. The metal strings produce a sound that’s pretty harsh, at least to my ears. That might work for some modern instruments, but I’m not sure it works well in this case. Surely the tone of a lyre should be much warmer than that? And, as you said, there’s a really serious problem with excessive resonance. The notes really bleed together, which must make complex songs almost impossible to play. It would be like playing Bach in a boomy bathroom – you’d just hear mush!

And here are a couple of quick other points on your last point. It’s great to hear that you’re going to be including your own playing in the game! I look forward to hearing it! I’m also quite pleased to hear of your plans for Asterion’s lyre experiments too. I think I may have mentioned this before but, given how important music is to him, it makes a whole lot of sense to me that Asterion would have done some experimenting with the lyre. Perhaps especially as he came across new ideas from visitors to the hotel. I’m guessing he might have gone in a bunch of different directions before coming up with something that he particularly liked. I’ll be really interested to see where you go with that!

Also, this, all the way:

Incidentally: it will be really funny if at some point in the future someone discovers that the Minoans did make lyres like this and they look back on it being independently developed as a speculative exercise for a minotaur-fucking gay game. That will be one hell of a story.

I’m having great fun imagining how journals would reference this. And thinking of carefully chosen snapshots from the Hotel featuring in lectures and seminars! :)

(Finally, my last few posts all mentioned that I wanted to reply sooner, but wasn’t able to. I think I jumped the gun there, because today I have the most absurd reason of all. I'm really, *really* not someone who likes bragging, but this one’s so incredibly unusual that I can’t quite resist. So: I couldn’t reply sooner this time because I was performing for my country’s King – in a room guarded by people wielding *actual, real-life pikes*. Pikes are way longer than I ever thought they’d be, by the way. This is why I like work in music, because you end up doing all sorts of crazy things. And no, I don’t do things like that every day!)

If you don't mind me asking, what in particular did you perform for the king and his pike-men? I'm not asking for a recording of you in particular, but I am just curious what it was you did.


Out of nowhere, youtube suggested the following to me:

So I thought I was obligated to post this Jazz arrangement of the Seikilos Epitaph.