Online Editions

19th Oct, 2021

Music for Romans

Ian Hughes 22nd Sep, 2021

A SELF-CONFESSED Roman geek has produced an album of ‘Roman music’.

Mary Ann Tedstone Glover, who was born in Glasgow and now lives in Stratford, began pondering the idea of what Roman music actually sounded like when she was a professional songwriter who spent her time writing bespoke music for TV and film

Mary Ann said: “We’ve all grown up learning about the Romans and watching movies about them. Isn’t it bizarre that we have no idea how Roman music actually sounded.”

She realised that, while there were a number of musicians who had created music and labelled it as Roman, there was no thoroughly researched and evidence based recreation of authentic Roman music out there.

As someone steeped in music rather than academia, Mary Ann had quite a different perspective from most of the researchers in the field.

Mary Ann has long eaten Roman style breakfasts, made her own Roman bread and even worn a toga as a nightgown.

Yet while the history books tell us the taverns, streets and private house

parties of ancient Rome were literally filled with music, the fact the civilisation had been so avidly studied by classicists made it appear all the more strange to her that its soundscape remained silent to us.

For a range of reasons, until now, there was no real comprehension as to the sound-track of ancient Rome. Ancient Roman notation existed but was not well understood. Recently discovered instrument fragments amounted to little more than a jigsaw with no completed article to reference. Hints lay in vases, literature, paintings and pottery, but as there was no way of recording what our forebears heard, no clear road map existed to recreate it.

Mary Ann set herself a goal of unravelling the secrets of the mood music of ancient Rome – not only to satisfy her own curiosity but to bring it to the world.

In 2017 she was accepted as the world’s first PhD researcher in ancient Roman music and her quest began in earnest.

Mary Ann said: “Imagine for a moment a sonic tapestry in which long unheard instruments have been recreated, clues uncovered and notation unravelled.

“Imagine if world class acapella singers, whose harmonies have been heard on world class movies such as The Lord of the Rings, had received lessons in Latin from Oxford professors so that not only the keys and modes in which they sing are authentic, but their Latin accents perfect.”

The result is the first volume of The Music of Ancient Rome, in association with Integrity Publishing Ltd, in which Mary Ann offers her interpretation of the music of ancient Rome.

The album is available digitally now and physically on November 19.

 

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