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Reviews 277 William C. Scott. Musical Design in Aeschylean Theater. Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1984. Pp. xxi + 228. $20.00. Aristotle, a reader, thinker, and teacher who may have gone to the theater only occasionally, knew the famous fifth-century tragedies more from their scripts than from contemporary revivals. He accordingly valued most highly what was intrinsic to the written word-plot, char­ acter, diction, and thought-downplaying what he could not see in the script itself. Opsis (spectacle in general, costumes and props in particular) may have its attractions, but it depends more on the skill of the stage manager than on the author. And he likens mousike (music, song, and dance) to a condiment that is to be taken only in moderation. Although Aristotle's type of dramatic criticism has prevailed long after Galileo challenged his physics, recent classical scholarship has gone beyond the printed page in order to understand . the original dramatic experience as a unity. Building on the antiquarian studies of Pickard­ Cambridge and others which examined the what (as Aristotle would call it) of tragedy in general, we may now ask the why of particular plays. Aeschylus has benefited most from this, thanks largely to 0. Tap­ lin's magisterial Stagecraft of Aeschylus (Oxford, 1977) but also to a series of articles on the dramatic significance of clothing and props in the Oresteia by Goheen, Macleod, and Tarkow. The role of mousike has also been studied in this regard, but with less success. Whereas stage action and props, even without explicit stage directions, can be conjured up from the text, all that the text offers as guidance for the original dance and music is the meter, with an occasional reference to the nature of the song in the words themselves (cf. "I'm singing in the rain") . Of the musical rhythm and the notes that deter­ mine the ultimate character of the musical experience, we are largely ignorant (pp. 22-23) . Scott has no difficulty demonstrating (ch. 1) that the music formed an intrinsic and important element of the Oresteia's meaning. Perhaps most telling are the several references to nomos, which can refer either to societal law and order or to a particular type of melody. The chorus' use of nomos anomos (the nomos that is no nomos) to describe Cassandra's song of the dread House of Atreus (Ag. 1 142) clearly, as with other instances of nomos, has to be understood equivo­ cally (see T. J. Fleming, Classical Journal, 72 [1977], 222-33 ) . Sticking largely to meter, then (which he occasionally refers to as "music") , Scott takes us through every choral · song in the Oresteia, trying to make as much dramatic sense as possible from these lines. (Chs. 1-3 are on the Oresteia; ch. 4 contains a briefer survey of the four other Aeschylean plays.) Analysis takes the form of (a) metrical schema (explained for the Greekless reader in an oversimplified way in the introduction, pp. xv-xxi) , (b) "Meter," and (c) "Form." Both meter and form are examined in two ways, in terms of the dramatic context of the ode in question and in terms of the trilogy as a whole. By and large, the former analysis comes off better, particularly in the analysis of form, for Scott is keenly sensitive to variations from the canonical strophe>-antistrophe pattern: aa ' bb' . . • . Briefly, and at the risk of over 278 Comparative Drama simplifying Scott's detailed account, the canonical pattern represents the musical order (nomos) that often cannot be attained because of the breakdown in order (the other meaning of nomos) in society and (thanks to the pathetic fallacy) the cosmos. Thus, at the beginning of Eumenides, the chorus of Furies have two entrance songs, each disorderly and each characterized by excited iambodochmiac meters. The second parodos, being completely astrophic and sung severally, frustrates the audience's expectation for a balanced antistrophe. Another passage of great complexity is the kommos of Choephoroi, in which the chorus sing. antiphonally with themselves, Electra, and Orestes in an elaborate pattern (schematized on pp. 85-88). In trying to use musical form to answer the main question of the kommos­ whether...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 277-278
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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